To be honest, I never thought I’d write this post. First of all, who saw COVID-19 coming? Certainly not me. And then, even a couple of weeks ago when places started to close, I still didn’t think I’d write this post. This situation is just so unusual, so unexpected that I think many of us are still grappling with it as real. It’s too surreal.
But the reality is, this is our reality. Places of work are shut down, people are being asked to work from home. People are losing their jobs amid this crisis, and people have been told by the government to stay home. It’s even becoming law to self isolate during this time. And I’m left with the question, what does this all mean? And there is no answer for that question. None whatsoever.
So how do we cope? At first I think, people saw this an opportunity to get things done. To be productive in some way while at home. There were cleaning challenges on Facebook, parents starting homeschooling for their kids, people re-organizing their closets and binge watching shows on Netflix. But now, we are three weeks into this self isolation and I feel as though we are all thinking it’s more dire than it was somehow. Self isolation is hard.
Tips on Coping with Self Isolation
The first thing I’m going to suggest is don’t overdose on social media. Twitter is almost a nightmare of posts, the repeated message being, this is serious, stay home, people are dying. And while this is true, reading this all day long in your feed is catastrophizing and unhelpful. So power down your devices.
The second thing I’m going to suggest is pretend like it’s 1990 and pick up a phone. Call your mom, call your bestie, chat about your life, your work, your kids, your husband. Have a good long phone call. Just because you’re at isolated at home does not mean that you cannot be connected people.
Use Facetime or other video calling. This will be especially helpful in helping you feel connected, especially when a phone call can’t cut it. Hell, hold a Zoom cocktail party! I’m doing exactly that with my family this weekend.
Re-discover, or discover your hobbies. Haven’t played the piano in a while? Well, here’s your chance. Want to learn to knit? Amazon can ship what you need overnight. Love yoga? Access yoga videos that are online and keep stretching. Been thinking about getting a dog, or other pet? Do your research, see what furry friend fits your family. Being engaged in something that is meaningful to you is important at any time, and right now is no different.
Get some vitamin D. I know we can’t go to the beach, but you can sit out in your yard. Grab a book and read while you take in the sunshine, eat your lunch outside, take a walk and supplement further by taking a vitamin D supplement.
Practice healthy habits. Keep on meal planning, keep on taking your medication, make sure you are getting proper rest and exercise. Don’t eat extra snacks or meals out of boredom. Don’t spend too much time binging on your favourite shows, or lying around in bed. Gyms are offering virtual classes, so get in your workout. Maintain all your healthy habits as best you can.
But I’m Working from Home and Have 3 Kids?!
I know some of you are thinking this. I know some of you are thinking, I’m trying to video conference from home, or are constantly on the phone or email doing my job. Like me, you probably have multiple windows open, different chat groups, and feel like a ping pong bouncing between one screen and the next. You’re learning how to do all this, and it’s time consuming. Plus, your kids might be demanding your attention or computer time to get their school work completed. Oh, and now you’re helping them a lot with school work because it’s all online! I get it. If you didn’t feel like you had two full jobs already, you certainly do now.
The first thing I’m going to say is breathe. This is a new reality, a very strange one. You know the saying “you can’t make this shit up?” Well, the movies certainly never filmed a pandemic crisis like this, did they? Let’s remember that we are all doing the best we can do and that is doesn’t have to be perfect. What are your work hours? 9-5? 7-5? Whichever it is, be up for that time and only work during those hours. Take your lunch hour and appropriate breaks. No can fault you for that, or at least, employers shouldn’t. Have kids? Try to divide your hours into two blocks, one morning and evening and then use the afternoon to help your kids with schoolwork. Since you’re working at home, your time can be more flexible as long as you’re still attending a conference call or Google Meet meeting. Set clear expectations for your children for what they can and cannot do while you’re working. Feel like you’re not doing enough by your kids? I’m here to tell you are. You are keeping them safe and healthy. You are helping to provide a stable environment and working with their teachers to keep them learning.
Your health is important. We have to learn a new normal because we have been uprooted from our lives and routines. It is hard. But take a step back, and know that you are not the only one overwhelmed. And that is is okay right now to feel off kilter. You are learning a new normal, but establishing routines and expectations for yourself and family is going to get you through this. This is going to take time and that’s perfectly all right. Making sure you eat right, rest enough, have a work/life balance is going to get you through this. This is how you cope. One day at a time as you figure out what you need, what can be reasonably accomplished and when it’s time to take care of yourself by turning off the devices and putting away the school work. Working from home, learning from home doesn’t mean you are suddenly a slave to work 24/7. Time for you is just as important now as it was before self isolation. This is also how you cope.
I hope this has helped you. I hope it provided a new perspective, or helps you know that your experience right now and feelings are valid. Because those feelings are valid. I hope that you have a better understanding of how you can cope with work and life and self care during this strange, scary time where we are all self isolating. In the end, you have to find your way to cope, whatever that is. But you will do that by creating a new normal, a new routine that works for you and by continuing to stay connected and engaged with family and friends. Don’t drown yourself in the idea that you are alone, that you must work or otherwise be productive. That is a notion that will only lead you into the woods of confusion and anxiety and helplessness. Step back from that idea, and know that it’s perfectly fine for you to do the things you love while you’re at home too. It’s fine to stop working when the work day ends. It’s fine if your house is a mess because sometimes houses get messy. And hopefully with time and a new outlook, you’ll soon find yourself coping instead of pulling out your hair.
Let me know how you are coping, what you are doing to cope in the comments below.