Last week, the first week of our social distancing, was one of the hardest transitions I’ve had to deal with (and I’m a person who oddly loves change). No matter how hard I tried--yes, self care practices, making a schedule and all--I couldn’t ground myself within the ever-shifting updates (news, work, personal) and the subsequent anxiety that encapsulated my every move.
Initially, I was excited for what this could mean, trying to look on the bright side amongst chaos. I’m a school social worker usually up by 5:30am, so sleeping in each day was a dream come true. I was eager to work with more intention and focus, since typically my days are interrupted frequently with drop-ins about students, various crises, and tons of paperwork due yesterday. I knew I would have so much more time to workout/meditate each day, both which are important to me but had fallen to the wayside due to my long days and elusive energy. I would be able to pour my time and energy back into my business, giving it the love and attention it deserves so it can grow, especially now being the perfect time to really focus on education + mental health! My apartment was finally going to get a complete makeover, each and every room to be redesigned, considering my office had become a full blown storage/junk room. And of course, I could finally sort through the emails I sent to myself or go back to those tabs about all the personal development courses I’ve been dying to start. I’m used to doing a million things at once (surprised?), so I was hopeful that this would be me “slowing down”.
However, I wasn’t prepared in the slightest for what actually came. I struggled each day when I woke up to have any sort of energy--physical, mental and emotional. I could barely think, let alone work. All my excitement wore off and turned to, “WTF is going on?! This isn’t you!". I couldn’t get a hold on what my daily structure needed to be (the emails, messages and incessant alerts I got from all over didn’t help) and I felt defeated every step of the way. I worried about how to check on my students effectively, knowing many were now constantly surrounded by the things that school provided an escape from. My mom, 69 with hypertension, my grandma, 86 with Parkinson’s and my aunt, over 65 also with Parkinson’s, all 10 minutes from me but I’m now unable to be with them for an undetermined amount of time. My friends and colleagues who are nurses, doctors, physician assistants, medical social workers and more, who are already running low on necessary supplies to protect themselves and others. And humanity all around, I felt the weight of it all and it was only just beginning.
By Tuesday, I was texting my therapist for an appointment.
When I reflect on last week, there were definitely things I could have shifted for better mental health success. For example, my phone usually stays in the living room when I sleep, but at the beginning of the week it was on my nightstand where I was going to sleep and waking up with my phone glued to my hand. I tried creating schedules but instead of adjusting them as things changed, I quickly gave up and surrendered to my anxiety. Although knowing what I “needed” to do (I mean, it's my profession to know what to do!), I didn’t actually do what was most important--give myself time and grace.
I know that for many like me, we entered new territory and it disrupted life so quickly in a way we would never have imagined. I still worry about all my friends and colleagues on the front line of medicine, supermarkets, delivery services and more; my elderly and high-risk family members and friends; my students in which school served as a much needed connection or access to services, plus many more things. Yet, I can now ground myself in knowing that no matter what, I will always have power over my thoughts, feelings and actions despite the many other things I cannot control, as well as the privilege I have within this that many do not.
Week 2 has started and already feels different. We don’t know how long this will last (though the projections ain’t looking too great), but I continuously remind myself that it’s okay to feel unsettled and disrupted during times of community crisis and uncertainty. As someone with high-functioning anxiety, this is allowing (read: forcing) me to surrender to what I cannot control and S L O W myself down.
Yes, this too shall pass. But in the meantime, I’m remembering to:
If you or someone you know is in need during COVID-19, please visit the Mental Health America site here for a list of resources for individuals and communities. As mentioned, I'm a licensed mental health professional and I'm volunteering my time to help as well. Feel free to reach out or connect.