Pandemic Check-in

I can’t believe it’s been seven months since lockdown. As a global well-being manager, it’s been an extraordinary experience working at a new level of immediacy. I’ve loved getting the time back from a long commute, getting up without an alarm, and having plenty of time to exercise. I threw myself into my work, cooked a lot, sewed a few hundred masks, maintained a daily yoga practice, and started learning Spanish on Rosetta Stone. But after six months of experiencing life with this pandemic, witnessing the trauma of racial injustice, managing the outrage at the current administration, and the anxiety around the upcoming elections, I have hit my wall. And guess what, it’s perfectly normal, as psychologist Nancy Doyle speaks about in her article that highlights trauma expert Dr. Aisha Ahmad’s coping strategies. 

Two main points stick out. The first is that we are highly adaptive, and just as we adapted to our new normal soon after the pandemic struck, we will also adapt to this third wave and the winter ahead of us (as dark as some are predicting). We will continue to find new ways of coping. In preparation for this, my amazing partner bought us the new Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset (it’s absolutely incredible if you’ve never tried virtual reality) to keep us entertained beyond the TV. He also bought us a Roomba to keep our apartment as dust-free and clean as possible (and since we can’t have anything on the floor we keep our place much more tidy, which gives me a greater sense of peace). I am going to return to video calls with friends and loved ones and maybe even join a club to stay connected. I am also going to make a point to do some winter activities such as cross country skiing. What are some things that you can do now to prepare for the darker, and potentially more isolating days ahead?

The second point is to honor where we are at when we do feel stuck. The good news, according to Dr. Ahmad is that we don’t stay stuck forever. It may take a little time to get back to our productive selves, but we do move on. If we aren’t already particularly resilient, we may even experience post-traumatic growth and achieve a new appreciation for life and a greater sense of strength to name a few of its positive attributes. In the interim, though, it’s OK if we’ve eased up on our pandemic goal-getting (I certainly have). People are feeling increased levels of depression, loneliness, fear and anxiety, and uncertainty to some degree (please reach out to your doctor if feelings are intense, persistent, and getting in the way of your personal and/or professional life). Take yourself off the hook. I certainly have. Professionally, I make sure to take breaks throughout the day, not schedule back-to-backs when I can, and check in with colleagues just to chat. Personally, I’m tossing out pandemic goal-getting, hard deadlines, “shoulds” and “have-to’s” and doing activities for the sheer pleasure of it. Instead of setting a specific calendar, I’m writing my blog when inspired to do so. Instead of choreographing a dance, I move and groove when I want to get out of my head. Instead of seeking the perfect body, I’m lifting weights to pump up my sense of physical and mental strength. Self-care is also more important than ever (and something I’ll be writing more about). These days, I try to keep my weekends pretty unstructured, spend time in nature, and relax with essential oils and baths (Calgon, take me away!).  

We are in this together, my friends. It’s been a year like no other. Let’s stay connected, please share your comments below.

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