Five and a half months of living with COVID-19 has been exhausting. I’m feeling it and I’m sure that you are as well! We’ve quarantined, we’ve adjusted to wearing masks and we’ve all navigated the weekly, daily and hourly changes that this crisis has forced upon us. Each major transition point in the calendar brings new opportunities for exhaustion and the upcoming school year is one of them. Are my kids online, in the classroom or hybrid? How long will that last? Are they safe? How will this impact their learning? Am I going back to campus? Is it time for a gap year? Will I finish the semester or will everything change. Again, it’s exhausting.
I know I’m feeling it. I know my client’s are feeling. And the hardest part in all of this is that we don’t know when it is going to end. So what do we do? Here are a few thoughts:
1. Accept what’s happening in the moment and focus on what I can control.
This is hard for me, and I’m sure it’s hard for you. It is easy to get wrapped up in what has changed and to focus on how things used to be. It’s appropriate to grieve these things, but sometimes I can focus on them so much that it creates friction with my current reality. Acceptance helps me live in the moment, even when it’s not perfect, and choose how to respond each hour, day, and week. It helps me shift from the constant “What if?” game and shifts my perspective to the things I can do in the moment to get through this difficult season. Acceptance takes me out of the past and it takes me out of the future. Both are places I can’t control. However, in the present moment I can choose how to respond.
2. Focus on self-care.
This is an important time to make sure we are taking care of ourselves. I often use the example of a water pitcher in my sessions. In order to have water for those around me I have to refill my pitcher and self-care is the water source. Find ways to fill your pitcher. Focus on exercise. Find things that you enjoy and work them into your calendar. Get creative! We may not be able to do some of the normal things that fill our pitcher, but that doesn’t make it less important. Quite the opposite!
3. Don’t do this alone!
We need community. COVID-19 has made that more difficult as we social distance and try to take steps to curb the stress of the virus. But isolation often leads to an increase in anxiety and depression. In the midst of that it is important to continue to connect with other people, strengthen your support system and build a strong community. Walk with a friend in a park (while practicing social distancing). Play games online with friends or over Zoom. Get to know your neighbors. Each is a step away from isolation.
If you find yourself struggling and it is hard to function, get help. I can’t stress this enough. We all have moments where it is hard to do this on our own. Even though I am a counselor, I go to counseling for my own well-being. Many of our counselors on staff do the same thing. It’s not weak to need help. Again, we aren’t meant to do this alone. At Second Story, we are here to provide that help! We know this hasn’t been easy and we are ready to provide support in these challenging times.
Mike Walton | Mdiv, MA LPC