The emergence and quick spread of COVID-19 has made us all reassess our lives — what we’re doing, what we want to do, what we’ve had to shift to an alternate course, and what we’ve had to postpone or cancel. We’re in our homes more (good! And bad!) and in public places less (good! And bad!). Everything about every single one of our lives has changed, and with that change comes a million different emotions. And every one of those emotions is valid.
Let’s repeat and make it personal: every one of my emotions right now is valid.
As we each navigate these — let’s admit it — truly bizarre times, we have to remember that we’re each processing the change, the fear, the hope in different ways and at different paces. It’s not a race, it’s a spectrum.
While some people may be able to turn this self-isolation and quarantine into a time of relaxation, or may feel bursts of creativity during their newfound time at home, not all of us feel that way. A great number of us are stressed out or rightfully scared. It’s important to remember to take a moment and sit with those feelings and see what those emotions are telling us.
This Isn’t a Normal Time
If you’re like me, you’re trying to get on with your life the best you can: working from home, taking classes from home, getting fresh air from the open window or going for a quick walk in the evening where you can be away from other people. You may also be like me and you’ve felt overcome with emotion while trying to do things that wouldn’t have caused you to even bat an eye when things were normal.
But it’s important to remember that this isn’t a normal time. A friend recently said something to me while I was expressing my deep fear and anger at feeling the pressure to maintain normal productivity while working and schooling from home — and I could just hear the proverbial record scratch when it sunk in. She said, “you are allowed to mourn your normal life.”
Mourn. I hadn’t considered that that’s what I was doing. Mourning. My life B.C. Before COVID-19. My life when I could do what I wanted, when I wanted. My life when I could go into a crowded park without a second thought. When I could drive across town to visit friends. Or maybe when you could send your kids off to school, or visit your elderly parents. When we could go into our offices, see our doctors, go to our grocery stores without worrying about staying at least six feet away from people or coating ourselves in hand sanitizer (if we could find it), without constantly being on the hunt for more toilet paper. Allow yourself to mourn.
Grieve What Was and What Wasn’t—But Grow With It
We can grieve for the way life was and for the plans that had to be cancelled, but we also have to learn to grow from it. To grow with it. Denying that anything has changed is doing yourself a disservice because things are changing whether you want them to or not. Take a moment to yourself to reflect on it. Clinging to the lives that we knew don’t serve us right now either. Hopefully in a couple of months we can get back to a semblance of the way we used to live, but it’s helps more now to acknowledge the change and move forward without looking back. Instead, try to replace these negative reactions with opportunities for growth.
We don’t all have to be the next expert bread baker if we’re tired. We don’t have to be the next TikTok sensation if we’re worried about still having to go to work every day, or caring or children, or for ourselves or family members if they get sick. These people are outliers and we need to recognize them as such. Instead, give yourself the space to process. Get creative in a different kind of way.
Find ways to take a deep breath once a day. Get everyone quarantined together to do it.
Find alternate ways to let our your excess energy by singing, painting, dancing, or just allowing yourself five minutes for frenetic movement.
Find alternate ways to see your friends by hosting virtual video happy hours. Video chat with grandparents so they can read your kids bedtime stories.
Find a way to be yourself and to feel yourself during these unknowable, uncertain times. If you are reading this, you are still here and you are still allowed to occupy space even if it looks different than before.
Learn to Thrive Again
You may not have the bandwidth and free time that other people may — don’t let social medial lie to you and make you think everyone but you does — but what you can do is learn from this. Learn about yourself and about others. Learn to breathe. Learn to confide in others. We’re all in this together. Learn to redirect your energy. Learn to mourn and learn to accept that our old lives are done for now. But things will go back to a new normal — after we’ve done our part to “flatten the curve,” after scientists way smarter than most of us could ever hope to be develop a way to treat and eradicate this.
After we’ve changed the way we thrive.