22 Mar 10 Things I’m Not Doing During the COVID-19 PandemicMINDSTRONG, an initiative of the Jewish General Hospital Foundation and Auxiliary to raise awareness and funds for psychiatry services and infrastructure. Stay tuned for great posts about surviving quarantine and maintaining your physical and mental health while the world acts out scenes from a sci-fi movie ;). It’s been A WEEK, to say the least. The world has changed in ways only Hollywood could have predicted (Contagion, anyone?) and we have no idea what the future has in store. Uncertainty is the harbinger of anxiety, and I think it’s safe to say that we’re all teetering on the edge of panic while eating lots of unhealthy snacks. Social distancing is hard. We’re social beings at heart, and while FaceTime and Zoom are amazing tools to keep us connected, nothing beats IRL get togethers with the people we love – especially when those get togethers involve hugs and cocktails. So, how do we get through this unprecedented time? It’s not like we can call someone who lived through the Spanish flu and ask them for their epic quarantini recipes. The best we can do, I think, is to take it one day at a time (or even one hour at a time) and pay attention to what quells the anxiety and inspires a little bit of hope.
Then we need to share those things with others until we have a nice little tool kit of sanity-managers to get us through the coming weeks. We are, after all, stronger together.So, I thought I’d share with you the things I’m NOT doing that take the edge off and provide me with a little comfort during these trying times.
- I’m not being hard on myself about eating well. I am fully aware that the foods we eat can impact how we feel mentally, but right now, I’m giving myself permission to eat all of the chocolate and drink all of the wine. I know I’ll settle into a healthier routine, but right now, I’m using a sugar high as therapy and I’m ok with that.
- I’m not living in my PJs. If you’re living your best quarantine life in your comfiest attire, more power to you. But when I’m in sweats or pyjamas all day, my brain tells me I’m in sick mode. So I’ve been showering, getting dressed in actual clothing, and even putting on some makeup. Sticking to my normal makes everything seem less strange, even if I’m eating ice cream at 10 am.
- I’m not being sedentary. Exercise has always been an anxiety-management tool for me, so it’s essential that I keep moving. The fitness community all over the world has been amazing at sharing free online workouts and I’ve actually been enjoying trying new things. I’ve always dreamed about being a back-up dancer, so now’s my chance to perfect my running man and audition for Beyonce when this is all over.
- I’m not following people on social media who share panic-inducing and fear-mongering posts. If I want scary news, there are plenty of places I can find it. So if it makes you feel better to share all the bad, all the time, that’s cool – but I’ve likely unfollowed (not unfriended) you. I’m not saying we can’t rekindle the flame when this is all over, but for now I’m protecting my mental health by taking a break from you. In the meantime, there are lots of cute puppy accounts to keep me entertained.
- I’m not forgetting about my friends who live alone. Quarantine is hard when you’re hunkering down with your family, but flying solo is especially gruelling. I’m checking in with them regularly, making sure they’re feeling ok, offering FaceTime happy hour get-togethers, and Netflix parties.
- I’m not judging your work situation. If you have a retail business, for example, and you’ve chosen to continue selling your (non-toilet paper) products online, don’t let anyone tell you that it’s inappropriate to share or advertise. Now, more than ever, we need to support small businesses. Besides, retail therapy is almost as good as sugar therapy. Just wipe down your packages before you bring them inside.
- I’m not being hard on myself for having bad feelings. I love Dr. Kristen Neff’s Self-Compassion theory. She talks about being kind and understanding rather than judgemental and critical when faced with our own personal failings. We need to treat ourselves, she explains, as we would a dear friend. So if you’ve had a temper tantrum about running out of flour, yelled at your dog for snoring, or sat on the floor crying with a bag of Cheetos (anyone else?), don’t beat yourself up. Practice self-compassion, understand that we are all vulnerable human beings, and we’re allowed to have negative feelings.
- I’m not withdrawing from the world. As someone who lives with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, it’s super tempting to pull the covers over my head, avoid everyone, and anticipate the Worst Case Scenario. So I’m going for walks, FaceTiming my friends, and having actual phone conversations. It feels weird, but the social connection, even through a screen, always makes me feel less lonely.
- I’m not having a self-pity party. Every single person in the world is feeling the weight of this pandemic (unless you’re on a silent meditation in the desert like Jared Leto) and none of us are in this alone. Now, more than ever, it’s important to reach out to our friends, family and therapists and talk about how we’re feeling. Coping with corona-19 is going to be a group effort, and the more we share, the stronger we’ll all feel going forward. But a silent desert retreat does sound amazing right about now.
- I’m not going out. Unless I run out of essentials, I’m staying put. Duh.