In the interest of keeping it all the way real, I have to be honest: up until a few days ago, I had a tightness in my chest that felt like someone had placed a dumbbell on it. It lasted the better part of a week. While I wasn’t consciously thinking anxious thoughts, I was certain it had to do with the uncertainty we are all facing right now. Staying home, homeschooling, working from home, and trying to keep a happy face on for my boys was wearing me down big time. I hated to admit it, but this dang virus was getting the best of me. ME! I specialize with anxiety, for goodness’ sake. I teach other people healthy ways to cope with intrusive thoughts and practice mindfulness for a living.
Well, leave it to a global pandemic and it seemed that nothing was working to center me enough to get that nagging tightness to go the heck away.
In other words, leave it to a global pandemic to remind me that I’m a human being – we all are, actually – and this is something we’ve never seen the likes of before.
Eventually, when it became crystal clear that I had to try something else, I did what I tell all of my clients to do: I called my therapist. Thank goodness he, like myself and so many other therapists I know, was holding video sessions remotely.
I’ll spare you most of the the details of our chat and simply say that he helped me realize that I had been looking at this coronavirus quarantine as a sprint, and not a marathon. By that, I mean I’ve been fervently praying and hoping against hope and resting in the truth that this could be over tomorrow. Like, any day now, we could be back to life as we knew it. Life where I could take my baby to the mall play place and get Chik-Fil-A any old time I wanted #itsthelittlethings.
My therapist, also a Christian, quickly pointed out that while that is certainly a possibility (with God all things are possible, after all, as it says in Matthew 19:26), it is also just as likely a scenario that we could be in this here situation for a loooong time. Like, a long enough time to cancel the summer Olympics, slated to begin in late July! WHOMP!
He told me if I shifted my mindset to accept what is happening, not only today, but also accept that it could be many many months before things return to normal, I would feel better.
And what do you know, he was right.
Literally an hour or two after our session, the tightness was gone. I felt lighter, brighter, and determined. Determined to train for this marathon, however long it may last, and show up as my best self for as much of it as humanly possible.
In case any of you are feeling like I was, I’d like to suggest two things: I bet you know what the first one is, right?
Call a therapist. This is what we do – we are skilled at untangling your thoughts and offering helpful guidance when you need it most. You don’t have to go through this alone.
Second, I’d like to recommend a journaling prompt that can help you show up as your best self during this quarantine, or any other situation you’d like to apply it to. If you’re going through a hard time, or just have a lot to do in a day, this journaling prompt will help ease your anxiety and direct you to the next right thing (who doesn’t love a good Frozen II reference, right?).
Take 5 minutes to write about the struggles you may be facing as you and your loved ones are living, working, and well, spending every waking hour together for the forseeable future. Write in the present tense, and write as if you are writing a story. Here’s the kicker: write yourself in as the hero, not the victim.
For example, if you, like me, suddenly find yourself the director of virtual learning for your little ones (a title I never wanted, because it’s definitely not my gifting, thank you very much!), in addition to your various other roles in the home, you may be facing a new set of challenges and worry that you won’t be competent to help your kids learn or that your patience will run out sooner than later and you’ll turn into the dreaded “mean mommy.” You might begin to write something like this:
The homeschooling is actually fun – I look for ways everyday to take advantage of the time we have together. I look for ways to create memories with these sweet boys – I order some fun surprises on Amazon, including this bath basketball hoop and some supplies for Easter art projects I have planned. I find a way to stay calm, even if the kids aren’t. I take time for myself each day during naptime. I’m looking for ways to encourage and inspire the people in my life, as well as to share my time and money with people who need it more than I do right now. I feel peaceful!
Sounds way different than “oh my goodness how long is this going to last? are my kids getting behind in school? I’m so stressed and I literally can’t with these loud and crazy kids anymore!”
Focusing on yourself as the hero forces you to come up with the things you can do to cope effectively in your current situation. You think about how a hero would handle it, and then you start doing the same darn things. And as a result? Your anxiety decreases, your peace and joy increase, and you get through this, one day at a time, never losing hope that it could be over sooner than later, but never ceasing to show up prepared for it to go on longer.
Sending you so much love, my friends! I’m here if you need me, so don’t hesitate to reach out. XOXO