Six Mindsets That Are Making Things Worse Right Now.
These are crazy times we’re living in! But there are things we can do to minimize the craziness. Namely, to be mindful of the way we think about this time and how we’re using it. Let’s dive in.
1. If I’m not using this time to be hyper productive, I’m somehow failing.
Have you noticed how the hustlers have come out in droves? It’s fine, I guess if that’s your thing. But why are they using social media to make it seem like we’re all meant to be writing the next great novel during this pandemic?
Somebody referred to it as “Rise & Grind Twitter” and that’s exactly it!
People are posting (and reposting) things like “Shakespeare wrote King Lear during The Plague! What are YOU doing with this time?”
Gee, I don’t know, guys.
Trying to keep my toddler entertained and co-exist peacefully with the other occupants of this house? Dusting off some much-forgotten math skills to calculate exactly how long we can go before we absolutely must buy toilet paper?
You don’t have to do anything but get through this.
And that is going to look different for everyone.
If you are someone who benefits from throwing yourself into creative work, then absolutely do something amazing if you have the time and space to do so.
But there is no pressure for you to use this time in any way that piles on stress. American culture is so focused on the grind. We are grotesquely overworked.
If you aren’t working 2-3 jobs or coming up with a new side hustle, you’re somehow slacking. That is not a healthy mentality during normal times and it certainly doesn’t need to have a moment now that we’re stuck indoors.
If productivity is motivating for you, that’s awesome! I’m someone who can be motivated by projects and will sit down and work for hours on end if the spirit moves me.
But only because I like doing it.
You don’t have to spend every waking moment pursuing income-generating opportunities, nor do you need to feel guilted by hustle promoters online.
It’s okay to just chill.
In fact, please do!
2. All my goals/routines/anything-resembling-healthy are on pause.
Here comes the flip side to number one.
Although no one is expecting you to come out of this thing with a six-pack and newfound love of kale, it’s also not great to drop everything either.
You may have to adjust and scale back, but you’re still you. And before COVID19 was unleashed on the world, you had things you did to maintain your well-being.
Yes, the gym is closed, but you can do something else at home. Even if your house is full of people who increasingly cannot stand each other, getting some space and dedicating even 15 minutes of your day to physical activity still counts.
Modify. Don’t abandon.
Your routines matter. Striving towards a goal and meeting certain benchmarks matter. No, this isn’t contradicting the first point. You don’t have to be a superhero or solve world peace.
I’m talking about all the stuff you were doing before this thing hit. The stuff that was keeping you sane.
All that hard work? It takes discipline. Neither of which comes easy. Don’t throw it all away now. It will drag your emotional state down.
I know that waking up late and staying in your pajamas all day while eating Ben & Jerry’s for breakfast sounds really awesome, but after a while, it’s going to make you feel like shit.
Besides, if you slack too much on the goals you were striving towards before this whole mess, it’ll be that much harder to get on track when it’s over.
Also, it’s just good for us.
The ability to achieve something, no matter how small, is important for our mental health. It makes us happier and gives us a sense of control during a time when we have far less than we’d like.
Plus, it gives you some semblance of normalcy. Something we desperately need.
3. I have carte blanche to do, eat and drink whatever I want. So long as I stay inside.
This is related to number two. We’re all walking a tightrope here. Shit sucks right now.
People don’t know how they’re going to pay rent or when they’ll see a paycheck again. We’re (for my US readers) supposed to be getting a stimulus check, but when exactly? Nobody knows.
We’re lonely. Or we’re sick of never being alone because the house is too full.
Maybe we owned or worked at a restaurant before this thing started and now we don’t know if there will be anything to go back to.
Oh! And let’s not forget, every time we go grocery shopping we put ourselves at a mild to moderate risk of catching a virus that shut the world down. Also, there’s no toilet paper. Still.
It’s all too much.
As someone with a little over two years of sobriety, let me just say that the last thing you want to do is give yourself permission to bury your emotions in alcohol, food, or whatever other vice seems comforting in this moment.
People who did not drink excessively before the pandemic are now imbibing five nights out the week. Why? Because this is scary, boring, and stressful all at once.
Parents are expected to work from home while homeschooling their children and not go insane in the process. Meanwhile, you can’t go to visit grandpa because he’s 70 and has COPD.
This. Shit. Is. Hard.
So I understand wholeheartedly why a person would want to bury themselves every day in gin or greasy takeout. But this thing is going to pass and when it does, you don’t want an addiction to haul around with you.
It’s going to be hard enough to start over.
The more you give yourself permission to use food or alcohol as a coping mechanism for stress, the more your brain and body will come to rely on it.
If you’re sober, it definitely isn’t the time to start drinking again. Please see my post Sobriety In The Time Of Quarantine for resources to help you cope.
I used to drink to drown out stress, which led to using any kind of downtime as a reason to get drunk. It snowballed from there. You might think because these are extraordinary times, that it won’t happen to you.
Perhaps you’re thinking, “Don’t be dramatic. I’ll be fine when this is over. I’m just trying to get through the day like everyone else.”
Hopefully, you’re right, but in the meantime try to take it easy. If you want to sit down with a bowl of Doritos and watch Netflix, please do. I definitely am!
But you don’t need to mindlessly annihilate an entire bag every night and wash it down with a sixer of White Claw.
You will regret it. Those things don’t help you get through this; they only help you hide from it.
4. I’m completely powerless.
I feel this on some level every day. For a lot of things right now, it’s true.
None of us can personally make this virus disappear or use magical powers to make the world go back to the way it was.
But that doesn’t render us powerless.
We can control ourselves, how we move in the world, the precautions we take, and the way we get through our days.
We have the power to maintain as much semblance of normalcy as humanly possible.
I try to maintain perspective.
There are doctors and nurses going to work every day without proper protective gear, trying to keep this virus in check, treating the sick and dying. They’re making sure their wills are in place just in case.
Grocery store workers put themselves at risk of infection every single day while customers yell at them because there’s no toilet paper on the shelves.
Meanwhile, groups of dip shit partygoers won’t stay off the beaches.
All of these things piss me off. Seeing people struggling, afraid, and sick pisses me off. Watching politicians ignore scientists pisses me off. Seeing botched responses pisses me off.
I recently moved back to the US from overseas and am trying to start a new career (perfect timing, I know). In the meantime, my mother has graciously allowed us to live with her and her partner. But that’s four adults and a two-year-old in a two-bedroom condo.
How am I going to get us out and into our own place with all this going on?
I have no idea.
But I’m not powerless.
I can allow my anxiety to take over, or I can take a deep breath and identify what is in my locus of control. Take an inventory of what you can reasonably do something about. For me it’s the following:
- Whether I’m sticking to my routine to manage my anxiety and overall mental health
- Continuing my coursework and preparing for my licensing exam (whenever that shall take place)
- Making sure I don’t eat food that makes me feel terrible about myself
- Getting exercise as much as possible
- Finding creative ways to keep my two-year-old entertained
- Minding our budget with the uncertainty of the times in mind
- Keep trying to find work
- Balancing indulgences with healthy options
Focus on what you can do right now. Tackle the scary what-ifs later.
5. I’m never going to get my old life back.
Maybe? Maybe none of us will.
But I don’t think we’re universally condemned to a life of uncertainty and debt. There’s another side of this and none of us knows what it looks like.
What good does worrying about it do?
Before you curse me out, here’s what I mean.
Obviously, we’re all worried right now. But we are not required to sit around and give our fears all the oxygen in the room. It’s not healthy.
Prepare for the future as best you can and spend the rest of the time looking after yourself and your family.
I recognize the privilege that comes with some of these suggestions. There are people who have extremely grave situations right now.
I get that.
Take what is useful here and leave what isn’t.
6. F*ck Everything
I’m sure the thought has crossed all of our minds at some point. This whole thing is nuts, truly. And it seems like everyone is losing their damn minds in the process.
If you have kids, you’re desperate for some space. A break. We have loved ones getting sick and we don’t know if they’ll be okay.
The stress of “How am I going to pay XYZ” feels like an anvil on your chest. Watching even thirty minutes of news or spending half a second on Twitter has you convinced the entire world has gone to shit, and it makes you angry all the time.
You’re doing your part, but continue to see people in your community not take this seriously. It makes you wonder what is the point.
Everything you feel is valid.
The psychological impacts of quarantine are real. There is a recent peer-reviewed study in The Lancet that examines the impact of quarantine on our lives. The three primary effects are PTSD, anger, and stress. They list the following stressors that cause this:
- longer quarantine duration
- infection fears
- inadequate supplies
- inadequate information (eh-hem)
- financial loss
Maybe you were ticking a lot of those off and giving a knowing nod.
Yep, I’m feeling that one, and that, and that…
It’s all a bit too much.
And it’s okay to admit that.
But we can’t let it consume us. Obviously, if you’re sitting at home with a loved one in ICU who you can’t get in to see, that’s a whole other ballgame.
But for those of us on the periphery, there are things we can do to keep our emotional state in check.
Log off of social media for a while. Swap out the news for something more lighthearted. If it’s available to you, get some air and go for a walk.
Stay in touch with friends and loved ones via video chat.
Do what you can to not completely lose yourself.
Find antidotes for whatever fuels your stress and anger right now.
I notice that when I go on Twitter sometimes, the dialogue makes me think everyone is insane and the country is irrevocably damaged. The antidote to that is to stay off Twitter more and to seek content that is more level-headed or uplifting.
If you’re someone for whom the politics of this thing makes you want to blow a gasket, don’t consume podcasts or talk shows that add fuel to the fire.
Curate your virtual reality to bring a bit of sanity to your real one.
Most importantly, hang in there…
If you have the means to help another person, do that. If you have to rely on the support of others right now, it’s perfectly fine. That’s what community is for.
Do what you can to stay healthy right now – both physically and emotionally.
And, if you’re struggling with your sobriety, the Soberish community is always available to you.