Let’s be honest…
For the most part, people have their own opinions locked-in about COVID overall. So let’s not talk about how we feel about masks or vaccinations or even social distancing – your mind is probably made up on how you’re going to respond with respect to those. Instead… say you have a kid in a daycare that has managed to stay open, but get a call on a Monday that your child was in contact with another who has tested positive for COVID and now has to quarantine. Oh, and while you’re waiting for the quarantine to be over, you’re also stressing about whether or not the kid’s gonna be ok, every cough or sniffle is a micro stress bomb and you’re checking the CDC guidelines for how soon you can get a reliable test result.
If you’re like the majority of Americans, the adults in your household work. Someone is going to probably need to chew up PTO, Sick Leave, or Vacation to deal with it. Kablam! Stress and/or anger. A little later possibly anxiety over whether or not you or the rest of your family is going to be OK… also… Where exactly is the anger directed? Think about that one – because if that isn’t addressed, it will leak out, and will probably be directed towards someone close to you.
Job security. If you have it – great! It means you’re in a critical position. It also means you’re working in group of people who you see at work and probably almost nowhere else… which means no way to know how much risk of exposure you have day-to-day. Stress. Anxiety. (Strangxiety™)
Oooooohhh! Now a co-worker tests positive… back to quarantine protocols again. Double up on the Stranxiety and add in frustration and/or anger.
If you’re not one of the ones with the whole “critical worker” job security – you’ve probably been adjusting to stimulus support vs. your current/old job and worrying about how you’ll replace the job if it goes away and doesn’t come back. Or maybe your company has held on so far, but the future remains uncertain with supply chain struggles and continued delays in recovery.
Delta variant and new COVID case counts… Other new variants… Mandates… Now there’s fresh new anxiety about the possibility of more shutdowns. Job loss. Vaccination boosters. When can kids be vaccinated? Will schools close? (Many have already had temporary closures…) It’s like the unwanted gift that keeps coming back every time you chuck it into the garbage.
…Plus every other thing that you were coping with before all of this mess… family, political nonsense, job/career, health… the list goes on. …and on, and onnnnnnnnnnn!
Finally… some smarmy talking head on your news feed cracks a joke about “well, it’s just more of the new normal!” And you want to scream – or throw something… (not the phone though… too expensive!) Let me assure you this is me 100 times over. I’m 50. I have 2 kids. Small ones. I was diagnosed with ADD not much more than a year ago. I’ve started a different career path. I lost my father and my sister-in-law in the last few years, after finally getting to move back home to SC after living almost all of my adult life in New England.
You know what?
I’d be happy for a 4-month winter and some slope-side beers at one of my favorite New England mountains right now – and I was born and raised in SC. I’m not even remotely kidding. For me “New Normal” is just another drop in an already HUGE bucket – I’ll weather this storm, and maybe help some others out along the way.
SO: here’s what I want you to do – let yourself get to a calmer place in your own mind and think about your “sideways” challenges. Think about what you CAN and CAN’T control… then read the recipe below… because this, like so many other aspects of your life, is simply a piece of the journey, and you CAN get through it! And without even needing a straight-jacket – promise!
(Also… if you’re like me – bacon helps tremendously!)
Now go back and separate the list – and get all the “NO”s – ones you have no control over
- These are the things you may need to get creative with
- Start with the ones that have the highest stress rating
- You don’t control the stressor, but you CAN control how you respond
- make a plan with friends or family to support each other
- Share your frustration with a friend, loved one or even a counselor
- Ask your employer for help – counseling may be covered
- Find an online support group and add it to your plan
- Remember that your mental health and wellness are key to you being a provider for your family and/or loved ones… just as important as your physical health – so be open with your circle of friends and family about the things that are high stress/anxiety/bad vibe inducers.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to your kids or elderly parents who are in your care about the situation – it helps everyone to be included rather than shut out
- EXERCISE – I cannot stress it enough – you feel better, you burn off stress and you sleep better! Don’t believe me? Ask your healthcare provider. Even if all you do is a vigorous walk for an hour… and try to find someplace peaceful or calming – whatever that means to you!
- Eat as healthily as you can – if your go-to for comfort is food when you’re stressed (bacon jokes aside) you probably don’t bother thinking about healthy options… but make it a priority – if you feed yourself junk – you will only add to your overall stress.
- Get enough sleep! Cheating yourself out of sleep will reduce your ability to concentrate, make you less able to deal with strong emotions, and even make your immune system less effective.
- For the Items you DO have some or total control over – start listing what you can do to reduce the stress or change the impact – almost like the previous exercise, but now maybe you can choose how the thing comes into your life or how much you directly need to be involved in it. Your work may have instituted a work from home as-needed policy. You can go ahead and let your boss know ahead of time that any school closings, you’ll be working from home and you can copy the school announcements to your boss.
- Think in terms of not just the things associated with the pandemic, but the routine aspects of your life – the things stressing you before the whole world lost its collective mind. Anything that you can anticipate and write down or discuss with your family or work team ahead of time is something that loses the power to surprise you and therefore to cripple you with stress-induced indecision. Have a plan for how you will respond to these things… sometimes the simple act of writing down what you will do the next time that you get upset because someone forgot a chore will help you avoid an outburst and get to a resolution…
For everything else – the things you can’t plan for and can’t control… accept that it’s OK not to have a ready-to-go plan for everything. Accept that sometimes things will go sideways anyway… give yourself the grace to allow yourself to have a bad day every once in a while. …And when that happens – get through it the best you can, go to bed at the end of the day and get up the next morning and don’t look back! No beating yourself up! If you had to let something slide because life overwhelmed you for a bit – it’s OK and it happens to the best of us!
MAKE the time for something fun. A minimum of once-a-week, plan for half on up to most of a day doing something just for fun. If you can – add in at least a half-hour of something recreational daily – even if it’s just a soak in a bathtub or some hobby or creative interest you can spend time on… these little things make HUGE impacts in our lives!
Lastly – if you need it – STEP AWAY and take a breather. Hey – all this advice? Maybe it’s just too overwhelming right now – remember these are ideas to help you, not drown you! Maybe right now is a time for a mental health break… so put this away for later and maybe take that walk, or a drive, or call a friend… or just drink your coffee or tea… somewhere relaxing…
Until next time… stay well, and let me know what you’d like to hear in a Rants n Recipes session. Send me a note at email@example.com