Something I often share with my patients is how we are made or built as social beings; we are not meant to be and do not do well when we are alone. In this time of uncertainty and social distancing that is forcing (necessary) isolation, it will be increasingly easier to feel alone. I have seen several memes joking about the worry of running out of drawers and closets to reorganize as the distraction from the unaddressed waves of emotion that are inherent in a time of such ambiguity. I have certainly found myself seeking out distractions and zoning out to keep from sitting with the weight of our current reality. In many ways, this may be what we all need to do right now. We may need to distract ourselves, find goofy ways to entertain our wandering and worried thoughts and emotional selves, and joke about having second dinner and pre-pre-bedtime snacks. While I believe so strongly in always practicing self-compassion and being gentle with ourselves, it is time to flex that muscle even more. If you are feeling symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other emotional distress starting to ramp up, validate yourself. Of course you may be feeling a bit off; our routine lives have come to a halt or been greatly reorganized.
Among the distractions and necessary activities to simply get through each day, take a moment to ground yourself. Take a few deep, belly breaths and check in with yourself. What do you notice in your body, head to toe? Muscle tension, sour tummy, heavy eye lids, tight jaw, heaviness in your chest? Name what you are feeling and allow it to wash over you like a wave while you take a few more super deep breaths. You may find your body and soul needing to release some tears, curl up with a blanket for a moment, or shake off some of the stress like you are about to start a race or go into a big test. You may also find yourself needing connection to others, something vital to our existence. Connect through video chats, phone calls, texts, or even the messaging of a silly picture.
Here are a few other tips to keep in mind while we are social distancing:
1. Create some structure or routine in your day that may loosely resemble your typical day. If you showered right away each morning before going to work, hop in and suds up before you turn on your computer for work or start your day (even if you jump back into your jammies).
2. Set up rewards for yourself throughout your day. After an hour of work or completing a task, take a break for a walk, make a snack, or pet the family critter.
3. Create lists for yourself of all the tasks you may do throughout your day and week, even the simple stuff like picking up after a meal. Without leaving the house, our days can meld together and leave us feeling unproductive and sluggish. Checking things off a list can be such a great feeling!
4. Stay in the present. When noticing your mind wandering down the rabbit hole of the future, gently guide yourself back to grounding in the moment. “I am safe, healthy, and have my needs met in this moment.”
5. Trust yourself. Your body will tell you what it needs. If you need to take a break from your work to check in on that Netflix series because you cannot focus on the tasks you need to complete, do it. We are all being invited to add more flexibility into our lives (easier said than done), which may require some humor and tears.
While it may be easier to feel alone right now, adversity is one of the ways we can experience a greater sense of belonging to one another. Hold on to that, we are all working together for the well-being of all. You are not alone, not truly. Connect to the stories of others and check in on your people. This is our collective narrative for right now, the page will turn.
In the words of Brene Brown, “Stay awkward, brave, and kind. Love each other. Spread calm.”