COVID-blues getting you down?
No matter how difficult life was to begin with, the current pandemic has, for most of us, made it even harder. Families are financially strapped, kids are missing their school friends, and parents everywhere are united in their chorus of, “If I have to cook one more meal…”
What follows is my list of pandemic survival tips. If you have any to add, drop them in the comments. Lord knows we all need all the help and advice we can get.
#1: Make time to do the things you like
Being housebound during a pandemic has a way of making you even busier than usual. Not only do you still have your usual work and household responsibilities, now you’re doing everything remotely and trying to manage the kids’ emergency remote learning. Everyone is suddenly home all the time, which means 100% of the family’s meals have to be catered from your very own kitchen.
It’s a lot to handle. The constant busy-ness is overwhelming, and it can do a real number on your mental health. So take time for yourself without feeling guilty about it. Read the book. Watch an episode of that TV show you’ve been meaning to binge-watch. Take an extra-long shower just so you can be alone for a few minutes more.
#2: Get dressed in non-pyjamas every day
During the first week of quarantine, I think I only made it out of my pyjamas once. I mean, it’s not like I had anywhere to go. After that first week, though, I realized that not getting dressed was amplifying my anxiety.
I’m not saying I wear business suits every day. Leggings and T-shirts are fine, and if my hair is combed and my teeth are brushed I’m good to go. What I’m wearing is far less important than the psychological impact of actually getting properly prepared for a productive day.
#3: Let the little things go
You know those silly little things that get under your skin? Like family members leaving empty milk cartons in the fridge or the cat shedding all over your clean black pants? With so much stress going on, do yourself a favour and just let those things go. Sure, mention the milk carton to your kids and gently get the cat off your pants, but try not to get upset about it. Stress about even the smallest things can take up a lot of space in our heads, and right now, we all have bigger things to be worrying about, like how to get groceries without contracting a potentially life-threatening virus.
#4: Consider letting some of the big things go
It’s all very well deciding not to sweat the small stuff, but what about the big stuff? This pandemic is forcing a lot of people to change their plans. And we’re not talking about rescheduling a weekend barbecue. We’re talking about huge, life-changing plans, like going to college or buying a house.
At first glance, you may think big plans are set in stone. But if those plans were made before the world turned upside down, you may need to reconsider them, or at least think about how you will execute them. This may mean postponing college for a year, or holding off on a cross-country relocation. It might be a huge let down, but releasing yourself from the obligation to go through with big plans that no longer work can be immensely liberating.
#5: Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet
The search string “COVID-19” returns almost four billion results on Google. The problem is that most of what you read on the Internet is pure crap. Of course, social media is teeming with people who aren’t going to let facts get in the way of some good sensationalism, and what results is a sea of misinformation, conspiracy theories, and “stories” that serve no purpose other than to instil fear.
You’ll thank yourself later if you filter the information you are receiving, block or temporarily mute the questionable sources, and actively seek out credible sources that can state the facts without the hype.
#6: Keep in touch with loved ones far away
This pandemic has made the world seem very large. With travel bans and lockdowns in place, my family in South Africa is physically inaccessible to me for the first time since I moved to Canada almost twenty years ago.
Fortunately, one thing the pandemic has not taken away from us is the Internet. We are able to instantly check in with loved ones, no matter how far away they are. I cannot imagine what this would have been like, say, in the 1970s, when the only forms of trans-Atlantic communication were snail mail and ridiculously expensive landlines.
#7: Give yourself something to look forward to after lockdowns end
Yes, I know. It feels as if we’re going to be stuck at home forever, and that feeling only magnifies every time we see social media posts about neighbours having parties, or people going to the beach in their droves. But as confined as we’re feeling, this pandemic will end eventually, and we should have something to look forward to when it does. Whether it’s a haircut or a holiday, put something in your calendar that you can be excited about.
#8: Don’t attend every argument you’re invited to
You’ve heard the saying: opinions are like a$$holes – everyone has one. And opinions are certainly abounding on social media. Facebook these days has all the makings of a Survivor-like reality show. It has the drama, the judging, the tears, the backstabbing, the people getting together in cliques to bully other people – the only thing it doesn’t have is immunity idols and a million dollar prize.
If you want to stay sane, step back from this particular reality show. Say your piece if you need to – but remember that social media channels come with very handy mute features that may save you from falling down the rabbit hole of futile arguments.
#9: Give yourself permission to feel the feels
Let’s make no bones about it. This pandemic sucks. The world is filled with the tragedy of people of all ages dying without a loved one by their side. I feel the humanity of this crisis intensely. There are days when the collective societal grief threatens to overtake me.
I know I’m not alone in this. And if you are feeling sad, frustrated, angry, frightened or all of the above, that’s OK. Have a good cry, and talk about how you feel with someone you trust. Or if you want to do things the way Arthur Dent did in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy series, allow yourself a regular early morning yell of horror.
#10: Know that this too shall pass
This crisis is awful. Already we are saying things like, “more deaths than Vietnam”. Our collective consciousness has been deeply impacted. When we’re telling stories of the pandemic twenty or thirty years from now, the hurt and the sadness will come through in our voices.
But this too shall pass. It will. Right now, while we are in the thick of it, it’s hard to see our way clear. But we just have to keep on making our way through the weeds, and eventually, we will emerge on the other side. At that point, we will take some time to mourn our dead and nurse our sick back to health. And then we will hopefully take the lessons we are learning from this and use them to build a future that is better and stronger.
We just have to have faith that we will get there.
By Kirsten Doyle