I would like to begin by taking a moment of silence – to mourn all that we have lost during the past year.
The loss of loved ones, the loss of hugs and touch, the loss of social activities, the loss of our normal routines, and even the loss of the sometimes-torturous daily commute (can we admit appreciation for a tangible separation between work and home?). The reality is that we are all grieving for our “pre-COVID” life and the stability of having an idea of what the world was going to be like in the months ahead.
Many of the individuals that I have spoken with recently have voiced the struggle of waking up in the morning wondering “what’s the point?”
The day ahead feels just like the day before it and likely to be the same as the next day; filled with endless virtual meetings, trying to support and cheerlead virtual learning, hours sitting in front of screens, and the fear of this invisible opponent.
As these individuals have talked about the lack of motivation, lack of interest, and lack of energy, I have validated these feelings with a gentle reminder that we are living through a pandemic. Like the patience of trying to teach a child to ride a bike, it is important to have patience with ourselves on a daily basis as new challenges arise and the same challenges still haunt us.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get a set of training wheels to prepare us for the months ahead when the world shut down.
At this point, it is difficult to remember what “pre-COVID” life was like with social gatherings, extended family time, and vacations! Many times when I ask individuals to take a moment with me and visualize the memories of life before Coronavirus, their faces light up.
Push Through the Struggle
I hear stories of going to concerts, meeting up with friends, the joy of large family gatherings, and the simple consistent routines of chores and daily life. The struggle to remember that life is getting harder as more time passes, and we feel more disconnected from “normal life.” In this struggle, it is all the more important to take intentional time for positive thoughts, thankfulness, and hope.
Below are some of the tools that I have found successful for taking this time and continuing to push through the struggle:
- Start a Gratitude Practice: Take time at the end of the day to identify three things that you are grateful for that day. Keep in mind that these don’t need to be “big” things and can be as simple as “Thankful for a good wifi connection so we could all get our stuff done.” The process of taking a moment for gratitude can help our brains to focus on positives and successes that we might not notice regularly.
- Set up a daily routine: As much as possible, try to develop a daily routine to provide some feeling of consistency and stability. Even a simple morning and evening routine can help to reduce the feelings of anxiety that are experienced during the day and provide the comfort of knowing what to expect.
- Spend time outside: Weather permitting, find the time to be outdoors. Nature has a great way of reminding us of the beauty in our world and gives us some separation from the long periods of time spent at home. Take time exploring a new park that you haven’t been to before or possibly start the hobby of Geocaching (think outdoor treasure hunt).
- Connect with Others: Yes, most of us have reached our limit with Zoom meetings. This can lead us to avoid the idea of another Zoom meeting, even if it is with friends or family members. So find other ways to connect. When you have a moment, send a quick text message to someone saying you are thinking of them. Take a picture of something around you and send it to a friend or family member with a funny caption that makes you smile. Ask someone to be your pen pal and send them cards, notes, or letters to keep in touch.
- Make Plans: I was speaking to someone who mentioned how much she used to love buying a planner at the beginning of the year. She excitedly told me about the different planners and her joy of writing down upcoming events for the year. Yet, she said in 2021 she “hasn’t bothered” to buy a new planner because “there isn’t anything to look forward to.” So I suggested that she buy a new planner and decide for herself what she wants to look forward to. We discussed finding fun “National Day of” holidays and setting up her own personal celebrations for them (I am looking forward to National Ice Cream Day). By making plans for ourselves, we can provide ourselves with some hope for the future and something to be excited about during the monotony of daily life.
By sharing these suggestions, I am hopeful that this gives us some ways to navigate the challenges of “what’s the point?” and the upcoming one-year mark in the timeline of this pandemic.
The old phrase “Seeing is Believing” came up in a discussion recently and I found myself pointing out that “You can decide what you see” so I hope that each of you will take a moment to see hope in your future.
You are worth it.