We rang in the new year as we do every year. We were happy, stayed up way past our bedtimes, and made resolutions that might not get past February (but we try our best). January came and went, February was fine, but then March happened.
I had my 29th birthday on March 8 and I had a great time. It’s always been right before Spring Break. The next Monday (March 16), my boss made the announcement toward the end of the day that we would start working from home and to pack up what we needed as we headed on home. It all happened very quickly and without much notice. My coworkers were better able to grab what they needed and go. Me? I was left scrambling to call my clients for the next day to let them know of the last minute change. Spring Break 2020 was when the world ceased to be “normal” again.
From March-May, I worked from home. This meant seeing clients through technological means. Like much of the world, some part of my house became my office and I started wearing comfy pants all day every day. It was nice at first. There was a break from the stress of what happened every day prior. Then it was like time slowed down and every day began to blend together. We now call this time “2020: The One Where We Were Quarantined”. Some used that time to do much needed projects or spend time with their families. For others, their lives came to a grinding halt as they lost their jobs and, all of a sudden, tomorrow was uncertain. I can honestly say that in modern times, we have never seen anything like this and none of us were in any way prepared to handle it – especially mentally.
So far, COVID-19 has taught me many things: 1) I had better start learning how to handle severe anxiety, stress, and/or depression symptoms as either I experience them or someone around me does; 2) dealing with the above issues is not common knowledge; and 3) when left alone with your thoughts during these times, it frequently does not end well. I thought I knew how to handle anxiety, depression, and stress. COVID-19 taught me that what I know can and must be expanded upon. It has shown me that we, as a society, do not value mental health since the various lockdowns over the past few months have caused major issues for a lot of people. Additionally, it has taught me that if I do not take care of myself, I cannot do my job to help others. We have long been taught that “self-care”, or taking time to do something for yourself, is selfish; however, during this period of social isolation, if you do not take care of yourself, you may feel like everything is crashing down around you.
In June, things started opening back up slowly. I was grateful for this as I could finally tell my clients to go to the places that usually give them peace. I was also immensely thankful as I felt like I could breathe again. I was allowed to go back to work every other day and some sense of “normalcy” or “pre-COVID” times came back. It felt like life was improving again, until the cases started spiking. After that, policies started being put into places faster than we could comprehend them. Even worse, it feels like things are changing day-to-day without a light at the end of the tunnel. Frankly, things are changing so much that I often do not know who to listen to, what to believe, or what to hold on to. I am a firm believer in science, but even that is making my head spin. I won’t even talk about the news – it’s too depressing.
Here we are in August. I don’t know what everyone’s situation looks like, but I hope that if you were in a bad spot once COVID-19 hit that your circumstances have changed for the better. If you have been able to keep your job and go remote, I am so happy for you. If you’re trying to learn how to navigate all of the changes, know that you are not alone. If you’re trying to figure out how to do what is best for you and your family’s health, you know better than anyone else.
Currently, things are not much clearer than it was a month ago, but there are positives to this situation. First, it had created a unique opportunity to use our time how we saw fit. Second, it brought a lot of attention to mental health and how we can do things better. Third, we learned that when our government is put into a situation like this, solutions get fast-tracked so that people can get the assistance that they need. Finally, we all united together to help one another get through this. It was and continues to be a beautiful thing to see.
COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. We must all learn how to cope with the feelings and thoughts that come with that. As long as you are not doing anything that harms you, harms someone else, or breaks the law, you are probably doing the best you can. For that, I praise you. This is a time when we have to innovate with ways to get through these struggles, and fast. I can help you find some ways to do that. Ultimately, just remember …
… if you feel like you’re alone, you’re not
… if you ever wonder if what you are thinking/feeling is normal, it is
… do you have a different opinion than those around you? That’s fine.
Be safe, take care of yourself and those that you care about, and be kind to one another. Our nation has a vast history of getting through difficult times. We’ll get through this, but it has to be together.