2020 was going to be your year. You were going to begin a new job, get married, go on that dream summer vacation, attend that annual music festival and spend more time with your friends and family. By the middle of March, if you had not already done so yourself, most of those things were cancelled for you. Restaurants, bars, gyms, malls, movie theatres, and stores around the world locked their doors and boarded up their windows. Overnight you were out of a job, without an income, and down on your investments, working from your dining room in the midst of a global pandemic.
Your routine changed, your appointments were cancelled, or your surgery was postponed. You welcomed an addition to your family or suffered the loss of a loved one and are unable to share in your celebration or your grief. You’re scared for your health and the health of those you love. You’re anxious and you’re uncertain of what the future is going to hold. No matter how many of the situations described apply to you right now, it’s fair to assume that everyone is struggling in some way.
We empathize most easily with what we know, or what’s familiar. Moms, communities, whole industries, and job sectors are banding together in clusters, uniting in movements and petitions because they’re sharing similar experiences, similar losses, and similar hardships. We’re not all going through the same thing, but we’re all going through something. What’s not a part of your reality should not become invalid. There’s feelings that might not be yours, but they’re real and they’re someone else’s truth at this point in time.
Opinions on how you should be utilizing this time and coping with these changes needs to stop as quickly as our ‘normal lives’ did. Some of us will remain in survival mode for the duration of this quarantine. It’s not an ideal situation to be in long-term, but living day to day is the only way to deal with the amount of overwhelming stress the world is under. We’re anxious and tired, and in many cases, that anxiousness and tiredness will manifest into physical symptoms. If we don’t seek strategies to help ourselves, those physical symptoms can seriously interfere with our health.
Most of us will have a combination of good and bad days. We’ll clean the house, fit in a workout, reorganize a closet, or take up a new hobby to help minimize the loss of control and disruption to our lives. Small amounts of productivity will provide a sense of accomplishment and purpose. A few of us will relish in boredom. Our previous days were busy, hectic, and loud, and we’ll take advantage of the downtime to relax, recharge, and refresh. There’s also a group of people that will thrive in their newfound quiet time and use it not only to reflect, but to propel themselves forward. They’ll take self isolation as an opportunity to grow and develop new skills.
What’s easy to forget is that there’s a million in-betweeners. There’s no ‘right way’ to respond to a global pandemic, so there’s absolutely no reason to be advising others on how they should be coping. As feelings of inadequacy and levels of stress elevate, unsolicited messages of motivation and encouragement can easily be misinterpreted. And it’s not about being over sensitive – it’s about being self aware and compassionate.
Why should mourning what’s been lost, cancelled, or put on hold be viewed as frivolous, selfish, insensitive, or unimportant? However, to be appreciative of the things, (tangible or not), that not even a global pandemic can take away from us, is important. To be grateful for a home that’s become a sanctuary and the very definition of a safe space. To cherish relationships that have adapted to new limitations and restrictions, but at the same time, have kept us feeling connected and loved. To value good health like never before. To be thankful for front line workers, who are working tirelessly and fearlessly to help us get back to the life that we miss; the life that we worked hard at building. And whenever that happens, we know that life is going to be different. But whatever it looks like coming out of COVID-19, hopefully nothing will ever be taken for granted again.