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How Are You Coping Right Now?

... When it feels like the world is falling apart

It’s been. Well. Who knows how long it’s been. Every hour these days feels like a month. Some days so much news breaks that you end the day feeling like you’re on a different planet than the one you started on. And then you go to sleep, and when you wake up, it’s a new world all over again.

At the time of me writing this, we’re under a shelter-in-place order, much like most of Northern California. That means (more or less) that it’s a misdemeanor for us to leave our houses for anything beyond food, medicine, or essential doctors appointments. Thankfully, we’re allowed to go on hikes or walks, as long as we only do them in our family unit, and stay at least six feet away from anyone else.

Plus, like pretty much every small business in America right now, we’re under enormous strain, as the economy freezes up faster than anyone imagined possible. Like most of my friends in the small business community, right now we’re in “struggle to survive” mode. Or survive long enough that things change, at least. It’s not a good headspace, and I toggle back and forth between “needing to deal with it” and “needing to just work.”

But I’m also counting my blessings. We have a house and yard with a lot of space. My kids have each other. We have enough food in the pantry to get through this (even as stores have begun rationing), and we have enough food to share with those in our lives in need. But most importantly my mom (who’s staggeringly high risk) and my sister (who is an ER doctor) are both currently healthy. And my kids are able to video chat with my mom everyday. And right now: that’s big deal stuff.

But as calm as I sound at this moment, I don’t want to hide the ball. Like everyone else, I’m struggling. I have moments where I can’t stop my brain from racing from one what-if to another, running through every worst case scenario I can come up with, and concluding that the world is ending. (It’s not, but still.)

So I wanted to take a moment to check in on each of you, share some of the tools I was using to cope, and see what was working for you… and what really isn’t.

My Quarantine Coping Tools

Fresh Air

Being cooped up in the house is no joke. (And our first two days of quarantine happened in the pouring rain, where we really felt fully stuck). But the minute I get outside and start walking, everything feels a little less dire. Turns out the world is still out there, in all it’s glory. So I’m using this as an excuse to lie on the swing and stare up at the tree branches, and take walks with my family (what else is there to do anyway?)

Exercise

Luckily, when I had my second kid, I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to get to the gym, and I bought an in home exercise machine. Days I use it, I feel significantly more rational than days that I don’t. Other affordable working out from home options include… your very own kettlebell, exercise rope, or medicine ball.

Prayer/ Meditation/ Quiet

The point here is to do something to ground yourself and quiet your brain. For me, that’s prayer. For non-religious folks, it might be sitting quietly, or walking around the block (if that’s allowed where you are). There are also great apps you can use, including headspace, Calm and The Mindfulness App.

Phone A Older Relative (Or Read A Letter, or A Historical Novel)

When it feels like the world is going to end, I try to reflect back on my grandmother’s lives. Sometimes it’s by reading a letter, sometimes it’s by reading a book. They each survived the great depression and World War II. Both of them taught me that life was hard (I was told that more times than I could count), you should always be prepared for disaster, and you should always look for the joy in everything. And don’t complain.

Now, while the “don’t complain” advice not be the most emotionally healthy, it still helps me when it feels like the world is ending. In those moments, I pull out old family letters, or pull a historical fiction book off the shelf. I ponder all of the stuff that human’s have gone through, and then look around my life and realize this is not the end of the world, it’s hard, but I need to keep moving.

And then I take a walk (or say a prayer), and move on to the next thing.

In short: things are scary, on so, so many levels. They’re terrifying. They’re likely going to get worse before they get better, and they’re constantly changing. That’s a very bad combo for mental and physical health. And thus far that I’ve learned that the more time I can spend thinking about what’s happening right here right now (not what could be happening in the future) the better I do. But it’s a daily, sometimes moment by moment battle.

How are you coping through this pandemic nightmare? How is your physical and emotional health? How can we support each other here?

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