None of us have ever experienced anything even remotely resembling these past several weeks. Never before has there been an event in our lives with every possibly ingredient for emotional distress packed into one nice, neat and unexpected package.
Suddenly all your routines have been altered, you may be under tremendous financial duress or uncertainty, lots of free time to worry about the unknown and plenty of ways to feed that sense of disaster as you check and recheck the news every hour to see what the latest reports are.
On top of that there is no rule book for how you are supposed to parent, or take care of your parents, during a mass medical emergency. How do you take care of your parents when they are in a high-risk category, yet they need groceries and support? How do you manage your children attending online classes while you still have work deadlines? Meanwhile, you and your kids have been at home together for two or three weeks and are starting to drive each other crazy.
There has been so much to absorb in such a short time, so many changes all of us have had to undergo and so much uncertainty all around us that many of us are in a state of shock trying to make sense of it all and figure out how to survive the next several months with some sense of normalcy.
Having a plan for how to cope with sheltering in place is crucial because in all likelihood we are going to be here awhile. A new study published by American Enterprise Institute estimates, depending on how effective a nation’s social distancing measures are (i.e., how well people stay home), that we can most likely expect to be locked down anywhere from three to eight months.
What can you do to lower your stress level and stay as sane as possible during preventative quarantine?
Limit Your News Intake
This is probably the most important piece of advice I can offer. This is a situation where knowledge is power but too much knowledge can be crippling. Pay attention to how reading or watching the news makes you feel.
If you feel empowered then watch away!
If you feel uneasier but still feel the need to be informed I would strongly urge you to check the headlines maybe once or twice a day. Everything you need to know big picture can be found in the headlines. Decide which topics you need to know more about. It’s important to pay attention to how what you watch or read makes you feel. If there are certain topics that make you feel particularly uneasy you may want to stay away from them. Keep it in moderation.
If it feels overwhelming to you it may not be a bad idea to forgo the news altogether or to briefly check in once a week.
Decide which topics you need to know more about. It’s important to pay attention to how what you watch or read makes you feel. If there are certain topics that make you feel particularly uneasy you may want to stay away from them
Keep a Routine
A routine is essential for both you and your kids. Without being aware of it your routines help to regulate your days and give you a sense of control and purpose. Have set wake-up times, “office hours,” free time, meal times, and exercise times. Take a shower and get fully dressed in the morning. The more you can stick to a routine, the better off you’ll be mentally and physically. Have your kids write down their routines, and post them in a conspicuous place. Include chores on your kids’ daily schedule.
But Not Too Much of a Routine…
It’s also a good idea to treat yourself to something special every day or two so that life doesn’t become too much of a routine. Spontaneously take an hour off in the afternoon and go play in the yard with your kids or pets. Watch a movie in the morning and work in the afternoon. Have a special meal or order carry out. Make love in some place in house or time of day you don’t normally do. Have a movie night and a game night.
Humans thrive on the right balance of routine and variety so make sure you build enough of both into your life.
Social distancing doesn’t mean “stay inside the whole time.” Most “shelter-in-place” plans allow for outdoor activities, as long as a distance of six feet is kept between your family group and others.
I don’t know about you but I’m very much an indoor kind of guy but there is nothing like sitting inside for a day or two to make me making me feel bored and gamy.
There is something about being outside that helps reset your brain. Walk your dog, go for a walk with your kids or partner or throw a Frisbee around in the yard, do some gardening, sit on the porch. As the weather starts getting nicer it’s not a bad idea to open up the windows and bring some of the outside in.
Most importantly, getting outside helps you to remember that the world is a much bigger place than the house or apartment you’re now spending the vast majority of your time in.
Stay in Touch
Make the most of technology and stay in touch with colleagues, friends and family via phone calls, texts, social media and video conferencing.
You already know most of these options.
Netflix Party allows you to sync up and watch a movie with friends. You can host happy hours, spa days, charades, play board games, attend exercise and yoga classes and even go on dates on Zoom and other media platforms.
This is a perfect time to let those in your life know how much you value their friendship. Reach out to those you’ve fallen out of contact with over the years.
If you’re not under strict isolation rules yourself, and you’re in a position to do so, find ways to support those in need by offering to run errands and collect supplies for them. The wonderful thing about helping a friend or neighbor in need is that it can make you feel so much better about yourself.
Be Easy On Yourself
While you may certainly not like staying at home for hours on end, this is our way of life for the time being. We are all just making this up as we go along. No one expects you to be a perfect parent and employee right now. Besides, being perfect at anything is nearly impossible. We’re all just doing the best we can. Have some downtime by video chatting with friends who help you feel better. And sometimes it is perfectly okay to sit on the couch in yoga pants and eat cookies.
Remember that this is temporary. There will be a day when you will be able to return to work, and your kids will be able to return to school. We don’t know that date yet, but it is coming. In the meantime try to make the best of what is happening.
Look for more tips on how to survive this crisis in your inbox over the next several weeks covering topics such as:
“How to work at home with your kids and partner around”
“How to stay connected to your loved ones while sheltering in place”
“How to feel like you’re having a normal when you can’t leave the house”
During this time I’m now offering virtual (Zoom) appointments 7 days a week as I know how challenging it can be to find a time to talk privately when the kids or other family members are around all the time.