This week I submitted a major proposal at my day-job, ending months of long hours and stress. With that pressure off my shoulders, I spent all day yesterday feeling like I was on the verge of a panic attack.
It’s the worst I’ve felt in a while, so as you can imagine I haven’t gotten a lot of writing done. A little bit, sure, but not a lot. It’s actually been a struggle just to maintain this blog. When I’m not actively working, doing chores, or (perhaps stupidly) trying to buy a house (because my wife and I are now, of all times, in the market for a house) I feel stuck , anxious, and paralyzed. The words don’t flow easily through that sludge. Storytelling, world-building, character development are all huge tasks to accomplish when you feel this way.
I recognize that I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a job. I’ve worked from home since forever and a half. The changes to my life have been deep but minimal. My wife, on the other hand, is facing all sorts of uncertainties and, for the first time in probably 20 years, boredom. So we’re leaning on one another in ways we haven’t had to, before, which strains us in different ways.
It all got me thinking about why I’m feeling this way. See, with me it’s a negative feedback loop. I get anxious or depressed and can’t do anything but the basic tasks necessary to my survival, but then I feel bad about not being as productive as I should be. I feel bad about not writing, not working out, not reading, not doing anything I normally would. It leads to a constant stream of negative emotions until they release in some way–usually in a way detrimental to myself or my relationships. Understanding the causes behind my emotions, big or small, often helps me to alleviate them.
I thought about what I was feeling, specifically. And, it turns out, I miss a lot of things. I miss being feeling the freedom of movement. I miss playing hockey. I miss going out to eat. And then I remembered something my wife mentioned to me last week–the entire world is grieving right now.
Grief has many different forms, especially when we’re working through stages of loss. Grief may present as anger, or sadness, or restlessness. We need to be aware of that for ourselves and others and accept it. It’s ok to feel these things and it’s ok for others to feel them, as well. If we allow ourselves to feel these things without overanalyzing them or, like me, making myself feel worse for feeling them, the more quickly we can accept what’s happening and heal.
I remind myself that there are a lot of things we can do to feel better and regain some sense of normalcy. For example, there’s this video explaining how we can F.AC.E. C.O.V.I.D:
In times like this, when so much seems outside of our control, it can also help to remind ourselves what is in our control. For example, we can control our news intake. We can control how we treat those around us. We can control how diligent we are about following CDC guidelines to keep ourselves and those around us more safe. Focus on those things. Let the rest go.
It may also help to reframe our mindsets. In a newsletter shared among the Ursinus College faculty, staff, and students they recommend shifts like:
- “I’m stuck at home,” to “I get to be safe in my home and spend time with my family.”
- “I will get sick,” to “I will self-isolate and wash my hands. This will significantly decrease my chances of getting sick.”
- “Everything is shutting down,” to “The most important places such as medical centers, pharmacies, and grocery stores remain open.”
We’re living through a strange, uncertain time. We don’t know how long it will last or what the final outcomes will be. More than at any other time, we need to be kind to ourselves. If you’re feeling like I’ve felt, and I suspect many of you are, hopefully some of these techniques help.