Dealing with Pandemic Emotions
Updated: Jul 3, 2020
What a surreal time we are living in! February 2020 hearing about Covid-19 seemed like something scary and sad, but not something that was going to affect our lives. Early March, talk started to get more serious about cases here in the United States. I remember on March 7th my husband and I went out to dinner with some friends and joking about how things were going to shut down and thinking that would be crazy. Six days later we heard schools were closing, federal employees were told to work from home and there was so much uncertainty. That night I went to the grocery store to stock up on supplies.- along with everyone else in my community. People were frantic, grabbing cans of beans, hoarding toilet paper. I felt like I was in a movie scene, not my local store. I came home that night overwhelmed with anxiety with what was to come. That first week at home was so strange. My kids had not yet started distance learning, I had not yet started distance teaching my little one was still at preschool and my husband was still at work. It was the next week that preschool closed, my husband's office closed and we were now juggling online school, trying to find places for everyone to work at home and avoid going out of the house for anything but a daily walk. It was so much to adjust to and I did not handle it well. I was so fearful for my family and the people I loved. My in-laws are both over 60 and essential employees and the anxiety that spurred was overwhelming.
As time went on, we began to find a rhythm to our days. My two oldest kids were fairly independent getting their assignments and doing the work to complete them. My husband spent his days in a room with his computer and worked non-stop. Keeping the kids quiet while he was on important calls and zoom meetings was stressful. My youngest, who is in preschool, was receiving daily videos with read-alouds, projects and yoga lessons. He was engaged at first and enjoyed seeing his teacher's familiar faces on the screen, however, with time his desire to watch and participate in these online activities faded. Every Friday morning he has a zoom meet-up with his teachers and classmates which he absolutely adores. He misses the socialization the most. At first, I felt a lot of pressure to be sure he was engaged in educational activities and focused on learning throughout the day. As I began to relax into quarantine and focus on my own work as well, I let that slide. He spends more time than I'd like to admit on his iPad or watching Netflix, but I've stopped the negative self talk that keeps telling me I'm a horrible parent for that! I normally work 20 hours a week outside of the home, and while I am not working as many hours being home, I still have at least 5 hours a week on zoom calls and tackling other work. It's a balance, but it's not all that bad, certainly not as bad as I had led myself to believe in the first weeks.
For me finding the silver linings has been the greatest cure for my anxiety during this time. I constantly remind myself of how fortunate we are to be able to work from home, that our financial situation is not affected by the circumstances we are facing and that we are all remaining healthy. I love that we have dinner together as a family every night. I always strive for this but with kids activities and my oldest having a job and friends she always wanted to be with, we often only all sat together one night a week previously. I also love our family time outdoors. We have made it a habit to walk once a day at least. While we don't always all go, its usually at least 3 of us together. We have also made a tradition of dining outside on Sundays for lunch. Some days we walk to a nearby restaurant and pick up food to go and sit out on benches. Other Sunday's we drive to pick up food and then eat on our deck. These are the moments that I hope my kids remember. The time together without the rush of getting from one activity to the next.
I am strangely in a phase now where I'm fearful of the return to "normal." I don't feel ready for the rush of life to be brought back upon us. I worry about being out socially again and whether social distancing will be enough. The fear of getting sick is much more muted and that also worries me - am I going to forget to be as safe? It's almost as if it all seems like its over, when intellectually I know it is not. The threat of an increase in cases of this horrendous virus is real.
As summer approaches and school winds down, I have a new set of problems to address! How do I keep my kids occupied? Normally, my oldest works, my middle is in camps and my youngest remains in preschool part-time. We usually spend a lot of time at our community pool, with friends and sometimes traveling and visiting with family. With all of the limitations still in place here, I'm not sure what opportunities we will actually have.
One of the tools I have used to help me finding gratitute and the silver-linings has been journaling. I like to take time in the early morning or before bed to take note of the moments throughout the day that brought me joy.
How have you been handling this COVID pandemic? Have you remained healthy? How about your mental health?
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