To be honest, I haven’t been so great lately.
Like many of us, I have been sheltered in place since early March as we are dealing with Covid-19. In my case, I have been completely alone. If you are like me, then you know that being alone is sometimes one of the scariest places to be.
I am a social butterfly and always have been. Surrounding myself with communities that lift me up is a way I manage my mental wellness. In fact, it was my social withdrawal that led to my diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder a few years ago.
As I remain sheltered in place, I have had to be strong in recognizing old and new triggers that threaten my mental health. Like all of us, I am coping.
Coping has been on my mind
Coping is a complicated word. I hear it and use it often. I know the importance of having “healthy coping habits”. But I never really think about what coping actually means. I mean really, why do we cope?
To be clear, I am not an expert on coping. I do not have any real answers on what coping is and why we do it, you know, the science behind it all. I am, however, a curious person with a lot of time on my hands. So, I thought I could offer up some thoughts.
I cope to deal
I cope to deal with the problems, obstacles, and traumas I experience. To cope is to take an action in order to move on, continue forward, and overcome a challenge.
There is a difference between coping and fixing a problem with a band aid. Coping requires us to get to the root of our pain to learn how to truly deal with the things that are weighing us down. Band aids are temporary solutions which may appear to fix things on the surface, but they do nothing to heal the source of what is going on.
We each have unique ways to deal with what is happening in our lives. When we learn healthy ways to cope, we build a collection of skills to use anytime life seems messed up. We use our coping skills to face our problems head on—to deal with them. Just like we are doing now.
It takes courage and strength to cope
As a community, we have all been impacted by Covid-19. Our lives are drastically different as we continue to deal with the impact and trauma of this pandemic. To slow the spread, we are staying home, social distancing, wearing masks and gloves, and aggressively washing our hands and surfaces. Why? We take these actions so we can deal with and overcome this moment.
You see, we deal with problems not only for ourselves, but for our community. When I keep myself well, my community becomes well. We cope in order to survive.
So, here are some ways I have been coping with being alone.
Keep a routine
Things are all out of whack and there is so much we cannot control. This has had me feeling helpless. Keeping up with my routine has been a way for me to have some control in my life.
I have kept my routine as normal as possible. I wake up and go to bed at my regular time, I get ready every day, eat on schedule, and I make sure to get my morning cup of coffee. These small steps are reminders that we can and will get through this moment.
I have also been creating new habits I can take with me when this is over. For example, I tend to be rushed getting to work in the morning and will usually skip breakfast. Staying at home gives me extra time in the morning to eat. Who knew making toast was so easy?
My apartment does not have much wiggle room, so I have found that my body has been stiffer throughout the day. I have been taking more breaks to stand up and stretch. This simple activity not only wakes me up but has helped how I physically feel. Eating breakfast and stretching are two things I plan to continue when things are back to normal.
Be in the Moment
I will admit, I am not the kind of person who finds it easy to be still with my thoughts. Mediation is hard for me. My mind wanders, I can’t sit still, and in the end, I usually give up. In no way did I think mindfulness could work for me right now, especially with all the added anxiety from Covid-19.
Remember when I said I’ve been stretching? Well, I recently read an article about how we can be mindful by paying attention to our body and posture. Our posture can put a lot of negative stress on our bodies. We slump on the couch, we sleep the wrong way, and we aren’t moving around as much.
Taking a moment to think about and adjust my posture allows me to settle my mind and be present in the moment. This is exactly what mindfulness is all about. Being in the moment and out of my mind’s clutter has helped me put things into perspective. I have come to understand that to be there, sometimes it requires us to do some adjusting.
Find a Creative Outlet
Sure, I have enjoyed catching up on some TV but honestly, I’ve been getting pretty bored. Usually having a day or two at home would be nice and I could name several things and projects to work on to give me something to do. However, being alone and bored in this moment is overwhelming.
Two things are true about me; I like to have things in order and I like to be creative. My junk closet has been bothering me for the past year. Behind that door, I know there is a mess that needs to be dealt with, but it seems that I always push it off, there is always some excuse to leave it be, or to go do something else. The closet is kind of like that band aid we were talking about.
I decided it was time to deal with my problem head on. I find organizing a very creative process. You remove items, donate and keep them as you need, clean up the space, and then replace the items in a new way. By dealing with the mess, you create something that is better for you.
Maybe you don’t get the creative vibe from organizing like I do but there are some things you can do to make it more fun. Find some old shoeboxes to help organize your clutter. Paint them and decorate them as you want. Make some handmade labels that can show where everything is placed. Organize your bookshelf by color. Start small, maybe your book bag or a bedside drawer.
So, yea, I haven’t been so great lately. But you know what, that’s okay.
I am coping. I am doing what I need to do for myself and others right now. I am trying my best to stay physically and emotionally well. I’m here. I am dealing with this moment, just like all of us.
I don’t have the answers right now. None of us do. But I do know that we will deal with this because that is in our nature. My hope is that when we overcome this moment, we will be better to ourselves and one another.