These are strange times.
It’s more than likely that whatever you thought 2020 was going to look like a few months ago has probably changed.
Plot twist to the new decade: global pandemic!
I’ve been slow to write about current events as I’ve done my best to make sense of the situation like everyone else. Within a few short weeks most of the world went into a shelter in place order changing just about everyone’s daily routine.
While the last six weeks have certainly made history, these have not been normal days. We went from preparing for summer Olympics in Tokyo, to cancelling every sporting event around the world. Students in their final year of high school and college went from preparing to transition to the next stage of life to abruptly saying goodbye to a season of life they’ll never get back. Millions are out of work as the economy absorbs the impact of a sudden shift in billions of dollars, along with a fiery baptism into homeschooling and working remotely. There is very little normal about the days we live in.
But still we find a way to power through another day.
Six weeks is a long time, and the amount of press conferences and headlines that have been crammed into that span of time are enough to crash a computer.
And if that’s the case, what sort of affect does all of this have on our emotional health?
Between figuring out home life, a fast changing work environment, and staying up-to-date on the global situation, taking time to care for our emotional state feels trite.
But I can assure you, neglecting to care for our emotional well-being will affect our ability to care for the other important things in life.
Things That Help
Sometimes it takes someone else naming something as restful to justify it for ourselves. Meaning, when we see other people doing something, it gives us permission to do the same thing and not feel bad about it.
Since our experience of normal has changed drastically in the last six weeks, here are a list of things that I’m finding helpful for my emotional health. I hope this gives you permission to try a few on.
- Sunshine: Even if you’re stuck indoors, just sitting in the rays of sunshine can be healing for an emotionally exhausted soul. Just sit and let the sun warm you. I’m talking sixty seconds to a few minutes.
Hobbies: Anything you find joy in just in the act of doing it. Cooking, baking, gardening, making videos, house projects, woodworking, cleaning, dancing, making music, writing, reading poetry, painting, sewing, organizing, decorating. See if you can slip little doses of this activity into your days or week.
Short Breaks: With most everything transitioning online, don’t forget to take short breaks to get up and move around. Set a timer for sixty seconds and do a few stretches. Let your mind and body reset before powering through the next thing.
Exercise: Six weeks is a long time to be stuck indoors, and even a little exercise will go a long way. Whatever moving your body looks like, even in short intervals, see if you can incorporate a little exercise into your day. Yoga, walking on a treadmill, basic core exercises, spin bike, squats, running, etc. I find an immense amount of emotional relief in exercise.
Keeping up with Friends: We need human connection through this crisis with other people that know us and we can relate to. We need to feel known and heard, but we also need to be a source of strength and safety for others. Be intentional about reaching out to others right now. Even a five-minute phone call goes a long way.
Reading physical books and magazines: With so much time dedicated to screens right now, intentionally pick up a physical book or magazine. Leave your phone in another room and let yourself be fully present in a story. Reading is a great way to untangle from everything going on.
Routine / Schedule: With so much change in the first few weeks of quarantine, most of our regular routines went out the window. For my wife and I, we found a great deal of relief in getting back to a regular schedule as a family. Not only for the kids, but also for us in our bedtime and wakeup times.
Getting Outdoors: This may not be possible for everyone, but for those that are able to spend time outdoors, my recommendation is to do it as much as possible. The restorative power of nature works wonders for an emotionally fried soul. Whether it’s a backyard garden or a walk through the woods, nature is healing.
Less Helpful Things
I’ve also noticed a handful of things that are not so helpful when it comes to caring for my emotional well being. The goal in calling these out is to serve as a reference point so that when you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, you can identify what may be contributing to the problem and get back on track.
I’ve found that one or two of these may not affect me all that much, but I find myself quickly spiraling downward if doing three or more.
- Too much sugar and junk food
- Overdoing it on social feeds
- Compulsive news checking
- Being sedentary
- Isolating myself from others
- Poor sleep habits
* * *
It’s easy to justify reasons we should take care of our body. Diet and exercise are important. Sleep is important. But when it comes to our emotional health, it’s harder to evaluate. Just like our physical health, if we neglect our emotional well-being, there will be repercussions.
Don’t leave your emotional health to chance. Especially during these changing and uncertain times, emotional care is important.
You have permission to try a few of these practices out. See how you feel. And you also have permission to eliminate or reduce a few of the things that are less helpful.
During a pandemic, survival is key. But so is our emotional well-being. Your family and friends will thank you for taking care of yourself, and you’ll also thank yourself.