What happens next with this Coronavirus? Our lives have already changed dramatically. Kids are home from school. Increasingly, people are working from home. Grocery store shelves are half empty. Information on the news is confusing and changing day by day. New recommendations from the government all the time. We wonder how long all this virus chaos will go on. We worry about family members far away. There is much concern about jobs, and the people who have already lost work. The economy seems to be on the brink of disaster. The stock market tumbles daily. A great deal of disturbing information to absorb, and tomorrow is more uncertain. What will happen a month from now? These fears are real and difficulties ahead seem daunting. We are faced with learning how to deal with changes and all this new stress. Part of the key to coping is finding a way to look at our new situation as an Opportunity.
We are currently faced with staying home, increased isolation, and separation from loved ones. With an increase in limitations, our thoughts naturally turn to what we can’t do. All of a sudden we are confronted with events have been canceled, restaurants being closed, vacations put on hold, jobs lost, financial strain. When we are faced with multiple life changes at once, it is overwhelming. However, we really only have control over two things – what we think and how we behave. We need to decrease the focus on what our limitations are, and re-focus on what we can do. We have the opportunity take action in positive ways, in areas of our lives that often get neglected.
As a therapist, I’m frequently encouraging people to take care of themselves and make wellness more of a priority. What is the most common reason people don’t? You probably guessed it, “there’s no time”. Well, most people right now (unless you are an emergency responder, health care worker, grocery store clerk or delivery driver) have a little more time on their hands. Although you can’t go to the gym right now, there is more time to exercise. If you are able to safely get outside and walk, run, or bike – then this is a great chance to do that! If you are stuck at home, you can still exercise indoors. Why not spend at least 20-30 minutes a day doing what you always say you don’t have time for?
Of course self-care is not only about exercise. You can take some time for relaxation or meditation. Allow yourself time to read a good book. Stretch or do yoga. Write about things you are concerned about, or write to an old friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Listen to music you enjoy. Make a healthy meal. Take a long hot bath. Take your dog for a long walk. Watch a funny show. You deserve it!
Faced with anxiety about Coronavirus, we are reminded of the importance of the people we care about. We worry about the health of elderly parents, and friends far away. However, we do have the power to re-connect by calling, texting and writing to people who we sometimes don’t connect with. Let people know how you are feeling, remind them that you care. We are usually so busy in our day to day lives that we have little quality time, even with the people we live with! Make an effort to stop and talk, sit and listen to what others have to say, ask questions. We normally have 2 sentence conversations, yelling across the house, or texting a comment here or there. This is a great chance to slow down and really hear each other, say what we’re thinking, support each other. We can talk about fears, hopes and dreams, or just share a laugh. Rather than just a surface level chat, or a “like” on social media, we have the opportunity to have an intentional conversation
For many people, being creative makes the day a whole lot better. Whether it is playing or singing music, making art, writing, building a piece of furniture or coming up with a new recipe – creativity is fulfilling on a deep level. You can use creativity just as an escape, and that’s ok. Creativity can also be helpful in expressing difficult emotions. Singing, writing or drawing about what’s going on internally is a healthy way to release stress and cope with tough times. Or, you may find a way to create something that can be a gift for someone. Gifts tend to be more meaningful when it’s something you’ve created. Writing a poem and sharing it can be a way to let a person know you are there for them and that you care. Being creative can also be done just for the sheer joy of whatever you are doing. There doesn’t have to be a reason. In the end, making something new brings joy.
Complete a Project
What a great excuse to clean out that storage closet? Do you even know what is in half of those boxes? How about all those clothes you never wear or don’t fit anymore? You could sort through old belongings and figure out what to give away. Reorganizing the pantry, or perhaps designing out a new way to rearrange the furniture. Going through old photographs, deleting duplicates and making special albums. Purging old unneeded old paperwork, files, and 10 year old bills – accumulated stuff we don’t need anymore. We can do DYI projects: paint a bathroom, build a bookshelf, fix a fence, tile a backsplash, start working on the garden that went to weeds last July. Projects are something we can do with our hands and are a tactile thing we can control right now – when the world seems out of our control.
We don’t play enough as adults. Whether you have kids or not, you can still play. Just because there is a scary virus out there, doesn’t mean we have to be serious all the time. Use this as an opportunity to get out an old board game you haven’t touched in years. Do a puzzle. Play ping pong, pool or darts. Play cards, dice or chess. Tell a joke, allow yourself to be silly. Sure, there are a lot of apps and video games – but try to have fun with activities in your own home. If you can, find a way to play with another person. It helps us feel better to interact with another human being. If you are alone, find a game that you can play with a loved one or a friend online (the internet does provide opportunity as well!). Have a dance contest. Play charades. Teach yourself to juggle. We deserve and need this play time. It’s good for the soul. Give yourself permission to play everyday!
Perhaps you’ve thought about starting your own business. Now there is some time to really do some research about how that might work. Maybe you’ve thought about writing a book – do it! If you write for one hour a day for 3 weeks, who knows where you’ll end up? Perhaps you’ve thought about going back to school? There are online options for doing just that. What do you want to be doing in 5 years? What is something you can start today, at home, toward making that big dream happen? Dogs or cats are available to adopt at the animal shelters. Now you have extra time to be able to welcome a new pet into your life. Or maybe you’ve thought of having kids? (Ha! You don’t need my advice about that.) Dreaming of future travel? Sit and spend hours reading about a far away place you’d like to go to in a year or two. Imagine. Finally, maybe you could help other people? There might be a cause or a charity you’ve thought of volunteering for. There is meaningful work you could do to make things better for people who are struggling right now. The coronavirus reminds us that the world is not perfect. However, we can all make a difference. If you have time, why not now? Dream big!
Recreate Your Job
You loved your job or your career, but it is possible that this whole crisis has drastically changed it. Many of us need to find a new way to work from home or change how we work altogether. Perhaps this is a time to go into business for yourself or start consulting? Or maybe there is something that you can change about your current job. This is also a chance to learn new skills that would help you succeed in the future. Earn a new certification or do training online. This economy is going to be tough for a while, but it could be an opportunity to re-train. A slow down or a job loss can also give us the space to think about how we want things to change. Sometimes we feel “stuck” in a job and never really give ourselves permission to think about what we really WANT to do. Here is an opportunity! Being without work is scary and there is real financial stress, but it’s also a chance to restart, make changes, find a new path.
Turn this into an Opportunity!
No one wants to be here, where we are today with the Coronavirus. We are faced with some difficult days ahead. However, while we are “stuck” at home, there are opportunities to be found. We can make the best of this challenging situation. Take care of yourself. Be creative. Re-connect. Play. Re-organize. Change your career. Complete a project. Dream big! If we use this opportunity now, we will look back and see that a lot of good came out of this crisis.