How are you doing? How are you and your family in this time of COVID 19?
How I am doing is a pretty mixed bag to be honest. Short answer is, I’m okay. The longer answer is more complex – I’m feeling grateful, worried, nervous, unfocused, unsettled, content, peaceful… sometimes all at the same time.
I expect your answer is complex as well.
As we enter week four of physical distancing, I’ve been ruminating on this question of how I am. How my family is doing. And I’ve gathered some thoughts that I wanted to share. Maybe your experience is similar, maybe it’s different.
In my home, there is myself, my partner, our two elementary-aged children and my brother. My brother came to stay with us as he transitioned to the lower mainland after living in the States for a few years – he was actively searching for a place to live when we began isolating. So here he is and here he will stay for a while. Which is a blessing, because he would be living by himself if he had found a place and moved before “all this”.
Physically, I am well. A couple of days the first week I went out for walks. “Ah,” I thought, “This is what I’ll do! Long walks, I will have time and be needing to get out of the house!” The forest is easily accessible from my home, and I envisioned daily forays into the wild. That didn’t last long. I actually found after that first week that I didn’t want to be out and about far from home. I’m not too sure why. Lately, I’ve thought that maybe it’s something to do with not feeling safe and therefore needing to stay close to home base and my family. We did go on a long family walk this weekend, and I’m sensing that I might be ready soon to venture out on my own again. Maybe.
What I have been doing is a 30-day wheelie challenge – my whole family has been participating. I can happily ride up and down my street practicing my wheelies and social distancing at the same time. FYI, I’m not very good, but I am enjoying it. I have also been doing some morning yoga. At first, I needed to push myself to get up early to do it. “This is what you need, Suzanne. Remember mental health is important. This is important.” Now, I’m in more of a routine and I can say it has been vital for my mental health. Speaking of which…
Mentally, I was quite unfocused at first; I still am, but it is getting better. That first week, I was even unable to concentrate on reading a book. Deciding what to do next around the house seemed challenging. I did manage to knock off a couple of projects that I’ve been meaning to do for a bit (patch the hole in the kitchen where I tried to hang a coat hook – but the hook fell out and left a gaping hole). The projects I’ve tackled have been low skill level, low commitment projects. Nothing needing large amounts of focus or brain power.
I am beginning to feel more grounded when I’m at home. However, when I go out to shop, I still feel lost. It all feels surreal and like I’m moving through water. This will change in time, I am sure. But for now, I have to really concentrate when I’m out; “What store am I going to?” “What is on my grocery list?” “Remember to stay 6 feet away from others.” (I am grateful for the markings letting us know where to stand in grocery store line-ups; it means I don’t have to worry that I’m not the correct distance away anymore). I still haven’t read any of the books beside my bed that I was sure I was going to dig into right away. But I think I’m getting closer to picking one up.
Emotionally, I worry about the effect of the increased stressors on families who no longer have access to community supports. Schools, governments, not-for-profits, community agencies and others are all rising in amazing ways to meet the challenge of connecting with families who need support. I know, however, that they will not be able to connect with everyone who needs it. This hurts my heart. When I feel like this, I try to remind myself of what I can do. Having a sense of what I can contribute to the greater good helps. Sometimes it is the small things, like taking groceries to a friend who is unable to leave their home.
I am really appreciating the time with my family. Having my children around has been an emotional stabilizer for me. I would love some time by myself, to be sure! But having this extended time with my family has been more good than not good.
I am still working, and I actually feel quite focused at work – when I can work from my office. Working from home is another story – probably better left for another post! Suffice to say, I’m not always at my best when I’m working from home and attempting to school from home as well. The photo at the top is me in my office at Aspire getting ready to do an online counselling session. It took some time to find the telehealth platform that works best for me (and is compliant with privacy legislation), and the right lighting so that I don’t look like I’m in the witness protection program. But I’m pleased to say it’s coming together, and it is going well.
I continue to wrap around friends and family as best as I can – and they wrap around me and my family. A colleague shared this article with me and I have sent it to many friends and colleagues since. I found it very comforting and grounding. Maybe it will be helpful for you as well.
Here are some other ways to take care of yourself from The Canadian Mental Health Association. It is important to reach out if you are feeling overwhelmed during these times. That may mean calling a friend for a chat on the phone or seeking support from a mental health professional or helpline. The Mental Health Support Line can be reached at 310-6789 (no area code needed) 24 hours a day. They will put you in touch with your local BC crisis line. To chat online, visit crisiscentrechat.ca. A worker is there to chat from noon till 1am daily.
If you are interested, I am offering a free, one-hour online workshop on April 29th from 6:30 till 7:30pm called “Taking Care of Ourselves in Times of Change and Uncertainty.” Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to attend and I will send you the Zoom invite. Community and connection is vital in times like this, and this is one way I can build community and stay connected.