Finding Peace in a COVID-19 World

Well, here we are, officially over a month into when our sense of ‘normal’ changed as we knew it. We in the U.S. were the just the latest country to fall victim to the growing pandemic of COVID-19, forcing schools to close and businesses to shut down in an effort to contain the spread. Teleworking has become the standard for those fortunate to still be employed, while countless others have been laid off and forced to collect unemployment to try and stay afloat. The healthcare system has found itself completely overwhelmed, and those still working at places deemed essential businesses go to work in the service of others while fearing for their own health and safety. Social distancing has been met with mixed results, while going to school from our dining room table with a set of headphones on in a Zoom meeting with classmates and teachers has redefined the classroom. All of our distinct work-school-personal worlds have collided with each other into one in a frantically quick pace that seemingly felt like overnight, forcing people to find ways to have to quickly adjust to make it work with few options available. With the chaos of constant adjustment occurring, it would be fair and completely normal to feel overwhelmed and find yourself searching, no, longing, for a sense of normalcy. The uncertainty of just how long this new normal will continue, how the economy will recover,  who will be impacted the worst, (and likely in the minds of parents, how much longer do I have to keep being my child’s teacher because I have no more patience for this!) has people feeling more on edge and fearful in today’s reality. I routinely have my clients (all seeing me via teletherapy currently) ask “When do you think things will get back to normal?” and “When do you think this will all be over?” To them I say, I believe our sense of what’s normal will forever be redefined, and I have absolutely no idea how long COVID-19 will continue. My guess is as good as there’s. Despite the chaos of the new normal which includes daily press briefings, news reports of rising numbers of the sick and the dying, switching to curbside or delivered groceries, to getting used to our pets and kids interrupting Zoom meetings (and getting to work in pjs which let’s be real, we all secretly like that one), there is still beauty around us. We have the opportunity to find a renewed sense of connection to not just each other, but also the natural world which surrounds us each day and yet goes largely unnoticed in the daily hustle of life. Not until now. With stay-at home orders in place for nearly all of us, states have largely recognized the continued importance of physical activity and allow for time to be spent outside for exercise so long as proper social distancing protocols are followed. Most of us have been finding that the daily walk we engage in now or the chance we get to take a break and play outside briefly with our kids is met with gratitude and newfound appreciation. It’s a moment to breathe and reset our psyche that we may not have had otherwise under “normal” circumstances. If you have not already, starting today make a daily practice of engaging in an activity such as meditation to slow and calm your mind. Taking opportunities to engage in mindfulness activities that engage the senses can aid in bringing more relaxation to a stressful time and give you an opportunity to feel grounded and centered again. Take stock of your priorities and give your energy to those responsibilities and people that need you the most. The tasks that can wait for another day when you have more energy and time to give your maximum potential, truly set aside. They aren’t going anywhere. Let’s face it, we aren’t going anywhere either for now. While we can’t control the big picture of COVID-19, we can all hold ourselves accountable for the small parts that we play in getting through this together. In finding ways to embrace moments of peace, we give ourselves more opportunities to reset from the stress we encounter and permission to access our kinder, more patient selves. The more we do that for ourselves, the more we help those around us engage in those same restorative practices. We have a unique opportunity in front of us to re-prioritize not just what matters in our lives, but also who it is that matters. If you noticed that somewhere along the way that while living your life, you lost yourself, now is the time to reconnect with that person. Engage in self-care, take up a new hobby, start a healthy eating and exercise regimen, schedule some Zoom ‘happy hours’ with friends and family to stay connected, and give yourself permission to awaken to your best self.