March 11th was the last day my life resembled normal. On March 12, I worked my final shift at my event gig, but the city was beginning to go into lockdown and a whopping 3 people showed up.
In the 7 weeks that has passed, life has been both everything and nothing like what I would have expected it to be. For me it has been a time full of unique challenges, anxiety, stressors, mindfulness, and growth. I had expected to write daily during all this (what else is there to do when you live alone?). Instead I have found myself struggling with focus and attention more than I have in years.
At first I was angry with myself. I kept thinking “The world has slowed down, this is your chance. Take advantage of this time and make something of it for your brand.” But that has not been where my heart or my brain has been.
Like many of my clients, the psychological effects of months of uncertainty doubled with the financial impact of the world shutting down has been triggering for my trauma sensitive brain.
From a Maslow’s hierarchy of needs standpoint – its hard to work on actualization goals when your brain is stuck in survival mode.
Logically I know I am safe, and we will get through this. I’ve still had to pull out all my DBT skills to get through this time with some level of sanity. Mindfulness, meditation, check the facts(hard to do when no-one can agree on what is truth), distraction, self-soothe, radical acceptance, the list goes on. I’ve relied more on Distress Tolerance this month than in the preceding 5 years.
The one skill I keep coming back to is Walking the Middle Path. This is a time more than ever where this skill is applicable. Some days I’m really productive. Some days I watch netflix for 10 hours straight. (My binge of this has been The 100 – I highly recommend). But the goal is to find a balance – to create some semblance of a normal life and to make small strides while also acknowledging that my brain & spirit are not at 100%.
The key is not to beat myself up for the days that I am unproductive (non-judgmental stance) while still being able to acknowledge the small steps I am making each day towards a better life. I don’t have to come out of this time with exceptional productivity. I do have to come out of it with my sanity.
Throughout I’ve tracked small behaviors that are important to me. I have used this time to build a foundation for some skills I want to make a regular part of my existence. Jogging has been one in particular. But again it’s a middle path approach. Some days I’m not physically able to (this time has re-triggered migraines). I practice self compassion on those days. When the headache does lift, I get back at it (though it usually takes a major internal pep talk). I don’t have to be ready to run a marathon when this is all over, but I would like to be able to call myself a jogger. That means making the behavior at least a semi-regular part of my existence.
Of course the kicker in all of this, is just about the time we settle into our new routines everything changes again. And from what they are predicting it will likely be this way for several cycles as we adapt to this virus over the next 12 -18 months.
So please be kind to yourself during this period. Our brains don’t like being out of their routines. Expect your spirit to have days when it just needs to rest. But also don’t allow yourself to fall into the cycle of doing absolutely nothing either. While rest is good for the soul – too many days of rest just mimics depressive behavior.
Love & light in these trying times,
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