I won’t do it. I won’t be one more person telling you how to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and the mandatory social distancing. I will not offer you sage advice with a step-by-step guide on how to survive the pandemic while keeping your mental health intact. I won’t share with you another hand-washing guide or the ideal mask and glove choices.
This is hard for me because I am a person with a bullet-list plan for pretty much every aspect of my life. I am a problem solver, and it kills me not to present my survival guide.
But I won’t do it because if I did, I would be a fraud. The unprecedented state of the world has me flummoxed. I am struggling. A lot.
My moods are like a roller coaster ride. Up. Down. Sideways. Upside down.
I have wonderful moments making memories with my family, but they are mixed with moments when I want to cry and sleep until the pandemic is over. Can you relate?
What Works for Me…Sometimes
I can tell you what works for me…sometimes.
Every morning I get dressed, style my hair and put on a little makeup.
I spend time in the morning hidden in my closet listening to worship music and writing in my prayer journal.
I schedule two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon to work on my blog.
Every day after lunch, my daughter and I spend time outside being active. We throw the basketball or kick the soccer ball. We take turns calling out what exercise we will do next—like jumping jacks and squats.
At 3 o’clock sharp every day, I make myself a chai latte and watch an old episode of Grey’s Anatomy. I can recite each episode almost word for word, and it comforts me to catch up with my old friends Meredith and McDreamy.
On most days, I take a walk with my family at 4 o’clock. We live in the country, so there is lots of space to roam and very little traffic.
After dinner, I spend more time in my closet worshipping and praying. Then my family watches something family-friendly until it is my daughter’s bedtime.
And Now for the Rest of the Story
Wow! Doesn’t it sound like I have it all together? Doesn’t it sound like I have this new normal thing all figured out?
And now for the rest of the story…
I sleep late every morning because I can, so I feel like I am in a hurry before the day even begins. By the time I make it to my closet to hide and pray, I am already late for my scheduled time to work on my blog.
Then my daughter, Ava, interrupts me because she’s starving, and she wants her tenth snack of the day. Or she doesn’t want to read. Or she doesn’t understand her assignment in Google classroom. Or her body hurts. Or her daddy doesn’t want to snuggle. Or she needs a hug. You get the picture.
I scheduled my workday to start at 10 a.m. and now it’s 11:15. By then, Ava is ready to eat lunch, but she can’t decide what she wants to eat. I snap at her because—well, because it’s 11:15, and I have done nothing yet for my blog.
Then it is time for me to eat lunch and play outside with Ava.
If I’m lucky, I get to work on my blog from one to three with only a few minor interruptions—only a snack request or two with a minimum amount of tears and emotions—from both my daughter and myself.
As soon as I quit trying to focus, my day becomes easier, or maybe by then I just don’t care anymore. I coast through the rest of the day, stagger off to bed, and eight or nine hours later I start all over again.
Do You Feel Me?
I will not sit here and include a picture-perfect chart outlining my plan for the entire day and pretend that my schedule is a resounding success. I am failing every single day.
Instead, I am here to remind you that everyone’s reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing will be unique to how they are wired. We will all have a general shared experience, but character and temperament will determine who will sink or swim as we navigate these uncharted waters.
If the unprecedented events in the world today make you feel like you are drowning, I hope the truths I share with you today help you rise to the surface, so you can catch your breath.
Here are five truths to focus on as you navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing:
1. The rules are there are no rules because the events of the COVID-19 pandemic are unprecedented.
Are you like me looking for a rulebook about how to survive the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing? Are you looking for a formula that you can apply to your life and presto, you’ve got this?
I hate to break the news to you, but the rules are there are no rules. The events of the pandemic are unprecedented, so there is no playbook to follow. The entire world is simultaneously learning how to wing it day in and day out, and if you are like me, just the thought of facing the day without a plan makes you feel a little crazy.
2. The COVID-19 pandemic is only a season. As my mom always says, “This too shall pass.”
Here is the light at the end of the tunnel: We may not know when the COVID-19 pandemic will end, but we know that it will end eventually. This is just a season. It had a beginning, and it will have an end.
Let that knowledge give you hope. A person can survive almost anything when they know that there is a beginning, a middle and an end to their struggles.
3. Most of the emotions and mood swings you are experiencing are situational, but be vigilant to watch your moods, so you know when it is time to seek professional help.
Are your moods like a roller coaster ride? Are you living and dying by your ever-changing emotions? Yes, me too.
Can I let you in on a little secret? You are not alone. Everyone feels crazy and untethered right now, even those who don’t have mental health issues.
Most of what you are feeling is a direct response to your circumstances and is perfectly normal. I say most because now, more than ever, you should be vigilant to pay close attention to your moods and emotions.
Keep a journal of how you are coping day by day. If you see a pattern of behavior and symptoms that are troubling beyond the expected situational response, it may be time to seek professional help.
4. It is okay to not be okay as long as you don’t unpack and live there.
As you navigate this grueling season, be gentle with yourself. It’s okay to not be okay as long as you don’t unpack and live there.
What does that mean, practically? It means that it is okay to mourn the loss of your freedom and normalcy. It’s okay to be devastated as the number of people infected and dying from the coronavirus rise every day.
It’s okay to mourn the time you are missing with family and friends. It’s okay to be sad about cancelled events and the tumultuous economy.
But at some point, you must make lemonade out of your lemons and find positive outlets for your time and energy like reading, exercise and self-reflection. You can’t let the events consume you or let yourself drown in the overabundance of information.
5. God is still in control.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Proverbs 46:1 NIV).”
God is still in control. The COVID-19 pandemic is not a surprise to Him. The coronavirus has not rendered God powerless.
God had the solution before we had the problem, but there is an inclination in times like these to doubt Him. We wonder where God is while we struggle.
Just because you can’t see God in your present circumstances doesn’t mean that He’s not working behind the scenes on your behalf. God never said life would be easy, but He does promise to walk us through our difficult circumstances.
God promises not to leave us or forsake us, so let’s lean on that truth while we navigate our unprecedented situation.
We are living in a time ripped straight out of the pages of the dystopian novels I used to devour. The world has shut down, and when you watch the news, the events occurring are surreal.
It would be so easy to say do this and don’t do that, but who am I to parcel out directives on how to live through an unparalleled set of events? Just like you, I am making it up as I go along.
So instead of giving you my two cents, I will leave you with this. If you woke up this morning and you are reading this blog post, congratulations! You made it to another day.
And if you made it through one day, you can make it through days two, three and four. The best advice I can give—the only advice I can give—is to take it one day at a time, putting one foot in front of the other until you reach the other side.