By Amy Harberg, M.E.d., LPC, RPT, NCC | Contributor
These are unprecedented times; in a society where everyone is always so busy, we are being forced to slow down and stay at home.
Sure, the situation is scary and uncertain, but this experience also presents an unbelievable opportunity for us as a society: the opportunity to connect deeper with the people that we take for granted. We are social creatures and we crave human contact, yet we move so fast in our current lives that we miss many opportunities to foster this basic need. Anxiety and depression have been on the rise for years. Social, academic and financial pressures are at an all-time high and although many people express the desire to slow down, it unfortunately is a common belief that if you slow down then you are not doing enough.
So, what is it like to be told to slow down, stay home and breathe? Suddenly, we have parents working from home who have never had the opportunity to see their kids in the daylight hours. We have children sharing chores that have been done for them while they were in school. We have families forced into spending time together because children of all ages are not running out to group meetings, parties and play dates and parents have virtually no out-of-house commitments.
This isn’t easy. It is going to be a process. There are many sources out there offering guidance on ways to manage the extra time we are suddenly facing and to help manage the anxiety being expressed by many. Here are some pointers that I would encourage you to consider:
- Maintain structure– Following a routine helps people navigate through anxious times. People are reporting that they feel a lack of control, and that can trigger emotional discomfort. Getting proper sleep, nutrition and activity will help. Set a routine of going to bed and waking up around the same time each day. Encourage the people in your household and the people who you communicate with to do the same. Try to accomplish something each day, even if it is as trivial as making your bed.
- Limit the news– There is a flood of information to digest right now from so many sources and it’s hard not to get sucked into the stories. Watching/listening to the news continuously keeps the fears current and fresh in your brain throughout the day. Set limits for yourself and the other people in your house. Try to obtain facts from reliable news sources and then shut it off and take a break.
- Connect with people– Humans are wired to connect. Being told to socially distance is challenging because human touch is one of our most basic instincts. The way people choose to connect will look different for the time being. Check in regularly with the people under your roof, but also those you care about that aren’t in your house. Phone calls, facetime, and virtual conferences are all ways to stay in touch. Don’t let yourself retreat to your bedroom and home office until the next meal. Take walks outside as a family and say hi to neighbors but remember to keep proper physical distance.
- Be creative with your additional time– There are lots of things to do with newfound time. For example, this may be a great time to finish a project you haven’t previously had time to pursue. But, don’t be hard on yourself if you’re not motivated to write that novel or clean out the garage; you can play a board game, do a puzzle, have a conversation, take a walk, watch a movie or do a virtual yoga class. Don’t be afraid to enjoy yourself for a few hours.
- Have patience– Practicing patience is a very important part of this process. Today’s world is all about immediate gratification, but this is going to take some time to figure out. Just know, everyone is in this together. As time passes, things will ease. Schools and businesses are already stepping up, offering online tools, delayed payments and donating services to people who are panicked and in need.
This crisis will pass, though that may be hard to picture right now. In the meantime, take advantage of this opportunity to slow down, connect, practice patience and enjoy each other.
Editor’s Note: Amy Harberg is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Play Therapist based in Dallas. She can be reached at Harbergcounseling.com.