I have never had too much time to think. I am a busy person – I have been called driven, a go-getter, and just a little bit crazy. What can I say? I was blessed (or cursed if you were my parent or teacher) with lots of energy and lots of curiosity. I remember stories of my mom taking me to the doctor when I was a toddler because I was driving her crazy. I would climb absolutely anything, and she was terrified that I was going to kill myself. I was also apparently given a limit to how many questions I could ask in a single day. At 55 years old, I still like to climb things and people still put restrictions on how many questions I ask.
Being idle has never been in my nature. If I couldn’t sleep, I would just get up and do something – like create an entire library, complete with the Dewey Decimal System, in my home office. If my curiosity wasn’t being piqued enough, I would take a class about something I knew absolutely nothing about just because it sounded cool. I have also started way too many projects at one time to be able to complete them all in a timely manner, but somehow I managed to get them done.
This is just my normal life. It’s all I have ever known. Sit still? Forget about it! I worked for 2 years to develop the ability to meditate for a measly 12 minutes at a time. And even though it was accomplished, it isn’t accomplished on a regular basis. When I was little, I was allowed to swing ONE leg at church without getting into trouble for not sitting still. Recently I told that story to a friend and she piped up and said, “You still do that!” I had no idea. I guess it still works.
When we were first faced with the COVID-19 social distancing mandate, I was still busy. In some ways, busier than ever. Asking myself how to pivot my brick-and-mortar business into a sustainable online format so we could survive this. I still didn’t have too much time to think. Looking into loans and grants to cover expenses in case we went beyond what the business had the capacity to handle. Reaching out to clients and trainers and hopefully conveying my concern for them and my desire to help in any way needed.
But once all of that was done, I became stuck. I became bored. I became lonely. And the one outlet that I had (to sit out by the pool, in the fresh air, with a book) was stripped from me as my apartment complex closed all outdoor common areas. And then I started feeling depressed. And anxious. I was being forced to sit still. At least that’s what I was telling myself. Because the truth of the matter was that I could still go for walks, I could clean, I could rearrange furniture, I could read, I could study (I’m taking 4 classes after all). For Pete’s sake, I own a gym, I could go work out! But I still felt stuck. I cancelled meetings. I cancelled FaceTime meetups with friends. All I wanted to do was cry.
Can you relate to this at all? Do you have plenty of things you could do but find yourself stuck? Unable to do any of it? Unmotivated to even try?
This time we are in is just so weird. Life as we know it has been turned on its head. What was normal is no longer and what wasn’t normal is becoming so.
How is your mind and body dealing with it? According to Psychology Today, most people are reacting to two things, loss of control and/or uncertainty. As a matter of fact, research shows that people who were told they may get shocked while participating in a study had higher levels of anxiety than the ones who were told they would get shocked. (de Berker, A., Rutledge, R., Mathys, C. et al. Computations of uncertainty mediate acute stress responses in humans. Nat Commun 7, 10996 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms10996) The uncertainty increased the stress response. These days are uncertain for sure!
In a matter of days, many people went from feeling they were in control of their health, their income, and their very lives, to feeling completely out of control of everything. It takes a toll, not only on our mental health but also on our physical health. Here are some things to consider.
1. Take inventory of what you can and can’t influence. (Notice I didn’t say control). Focus on the things over which you have some influence. Prioritize them in order of their importance right now (the priority may change frequently and that’s ok).
Here’s the switch:
There are things you can’t control, but you often CAN have influence over them.
We can’t control where this virus is, but we can influence its impact by distancing, proper hygiene, etc.
We can’t control if our business is open during this time, but we can prepare for its recovery, regardless of what “recovery” looks like. The word recovery is defined as a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength. It doesn’t guarantee the SAME state as it was. A new normal can still be normal.
We can’t control if we were laid off due to COVID-19, but we can take the appropriate steps to apply for unemployment, we can use this time to expand our skill set or beef up our resume, and we can find other jobs, such as delivery drivers or grocery store clerks, to fill in the gap right now.
2. Ask yourself if you are afraid to “be still.” If you are, get curious about why.
Here’s the switch:
We are programmed to be “hurried.” If we have to slow down, what may we have to face that we didn’t have to face before because we “didn’t have time to deal with it?”
I have made my life’s priorities to reflect my beliefs about what’s important. Now I am being forced to reconsider what’s important. This can be great if you allow it to be!
If I can’t have the social status of “busyness,” then where is my worth? Busyness should not be hailed as a positive social status. I hope this will change for all of us!
My life has been full of regrets. If I am still, I may have to actually heal from those regrets. Please take the time to do this. Find a trusted friend or therapist and work through that stuff.
This can definitely be a scary time for all of us. But it can also be a time of renewed priorities, expanded mindsets, and healthier choices. Carl Jung said, “Who looks outside dreams; who looks inside awakes.” Take this time to look inside. You might really like who you find.