I hope you're staying healthy and safe at this crazy time that we're living through. I know it can be overwhelming.
I don't know if you've ever been on a plane where the oxygen mask drops, but it's quite startling. Normally attendants will do their preflight safety checklist while the plane is moving out of the gate towards the tarmac. They demonstrate things about buckling your seatbelt, where the exits are, and the oxygen masks. When they get to the masks part of their instructions they say, “Although the bag may not inflate, rest assured oxygen is flowing. Secure your own mask before assisting others.” But, if the mask actually does drop in the middle of the flight, you know that things are NOT normal.
That's kind of the way this time feels. Almost like all of a sudden the mask drops, right? I want you to know it's okay. Things are not normal, but it's okay.
Step By Step
In Illinois, restaurants closed on Monday, March 19th. I remember because we went out to dinner a couple of days before that happened, and that was the last time we were out to a restaurant. We had a shelter-in-place order just a few days later, Saturday, March 21st. Then, just this weekend, we had limited access to grocery stores. They only had one door. It was a single file line. They were only letting so many people in at the same time. It's a lot. By the end of this week, it's going to be a month since all of these changes began and everybody has had to stay in place.
I know that a lot of people are coping with fear, loss, overwhelm. Social media and the news just adds fuel to the fire. Yeah, there's laughs, but there are also some tears embedded in those laughs. In Chicago, the mayor is Lori Lightfoot, and she has been the subject of so many crazy memes. I've actually been making some of my own and sharing them on Facebook just to keep the mood light and have some fun. Then interspersed with all this jovialness are some of my friends who are posting videos about themselves or others that they know and love who are sick. It's a hard time, and there's so much overwhelm.
The thing I want to let you know (which I am sure you are well aware of) is that this is not normal. Things have changed. People have started working from home while they're also expected to homeschool their kids. Their significant other or older kids may be on the front lines working in grocery stores, delivering products, or even working at hospitals in the ICU, emergency room, or anything associated with medical services. I am sure you know that this stuff is not normal… but It's okay.
It's okay for you not to be as productive as usual. You don't have to feel this compelling nature to want to get things done. Maybe you can just take some time to do something mundane. For example, you can organize something. Maybe you have a junk drawer that needs organizing or a closet in your office that you can pull everything out and put back the stuff you need, then recycle or throw out the stuff you don't. How about just organizing a bunch of papers?
I recently went through my contacts list and deleted a whole bunch of people just to get my list lean, mean, and ready for when things get back to “normal”, (I'm using air quotes with that). It's okay. Do your best to create something that helps you to pass the time. Maybe this is the time to create new routines.
It's okay to be lonely, angry, or sad. Social distancing does not have to mean emotional distancing. I've been on a lot of Zoom calls. I noticed a handful of people that looked frazzled, so I reached out to them on social media and said, “Hey, can we have a call?” If you see something like that, reach out to somebody. Be a sounding board. By the way, if you're one of those people that's having a tough time, reach out to somebody and ask them to be your sounding board. It's okay.
Over the weekend my family jumped on Zoom and had an online trivia night with our daughter and son-in-law just to say “Hi” and reassure them that it's okay. We recently did the same thing in person over Christmas. Why not connect with family and friends over Zoom? Now is a great time to connect with people. I try to connect with at least 10 people a day and just ask them, “How are you doing?” Hopefully, when I need it, someone will return the favor.
It's okay to be yourself and to invent a new “You”, if you feel like it. Now is a good time for some self-reflection, but also to look ahead. Maybe you could try learning a new skill or improving one that you already have. I haven't picked up my guitar in months. Maybe it's time I do that. Try reading a book or listening to an audiobook if you feel like you want to learn something new. Try a new exercise routine.
I picked up some weights and started working on some weight lifting that I haven't done in years just to pass the time. Think about all the ways that you can do things that you've never done before or forgot you enjoyed because you were too busy. Spend some time embracing your old and new self.
Give Yourself Credit
Get a set of Post-it notes and leave them on your desk or wherever you're hanging out most these days – maybe your kitchen table. The idea is to reward yourself. Write down what you did. Hey, I just did 10 push-ups. I cleaned out that cabinet or I cleaned out that drawer. Stick it up where you can see it so you're constantly reminding yourself of the positive things that you're doing. Then, think about using those Post-it notes to do the same thing for your friends and family. Write down some positive feedback you can give to other people about things that they're doing. The key thing that we want to try not to overwhelm and confusion ourselves. Instead, try to be the best person that we can be, not only for ourselves but for the people around us.
I want to leave you with these final thoughts. First off, we're a month into this. Chances are, it's going to be a while that we're suspended in this altered state of being, and confusion. Do your best to build up ways to keep yourself moving forward. You may be working from home, but try to be as productive as you can be. Try to remember it's okay. It's okay not to be as productive as you think you need to be. Give yourself a break. Give other people a break. This is not normal, but it's okay. It's okay to be lonely, angry, or sad. This is not normal, and that too will pass, but it's okay. And it's okay to be yourself and also to invent somebody new from within yourself.
Now is a great time to think of others. How can you be a helper? How can you help people feel good about what they're doing? Use those Post-it notes to remind them of their successes. Just know that if you feel like the oxygen masks have dropped, there's still oxygen flowing through them. Put yours on first, take a deep breath, and get ready to help some other people along the way.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Comment below and share your thoughts, ideas or questions about the best ways to stay safe, positive, and helpful during times of crisis. Have you had to overcome any of the presented concepts? What worked and what did not live up to your expectations? Do you have any ideas or advice you could share?
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