What to say that is new or different about our current circumstances of social distancing and self-quarantine? I feel I’ve been bombarded with emails, text messages, blog posts, and professionals of every kind offering me advice on everything from how to properly wash my hands to “quarantine recipes” to at-home exercise tips. Enough already. I’m overwhelmed.
I’ve given a lot of thought to this from my own perspective as well as, the perspective of how best to help my clients?
What I’ve concluded is that what might be helpful is to just simply… allow.
Allow yourself to feel sad, to grieve all that you’re missing out on right now. Everything about our life today was unimaginable just a few short weeks ago. We are adjusting and accommodating to a new way of thinking and doing across every aspect of our day.
Allow for the space you need to just… be. The emotional burden we are all bearing is profound. While we might think that we have all this extra time to do this (exercise) and do that (tackle home projects), the reality is that our minds and hearts are burdened right now. And allowing ourselves to just be is not only okay--it is necessary.
Allow for worry. I frequently caution my clients that worry about the future robs us of today. I also encourage clients to engage in mindfulness, which to the focus of your awareness on the present moment.
But now, who in the world isn’t worrying about their future? And, doesn’t it feel impossible to ‘stay in the moment’ of whatever we are doing when our health, our relationships, our children’s educations, our jobs, our very way of life are all at risk of irreparable change? Worry about the future makes a lot of sense to me right now.
So, what I’ve come to realize is that some of the ‘rules’ that I’ve had for myself, and have espoused to my clients for years, don’t seem to apply right now. I’ve also heard some refer to this as our “new normal.” I don’t think so. This is not any kind of normal! We are in a constant state of uncertainty, fear, and speculation. Maybe, just maybe, we will reach a new normal when we’ve come through to the other side of this virus pandemic. Until then, we need to throw out any notion of normalcy.
Sadness, grief, a need for acknowledging our stress and our anxiety and our worry…. Sounds pretty somber, right? So, let me add a few other ideas that we can allow for…
Allow for dreams about all the things that we want to get back to—and maybe even do differently or better—when we can. We each have the opportunity to thoughtfully consider how we will re-engage with our loved ones, folks we work with, and our neighbors and friends. We will be able to approach past relationship challenges with a new perspective, one born out of time to really reflect and evaluate. We can choose to enact changes in our own way of being with others in our lives.
Allow for anticipation of seeing family and friends again… and for celebrating! There have been so many missed occasions – birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, weddings, births... So much to catch up on, so many people to spend time with, so many opportunities to reconnect. It’s a lot to look forward to, really.
Allowfor possibilities. The possibility that as a community, and as a nation, we have learned so much about what we are made of. We will have been reminded (just as we were after 9/11) of the power and the goodness of every American to come together when we need each other most.
Allow for thepossibility that the way we view our children’s educations, the way in which we accomplish our work, and the manner in which we tackle immense challenges may all shift for the better, and in ways we cannot imagine right now. Think about advances in remote learning for our kids. Or, perhaps we’ll see a shift in new home design that supports a range of creative work-at-home environments. Certainly, our leaders and medical professionals will be more proactive with efforts to anticipate and better prepare for this type of crisis in the future.
Lastly, allow for thepossibility that we will all come out of this with a renewed sense of purpose for ourselves and our community; a more defined commitment to supporting others who struggle or are in need; and a much deeper sense of gratitude for all that we may have taken for granted before.
Finally, if my thoughts expressed here make sense to you, I encourage you to simply allow yourself to feel every feeling and acknowledge every concern that invades your mind. However, please also allow for the hopes, the dreams, the anticipation, and the possibilities that await us when we are able to move beyond our current circumstances. This too shall pass.