As the colder temps and darker days are upon us, it is getting harder for many of us to stay motivated, positive, and hopeful. The weight of the virus, social unrest, the downturn of our economy, and the stress of the upcoming election feels almost too much to bear sometimes.
I’ve heard many friends and colleagues use the phrase, “I am OVER it!”
OVER the CoronaVirus.
OVER the masks.
OVER kids sitting alone in their rooms all day, staring at their screens, and calling this “going to school”.
OVER the word “pivot”.
OVER the social isolation and the inability to hug parents and grandparents.
OVER the pre-election stress and fear of what the election and its aftermath will do to our country. OVER the hate and divisiveness in our country, in our society, and in our families around issues of race, religion, gender, sexuality, and politics!
Yes, the “over it” phrase provides a momentary release from the heavy burden we are all carrying, but the real zinger is that we are not OVER it, and in fact deeply IN it. And this is really, really hard and excruciatingly uncomfortable. It’s exhausting to continue to find the hope, joy, and the inspiration to keep moving forward when, not only do we not know when it will be over, we don’t know exactly where we are going and what the aftermath of the OVER will even look like.
Right now, during this most memorable year of 2020 (one for the history books for sure!), we are mourning the precious lives lost to the virus, and are grieving lost experiences—our kids’ graduations, college send-offs, spending treasured time with elderly parents and grandparents, and celebrating milestones, holidays, and lifecycle events with beloved family and friends. We are seeing people lose their jobs, their businesses, their homes, and their minds. We are confronting the ugly truths of racism. We are seeing our common humanity slip away as we scream over each other and refuse to look in each other’s eyes and listen to one another (the masks and social distancing, albeit necessary, making this even harder).
So, here we are—IN it— everywhere we look. And we are tired. Tired of feeling burnt out, frustrated, irate, deflated, fearful, and anxious for a multitude of good reasons. And the question is, how are we supposed to take care of ourselves and each other during this time of crisis and loss? During a time when we actually need to come together instead of pushing each other further and further away? How do we stay hopeful when so many people are literally and figuratively stuck—at home (for those fortunate to have a home) where feelings of fear, loss, and isolation are closing in on so many of us?
When we look into history, even at the darkest points, we can see the resiliency in humanity. We know that we “can do hard things” (thanks Glennon Doyle). Humans can survive threats on a massive scale (wars, genocides, pandemics, floods, tsunamis, and economic and political catastrophes). History tells us that we are capable of coming back. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t scars.
As someone who has studied self-care for two decades, I know that there is not a one size fits all recipe for how to take care of yourself, especially during times of crisis. But as most of us have experienced, during stressful times like these when many of our circumstances are out of our control, we are forced to dig into that next layer of our being.
Viktor Emil Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor provides important perspective in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning (which I consider a must-read for all humans). The following two quotes are seemingly, simple but contain extremely important messages to think about right now:
- “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
- “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”
So, friends, as we navigate the continued waves of this uncharted territory we are in, my advice would be to dig deep and find something that you can sink your teeth into. Having purpose in your life outside of work and caring for others could be the salvation you need so that one drink after work on Fridays doesn’t turn into 4 drinks each night. We already know the basics of self-care: nourish your body, move your body, be kind to yourself and others. And most definitely do those things. But right now, with all of the inescapable unrest around us, self-care of the soul is where our attention needs to be.
Here are some suggestions for you to create some purpose and engage in some soul-soothing activities during this critical period:
- Write letters: To your mom, your dad, your great uncle, your children, your best friend from preschool. Even to yourself. You can write them and not send them or go ahead and send away! (Just be careful with the really angry ones. Maybe hold off for a bit on sending those.)
- Journal: While many of us want to forget how we are feeling during this tumultuous time, it could be uplifting to look back a couple of years from now and see what you’ve navigated through and how resilient you actually are. Plus, it is cathartic to dump your thoughts and feelings onto the page. No judgement, no editing, just let it flow.
- Express yourself creatively: paint, draw, doodle, make shapes with clay, sing, dance, scrapbook, or take pictures. Again, you can share your creative expressions with others (TikTok videos are real fun) or keep them to yourself, but let those creative juices flow.
- Learn something new: Enroll in an online language class or cooking class; learn to play an instrument or how to needlepoint. Challenge your brain in new ways and open yourself up to discovery.
- Get involved: While we are not able to gather in person, there are still so many organizations that need your help. Check out the multitude of virtual opportunities to support organizations and individuals in need.
- Connect with your spirituality: Whether you are a religious person or not, connecting with some sort of higher power can be very comforting right now. Meditate, read the bible, or pray. Or if nothing else, take time each day to take five really deep, cleansing and rejuvenating breaths.
So perhaps next time you start to say in your mind or out loud, “I am SO DONE!, think about what you can do to nourish your soul through this difficult time. With hope and a sense of purpose, we can get through anything. Sending you an abundance of love and hope!
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