By Bryan Garcia (he/him/his)
The other day I was on a call with a long time friend and something happened that finally allowed me to face what has been going on these past couple of weeks amidst everything COVID-19.
My friend lives in another city, so we are “Virtual Quarantine Buddies” and have kept each other updated on our lives, what we have been up to as far as how we spend our days, motivating each other to “get the job done” and get through the day to be able to do it all over again the next day. Rinse and repeat.
So during our conversation, they had the audacity to ask me “…,but how are you actually doing?” I froze for a second, chuckled and thought about a go-to answer that would not cause them to feel worried or concerned. Then, I did a complete 180 and decided to reveal the truth. “I’m actually not doing so well,” I replied. I went on to share how all that has been going on has hit me like crashing waves and in untimely phases. How I feel both immense gratitude and fear at the same time and how confusing that is for me. I also expressed how frustrated I was that so much of my regular routine had changed and “been taken away from me,” but deeply aware and a bit guilty of how lucky I am to have what I still do and how not everyone can say the same. I was struggling emotionally and mentally as well as physically.
Before that, there was definitely a lot of hiding and avoiding going on with a dash of acknowledgement. This is not to say that I wasn’t feeling or seeing the impact this was having in my life, but I was able to lean on the good around me so much that I didn’t realize how putting so much weight on the things that I am grateful for would not make the bad somehow magically disappear. It would still be there ready and waiting.
This is coming at us and hitting us all in different ways: economic fears, terrifying headlines, losing connections, climbing numbers, canceled events, uncertainty, compromised health, increased racial attacks on Asian communities, and even harmful myths. Things have changed. Our sense of safety feels like it is at risk. This fear increases if you are considered an essential worker and do not have the option of working from home or if you are immunocompromised.
Acknowledging these feelings is so important. Here is more of what that could look like:
A daily or at least weekly check-in: It can be with yourself, your pets, co-workers, friends or family. Pick one or more as needed or possible and don’t feel like it has to be long or exhaustive or eloquent. Just share how you feel if it is safe to do so. It can look like agreeing on a set day, time, frequency and duration of the check in. So, I can talk to my friend and we can both agree to face-time every Friday night at 7pm for about 15-30 minutes to get a run-down of how our week went, what we are looking forward to and how we are feeling. Having someone that you can see and hear from regularly can be grounding and serve as a helpful motivator to get through the week.
Play the Name Game: “This is: Grief. Sadness. Anger. Joy. Peace. Love. Fear.” Naming it can assist us in regulating and allowing these feelings to move through our bodies as needed. Recognizing that “this is me when I feel lonely so I will give myself the next five to ten minutes to allow this feeling to take its course” can help us strengthen our resilience and avoid making poor decisions.
Practice Self-Compassion: That can look like taking your hand and placing it over your heart and applying a gentle, loving pressure and saying something like, “No, I am not as productive as I was before all of this. People are hurting and there is literally a pandemic going on outside that door. It makes sense that I am not able to do all the things I feel need to be done considering everything that is going on.” Hopefully this can turn into you giving yourself what may be much needed permission and time to catch up with yourself when you are able to.
DON’T Compare someone else’s appearance of doing okay with how you are doing. You don’t have to buy all the bath bombs that Karen-with-all-the-likes is showing off on her insta-story to feel like you are coping well. Maybe instead you just sat up and tried a 3 minute Body Scan Meditation to help you feel grounded and start your morning? Karen doesn’t have it wrong and neither do you. You do you, boo.
Take some time to ask yourself:
“What do I need to do in order to be able to feel these feelings?”
“What influence do I have on this narrative that I am telling myself?”
“As I stay connected with my friends, family, work, netflix/hulu, social media and the news, what can I do to make sure I am staying connected with myself?”
“Considering the changes around me and my limits, what are some new ways I can care for myself and still be able to experience pleasure?”
“What if….(here is where you can balance out bad thoughts with good ones)” For example: “What if my elderly mother is able to get the support she needs to get her needs met and can have the least amount of physical interaction with others and reduce her risk of getting sick?”
With all of these, practice makes perfect. Why not start now? After that conversation with my friend, I knew that facing these feelings is what was going to allow me to not lose connection with myself. Maybe it can help you. It is so important to do what is in our hands to manage elevated stress and prioritize our mental wellness and emotional well-being at home in the healthiest ways possible.
How do you check in with yourself and what have you found works for you to manage the feelings that are coming up for you during this time? Let us know on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @allgoqpoc!
By Bryan Garcia (he/him/his)