From almost a month of quarantining and recent stay home orders, the COVID-19 pandemic has left many of us with extra time on our hands. In response, some creative recommendations have circulated to help others take advantage of their spare time. More ambitious recommendations have been for individuals to learn new skills, gain more knowledge, or start new hustles. While there is nothing wrong with grinding while quarantined, there is also nothing wrong with saying: “Nah, I’m good.” This judgment reveals an opportunity to explain why rest, recovery, and other self-care strategies are also productive ways to reclaim your time during the current global crisis.
Have your emotions been all over the place lately? Did you start social distancing being very productive, but find yourself slowing down? Have you had trouble sleeping the last few weeks?
The Harvard Business Review recently published an article titled "The Discomfort You're Feeling Right Now Is Grief." After thinking about the fluctuation of my emotions in the past few weeks, those of my clients, and people I know, I believe this observation is spot-on.
Grief is more than a reaction to the death of someone you love or know. It is also an emotional response to uncertainty and the loss of normalcy and social connections, making it a relevant and appropriate response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you started experiencing unusual symptoms this past month, it is possible you are experiencing a psychological reaction of grief. Your experience of this grief may be conscious or unconscious. You could feel fine emotionally, but your body may be responding differently.
Symptoms of grief can mimic anxiety and or depression and could include:
Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
Difficulty concentrating or daydreaming
Restlessness or excessive activity
There are five well-known stages of grief, and here is what each step could look like during this time:
Anticipatory grief, a stage of anxiety, manifests from the uncertainty. Perpetual thoughts such as, I am uncertain about the health and safety of my family and friends, or I am unsure how long it will be before things get back to normal can foster anticipatory grief. This type of mourning can persist alongside other stages, further complicating your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.
There is no exact progression to how we experience the stages of grief. You can cycle through several stages repeatedly before you reach acceptance. For example, you could be in denial one day, angry the next day, and in denial again the following week.
Many of us are experiencing a collective response to grief. This collective grief is apparent in the reactions you have seen from people on social media, television, and loved ones regarding social distancing. What you may also have seen are unhealthy coping mechanisms triggered by trauma.
Here are a few strategies to manage symptoms of grief and trauma while social distancing:
Take care of the basics- water, food, sleep, and exercise.
Stay connected with loved ones as best as you can.
Get a check-in buddy or commit to checking in on others who are vulnerable.
Get some sun.
Schedule quiet time.
Be intentional with engaging in pleasurable activities and conversation.
Get out of your head and stop ruminating thoughts.
Set digital boundaries by taking breaks from social media and news notifications.
Don’t feel pressured to gain a new skill or start a hustle.
While there are numerous strategies you could employ to manage your emotional response to this pandemic, the best thing you can do is have compassion toward yourself and others. All of us are trying to do the best we can. My advice to you is to keep doing what you can and to do it the best you can. We are in unprecedented times and there appears to be a long road ahead of us. Taking time to rest amid chaos is a highly disciplined practice. #selfcarehustle