During the shelter in place, I have been thinking a lot about what it means for me and what things will look like in the immediate future.
Most things are up in the air right now and in many ways, the sense of uncertainty and unpredictability gives me a lot of anxiety. It is hard to gauge what is going to happen next when we have no framework of past experience to get us through the situation we are currently experiencing. Since the shelter in place started, social distancing has become a part of our everyday vocabulary. Recently, the language has been changed to physical distancing because people were isolating themselves from all interactions. As humans throughout history, we have survived in community and what we are experiencing now is having to physically distance ourselves from the community to survive. Having to distance ourselves from others goes against everything that we are innately attuned to.
Technological communication and interaction have become our new normal but, in many ways, it is exhausting. We want to put up a front for others that states, ‘look how well I am taking this’, ‘aren’t we cute having a virtual happy hour’. All of these experiences are shared on social media with inspirational hashtags but what no one is talking about is the raw emotions that are underneath all of the façades of normalcy. Individuals are experiencing fear, sadness, confusion, frustration, and uncertainty along with a longing to return to the way of life pre-COVID 19. Strong emotions are a normal reaction to uncertainty, but the big question is ‘how do I let others into what I am really feeling?’. This is something that I have struggled with a lot over the past few weeks. We are all going through many of the same experiences and yet it is so hard to talk about.
"Part of my ongoing growth is learning how to be kind to myself."
This is something that has been challenging because I have always had really high self-expectations. With the shelter in place order, I have been learning to adjust the way that I view success. I am trying to move away from the notion that productivity gives me value and more to the understanding that I have innate value despite my productivity. Some days are smooth and easy while other days are extremely challenging. This is just part of the ongoing nature of our changing life experience.
Today was a really difficult day for me and I was struggling with maintaining a sense of balance and forward momentum. It felt like everything was a struggle and I had a really hard time focusing. I knew I was feeling sadness, but in my body, this was presented as anxiety. I spent some time journaling and as I began to understand where the sadness was coming from, I allowed myself to cry. As I cried, the anxiety in my body almost felt like a pressure valve slowly being released. I felt clearer-headed and I was able to get through the rest of the day.
When the workday ended, I decided to take a walk, not really having a destination in mind. I just started walking. Anyone who has been in/seen San Francisco knows that the hills are no joke. I was pushing myself physically and emotionally. I would take breaks and allow myself time to catch my breath. As I got closer to the top of the hill my momentum increased and I was able to tap into my own energy and momentum to keep going. Once I got to the park at the top of the hill, I was greeted with something that I have missed so much during the shelter in place order: a connection with nature. I was in San Francisco and yet I felt so far away from it. I was relaxed, observant, and taking it all in. At that moment, I felt like I was going to be okay. I sat down and allowed myself to be an observer and not a participant. I took in the calm and just allowed myself to be in the moment. My challenge for you as you read this is to find one daily practice that brings you a sense of calm and balance. For some, this could be taking a warm bath every night, while for others it could be journaling. Try to mindfully bring this practice into your day. Start with a few minutes at a time and do what works for you.