Coping with COVID-19

Well, whether we like it nor not, today is the day.

Let’s get to it.

These are interesting/strange/frightening/sad/stressful times. Our brains don’t like it. Unless you are a first responder, an immigrant who has lived through civil upheaval, a combat veteran, or someone similar, you haven’t had an opportunity to develop the coping skills that come in handy during a global pandemic situation.

Here are some tips to help your head (and your heart) feel better. I’ll be posting some deeper dives into these topics in the coming days, but here’s the big picture.

First, lower your expectations of everything. Yourself, your family, your neighbors. Like me, you may be thinking that you are finally going to clean out the garage/organize the bookshelf/put together that scrapebook/sort your closet. And you may.

Or you may not.

If you have extra time on your hands, filling it can feel overwhelming, sapping our motivation and energy. No matter what else we do, our situation will remain stressful (at least to some degree) until it’s over. So, we need to expect less from ourselves and each other, not more

Second, stay connected to the reality around you. While it can feel like virus always hangs around us like a miasma of bad gas, that’s not true. (Medical personnel excluded-let’s give them a standing ovation, everyone.) Especially if you are wearing your mask when you leave you house, complying with social distancing guidelines and hand-washing protocols.

Pause for a few minutes every day and take a look around you. See the sky, feel the breeze, touch a leaf or the grass. Connecting to the world around us through our senses is one of the most powerful ways to calm down, but we rarely use it as a coping mechanism.

Despite how it feels, thinking…even thinking really hard…doesn’t give tell us jack about what’s actually happening in the world. Thinking we are safe is nothing compared to seeing/hearing/touching/tasting/smelling that we are safe. So, look around!

Third, our brains LOVE predictability. We love routines. So, get a routine going. The most important elements of a routine are:

1. Decide on both weekday and weekend routines.

2. Set a wake-up time for both routines.

3. Take a shower and get dressed every day.

4. Set blocks of time to be productive (work/school/gardening/knitting/learning French), and blocks of time for relaxation (Netflix/Facebook/gametime).

5. Go outside (while practicing social distancing)

6. Move your body

7. Set a bedtime

Make a routine that includes these elements and in a way that feels good and you’ll cope much better with this unpredictable world we find ourselves in.

Fourth, do some meal planning. If you plan meals already, you are ahead of the curve. If not, start. Part of why we like things to be predictable is that we don’t like to make a million decisions every day-that gets overwhelming pretty fast. Meal planning gets rid of a chunk of decisions. It’s also good for your body and your budget. People who meal plan tend to eat healthier, spend less money on groceries and throw out less food than people who don’t.

Fifth (and finally!), start a task list. During stressful situations (such as a global pandemic), short-term memory can get a little sketchy. Running a task list provides a giant brain assist. You can get fancy with an app or grab a yellow legal pad. When you think of something you need to do, write it down. Then, when you aren’t sure what to do next, look at your list.

Enough for now. I’ll dive into the weeds about these skills over the next few days, so check back in.

Thanks for reading. Stay well. Stay strong.

The Love Desert

You don’t need me to tell you that life happens. People get sick, kids act out, jobs get lost, parents die. It is surprisingly common to have more than one bad thing happen at once or in quick succession. It can feel like a tidal wave about to overtake you.

Sometimes when this happens, it takes all we have to just stay on the board and ride the wave.

Most of the time, when a bad thing happens, it only happens to one of partner in a relationship at a time. Since the other person’s life continues on normally, they can give us extra support, take on extra chores, or just be a listening ear. In other words, they can be there for us when we need them. At other times, they are the ones facing a difficult life event, and we provide the support.

But sometimes, life hits everyone at the same moment. Both of you struggle to take care of yourself and the kids (if kids are part of the equation). At the end of the day, there isn’t anything left for anyone else. When this happens, the support stops flowing and enter a love desert.

I’ve seen many couples freak-out when this happens, especially the first time it happens. We get into relationships for mutual support and when it disappears, no matter how much our brains understand what’s going on, our hearts can get pretty bruised up. We forget that it’s only temporary.

Acknowledging that you are both in a desert, that you don’t have anything to give each other, is an important step in getting through a love desert. By acknowledgingthe reality of the situation, you can adjust your expectations of each other and get on with coping.

When we don’t acknowledge it and pretend it isn’t happening or require that our partner meet our needs regardless of their own reality, we can damage and even kill the relationship.

These deserts are a normal part of long-term relationships. They don’t mean anything, they just happen. So, when they do, focus on taking care of yourself (and your kids) and trust your partner to do the same. Once life returns to normal, so will your relationship.

If it doesn’t, that’s the time to give me a call.

Photo credit Chance Agrella @