I thought I needed to get around people. What I needed was to be alone.
I’m a loner of sorts. A homebody. An introvert. I was raised by a woman who left the house only two or three times a year. When the stay-at-home orders came down amid COVID-19 fears, I thought “I’ve got this.” I was right – for about a week.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my husband, and I love his company. The primary breadwinner, he took over my home office. I willingly gave up my chair, but I itched to go to the coffee shop and hang around perfect strangers. And go for walks. Alone.
And then as the days wore on, I got angry. Not at my hubby. I believed I was angry at being confined. Have you ever been sad-angry? Or angry-sad? I think that was my affliction. I wasn’t afraid. I was angry.
I also felt alone. I didn’t feel I could talk about what I felt. I wasn’t hearing anger from other people. Depression, yes. Loneliness, yes. But anger? Not a peep.
Why anger? Ultimately it boiled down to my coping strategies being taken away from me. All our lives – our routines – have been upended by COVID-19 and measures to curtail the spread of the virus. Our work. Our home life. Our social life. Our grocery shopping. We can’t even get a simple coffee and fade into the background with a book in the café.
I realize others have had it much worse – my heart goes out to New York, to those who’ve had the coronavirus and to those who’ve lost people to it. For the rest of us, a background anxiety pervades our days. And anxiety requires release. A coping method. A way to process and express emotion. If we are already suffering from a major loss such as the death of a loved one, the anxiety can feel suffocating.
What did I do? I went back to the basics. I curled up on our back porch swing on Sunday while my husband was away on an errand. I put my journal in my lap and wrote to the most nonjudgmental confidant I could find. Dear Diary.
As I wrote, I asked God to reveal to me the source of the anger and anxiety and solutions to them. I wanted to help others, be an encourager, but I could not effectively do that while mired in my own emotions.
The next day, I drove to one of my favorite fast-casual restaurants, dialed in an order and waited in my car for delivery. After the lunch, I bicycled on my favorite trail while maintaining social distancing recommendations. By the next morning, as I set out to interview a subject for a newspaper article, I felt like me again.
All of which illustrates that we need to come up with a coping method. I was lollygagging my way through the anxiety and lifestyle change. Well, maybe you’ve found your happy place already, but if you haven’t, may I offer some suggestions?
Tell a (Safe) Friend. I found a safe “friend” in my journal. If you’ve got a flesh-and-blood friend, superb. A safe friend will sympathize but not feed your fear.
Find Normalcy. What was one thing that was a part of your life before the pandemic that you can practice now? Find that anchor and hold onto it.
Adopt a New Routine. Welcome something new and soothing into your day. Make it your new normal.
Guard Alone Time. Everyone is at home together. As we ache to see others, we may also need to be with ourselves to process and express our feelings in prayer.
Go Outdoors. If you can’t get to a park or a pasture without proper social distancing, open a window. Talk to a house plant. Get to the roof. Look at the stars.
Listen to Music. We aren’t in our cars listening to music during the commute. But we need music now more than ever. My fav is K-LOVE. Encouraging stuff.
Pursue Goals. Life feels on pause. Maybe we can’t do exactly what is required to grasp our goals, but we can invent creative micro-moves to maintain momentum.
Pursue a Project. My husband and I have got this one. We’re extending our patio. Consider unearthing a creative interest. Or dive into a DIY.
Find a Need. Is there an at-risk older person who needs help with groceries? Or a single mother who just lost her job and needs a friend? Pick up the phone.
Bottom line, find what calms and encourages you and engage in those behaviors intentionally. Daily. And then encourage and help others with that strength.
What would you add to this list? What is calming and encouraging during the weeks of quarantines and social distancing?
Copyright © 2020 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved. www.tonilepeska.com