Ready or Not….Here “Tha Rona” Comes!
In my 46 (young) years of life, the world has not experienced a quarantine or social distancing requirement by local officials. Most of us were not ready mentally for how this may affect us. Ironically, I have wanted to start a blog for over a year but, have not had time until NOW thanks to “Rona”. FYI..here in Southeast Texas, many of my tribe members are calling COVID-19 “tha Rona” and I laugh every time I hear it! This post is serious but, lighthearted because I believe we all could use some lightheartedness today.
First, I want to express my condolences to anyone who has lost a loved one due to COVID-19. I am very sorry for your loss and the unfortunate situation you had to lay your loved one to rest in. I know your grieving process has been hindered by the quarantine and orders in effect right now. The restrictions in force have limited support systems to be able to be physically present for many of you. Just know many people across the nation, including myself, have been praying for the families and friends of lost loved ones with COVID-19.
Life has changed swiftly for many of us over the last few weeks. Full-time working parents being home with their children 24/7 while becoming teachers, principals, counselors, cafeteria workers, coaches was not something most of you were prepared to face. Guess what? Neither was I! Before I put my counselor hat on for this blog, let me confess. My husband, the primary bread winner of our household, was laid off like many others in our area 2 weeks ago. I am working from home now via tele-health only to protect my immune compromised family members. I had an emotional, pity party, crying fit 2 days ago when I was feeling overwhelmed by Mr. “Rona”. One of my soul sisters’ response to my breakdown was “get it together, your girls are watching you and if you fall apart they will too” and I think this Gypsy threw in something about “Mrs. Counselor” too (eyeroll). I knew I would feel great the next day if I allowed myself this dramatic moment of emotional release and I DID. I realized this wild spirit thrives off structure, routine, and stability. These wonderful children and teens of ours were NOT READY either! They do not know how to adjust to having parents teaching them, not being able to go anywhere, parents giving them lists of chores or projects daily, or spending 24/7 with US and their siblings. If we are all being honest, most of us were not mentally prepared to be home with our spouses 24/7 either (or my husband wasn’t, ask him for the list of projects I have created so far)! I am sure there are a few overachievers out there that have been preparing for this epidemic for years. This was NOT my family and I nor my tribe.
“Rona” Taking My Emotions All Over the Place
So far, I have not spoken to one person (including myself) who is not having a whirl wind of emotions. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. How you are responding to this situation can depend on factors such as your background, personality, education, profession, health status, support system, and the community you live in. From what I am gathering, people are experiencing a range of emotions including anger, sadness, stress, guilt, anxiety, loneliness, fear, and frustration. The primary feeling I suspect people are experiencing is anxiety due to the many unknown factors surrounding COVID-19 and the quarantine. It is key to know that whatever you are feeling, it is OKAY to feel that way! We are all different and experience emotions that we may not understand or welcome. The fortunate people that have not ever struggled with any mental health issues could possibly now due to unfamiliar territory. Ironically, those who have overcame mental health issues in their past may fare the quarantine with less challenge because they have obtained coping skills that work for them. People with current mental health conditions should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms.
Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can cause new behaviors that are unlike ones you experience in your normal “Pre-Rona” day to day life. These changes could include changing sleeping or eating behaviors, fear about your own or family’s health, worry about finances, worsening of chronic health issues, increase of unhealthy coping skills such as drugs or drinking, and difficulty concentrating. The elderly, children, essential workers, high risk individuals, first responders, people with mental health issues, and health professionals may experience a stronger stress response to this crisis.
Relief for “Rona”itis
Taking care of yourself, your friends, and your family as allowed can be an amazing coping skill. Staying busy enjoying your life is key right now. The worst case scenario would be to try to sleep your way through this pandemic and isolate yourself from contact with family and friends. How one of us copes may not be effective for the next person. Finding what works for you is essential. Some ideas for healthy coping (as allowed by your local government restrictions of course) are: work on projects at home, read a book, watch movies with family, work in your yard, sit in the sun, talk to friends and family about your concerns, pray, laugh with family, journal, watch inspiring podcasts, take a walk, play games outside or inside with your children, go fishing, meditate, exercise, eat healthy, blog (I am sitting in my PJ’s at 5:43 pm on my porch watching it rain, typing this while I am wishing I could be in the boat in the sun right now) and staying connected with others.
First responders and medical workers are our heroes that work selflessly to serve our communities. They need to be acknowledged and checked on by us. We must encourage them during this time. Many are exhausted from working long hours right now with little time to take care of themselves. It is essential that they pay attention to their own mental fatigue especially during this crisis. These professionals need to allow themselves the time to decompress, regroup, practice self-care, and release emotions. Taking a break from the news and social media may be necessary for a while.
Technology today allows us to stay connected in ways that prior generations were unable to. Many educators, friends, families are using group chats and video conferencing to stay connected. My children are meeting with their coaches and teachers online. Some dance teachers are still holding classes via interacting video forums. Technology gives us unlimited resources to stay connected from a distance.
People are getting creative during this time of quarantine. Neighborhoods are putting bears in their windows for children to look for during walks, neighbors are sitting on their lawns visiting at a distance, people are making care packages and masks to give away, and children are learning how to do things they have not learned before! BE CREATIVE…think outside of the box and find ways to turn this big ole’ lemon into lemonade. For example, my best friend of over 30 years had her 25th birthday last week. Our friends and her employees were devastated that we could not celebrate with her as she has with us. (I can’t disclose her real age- I want to keep her a little longer- LOL) One friend suggested a surprise birthday parade by her house. We all decorated our cars, turned the music up, and drove by screaming birthday wishes and I love You through our car windows like teenagers. Her gifts were delivered by Amazon. A huge Happy Birthday yard sign was rented too. She says it was the best birthday yet! I was so relieved after worrying all week how we could make this day special for her under these circumstances. (picture included for your entertainment so you can see all of us professionals look like the rest of the world that are quarantined & YES that is my leopard house shoes)
Children Are “Rona” Wild Right Now!
These little bundles of joy are “Rona” WILD here too! Seriously, how can you help your children during this time? They are worried and concerned too! Each child will respond to this situation in their own unique way. Children and teens react partially on what they witness from the adults around them. When we deal with the COVID-19 calmly and confidently, we are able to provide the best support for our children. Parents need to be more reassuring when discussing the virus with children. Limiting social media when your child is having anxiety about this virus can be helpful. There is inaccurate and scary information flowing through the web right now that can amp up anxiety. Also, children may misinterpret what they hear or read online and can be anxious or scared about something they do not understand. Suggestions to help your children are: talk to your children on an age appropriate level about the facts, remind them they are safe at home, answer their questions, validate their feelings, let them know it is okay to feel however they feel, create a routine for them, and be a role model by taking care of yourself. A colleague of mine shared this free online book for children about COVID-19 recently that you can read to your children. https://www.mindheart.co/descargables?fbclid=IwAR2Sad-eT1KV0NbEAeV1N2RxS5z9zt8SyeElWALQhN8unhs-V3FOOVWFfsE
Making the Best of “Rona”
My all-time favorite coping skill is cognitive coping. This coping skill allows me to change negative thoughts into positives or neutrals to lessen strong negative emotions. Not long after my teenage fit 2 days ago, I saw a post of social media that helped me focus on the positives in this situation when I was unable to on my own. Some of these thoughts were: Our families are spending more time together. Siblings are playing together. We are cooking home cooked meals more. People are being more conscious of their health and hygiene. Money doesn’t seem to make the world go around (anymore). We have time to stop and smell the roses. People are being creative. Hectic schedules have slowed down for many of us.
We can focus on the negatives while we are quarantined and let “Rona” steal our joy and peace. However, I chose happiness, peace, and embracing this opportunity to regroup, get things done at home, connect with my children and husband, read books I have been too busy to pick up, and starting my blog that has been on my to do list for over a year now! I cannot promise I will not have a “moment” again if this crisis drags out for longer than anticipated but, I am going to TRY not to! All that any of us can do is TRY to make the best of this situation we were all thrown into headfirst so that we do not drown but, swim instead! Hopefully we will be able to say “BYE RONA” sooner than later!
Resource for Mental Health Support: Disaster Distress Hotline 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746.