When my husband and I flew home from visiting family in Georgia on March 14, we returned to a different world than the one we’d left four days prior. Emails about companies’ reactions to the coronavirus pandemic overwhelmed our inboxes, doctors began telling us to stay home, and toilet paper was nowhere to be found.
Through the end of March, life felt a bit the way it does when a hurricane is approaching: unpredictable, scary and completely consumed by the disaster. In those couple of weeks, I had difficulty concentrating on work, I was eating (and drinking) from boredom and was otherwise on a slow decline toward a less-than-optimal lifestyle. And unlike a hurricane that hits and retreats to allow for recovery, COVID-19 had no end-date in sight.
I realized it was going to be a long quarantine if I didn’t give myself an attitude and behavior adjustment. Here’s what I came up with:
First and foremost, I was very aware that, while the pandemic was causing disruptions in my life, I was in a much better position than many others. I started making a point to mentally count my good fortunes daily, including:
- I and all my family and friends were healthy and coronavirus-free.
- My husband still had his job, and I lost only one client.
- We didn’t have young children at home to educate and entertain 24/7 (mad props to those of you who do!).
- We lived in a safe home and had plenty to eat.
- We had access to technology to keep us connected with friends and family even while in quarantine.
Practicing gratitude and recognizing those who were struggling was a good first step to getting off the self-pity-wagon.
Limiting Media Consumption
In early April, I realized a lot of my anxiety and worry was stemming from consuming too much news media. We had national TV news on all the time, and I was also on Facebook and Instagram more often than usual, reading people’s reactions to what was going on. It was a constant flood of uncertainty, gloom and doom.
After I realized what this was doing to my psyche, I started limiting my TV news time to once per day for key updates and removed the Facebook and Instagram apps from my phone. I still read local news headlines and stories that pertained to the industries in which my clients worked to be effective in my job. And I would check Facebook once a day to see how my friends and family were doing, and handle any administrative tasks for business pages.
Placing those restrictions made a huge difference. Eliminating the superfluous news consumption worked wonders for my state of mind.
Taking One Day at a Time
For a compulsive planner, suddenly not being able to make any plans was a jarring experience. In early March, we had been talking about taking a vacation in June to celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday, I was aiming to make a trip to Orlando to do group media coaching session for a client, and we were hoping for a temporary re-location related to my husband’s job in the late summer. By April, we had no clue when – or if – we’d be able to reschedule any of these.
After the probably hundredth time of groaning in frustration that I couldn’t put anything on the calendar or make any plans because we didn’t know when things would re-open, I was annoying even myself. Then I found myself saying, “One day at a time.” Once I started focusing on only the day ahead of me, I found comfort in feeling like I had more control in an unpredictable situation.
Making Health a Focus
Since I was slipping into unhealthy habits at the start of quarantine, I decided to use the extra time on my hands for good instead of ill. I upped my home-workout game with online exercise programs and daily walks (hooray for happiness-inducing endorphins, fresh air and sunshine!).
Prior to the pandemic, I usually ate out a few times a week, and that’s when I’d eat the most unhealthy foods. But with restaurants closed, it seemed like the best time to go on a diet. So I downloaded the My Fitness Pal app, put in my weight-loss goals and started tracking everything I ate. Sure, it was tedious. But I had the time–and it worked. If I accomplish nothing else during quarantine, I can at least feel proud that I’m coming out physically stronger and several pounds lighter.
Pondering Lessons Learned
Whenever bad things happen, I tend to try to find a bright side. Often, that bright side involves what I could learn from the experience and how I could apply it in the future.
I know I’m not alone in acknowledging that the pandemic and quarantine encouraged changes in my life that I plan to continue even after things go back to “normal.” These include things like:
- Video calls with out-of-town family and friends (why weren’t we already doing these pre-pandemic???)
- Cooking more healthy meals at home
- Leaving most social media apps off of my phone
- Going to bed early
- Playing board games with my husband
- Leaving more freedom in my schedule (resisting the urge to over-plan/over-commit myself)
Everyone’s COVID-19 story is different (and I encourage you to share yours in the comments below). Many of my PR friends have had tremendously different experiences than I have — some have been in crisis mode for months, others have lost jobs.
But while the pandemic has claimed lives and generated fear and upset our economy, the general outpouring of love and support that humanity has shown around the world has been uplifting. After all, we’re all in this life together.