Taking Up Space
Can you believe it has been eight months of the Pandemic? It is almost impossible at this point to imagine going back into lockdown or vice versa, completely returning to an unfettered, unmasked social life. The hardest part is that all the coping techniques and adaption I did at the beginning is just not working anymore.
My three go-to coping techniques included:
- Walking. Oh my god did walking save the day. When feeling antsy, when ready to hurt someone because they were just too annoying. Because I was bored. Because I was overwhelmed. Pick a reason and it got me out of the house. I walked more in the first month of Lockdown than I had in the entire year before according to my step tracker.
- Calling a friend. It was nice at first, I didn’t have as many commitments. I didn’t have to be anywhere at a certain time. And I could call friends I hadn’t talked with in ages. I caught up with high school friends and college friends and old work friends. Any and everybody got a call to just chat and catch up.
- Luxury. Oh yes. A glass of wine, dark dark chocolate, a Netflix binge. I indulged in something that just felt good multiple times a week. And it felt nice and caring.
I don’t know what your three top coping techniques were but I’m guessing they are wearing thin. I hear every day from friends and colleagues and clients about how those coping skills are now causing even more stress. The weather is changing and I am less inclined to walk when I am cold. Nobody has done much so what do I talk with my friends about? And now the Luxury can’t mask or distract enough from just WANTING TO LEAVE MY HOUSE.
It’s time for a refresh. A real, honest to goodness, spring cleaning type of refresh. Because we have been in limbo for eight or six or four months and it is time. So this is my challenge to you. Take a long hard look at what worked really really well for you at the beginning. Write it down. Mull it over. Go back and erase it and be even more honest. Okay, great.
Next, I want you to take your list and write down every excuse you have for not doing or not wanting to do your coping skill. And I don’t care how vain or silly or boring it is. One of mine for the walk? It’s just boring. I’ve seen every house in my neighborhood a gazillion times in every shade of the sun and I just don’t want to see them again. So really, just put down each and every one of those pesky thoughts that gets in the way.
Got the list? Checked it twice? Awesome. Now it’s time to look at what the common themes are. Usually there are about two but don’t worry if you only spot one or several. Each list is unique and your own. Here is a list of common themes:
- What’s the point?
- Nothing helps.
- Overwhelmed, too much to do
Again, don’t worry if your theme isn’t on the list, it’s just there to give you some ideas. Because here is the important part, I can’t just tell you to go do it anyway. You would if you could, right? I can’t just give you a list or a replacement coping skill because you’ve already tried a whole list of them from Oprah.com or Buzzfeed or CNN. Doesn’t matter, you’ve resolved to use one and then given up. And you can’t conquer that until you start with your theme.
I told you I didn’t want to walk anymore because of the weather (what’s the point?) and because I didn’t want to see the same houses (boredom) but by focusing on the themes of boredom and defeatism, I can start addressing the issues. If you’re struggling to find the themes or they feel so overwhelming, this can be a good place to reach out for help from a therapist. But if you’re starting to understand how this comes together for yourself, this is where the spring cleaning takes the next step. Because we just don’t pick a replacement activity, we pick one that address each obstacle/theme. What’s the point? The point is to feel better and if a walk isn’t doing that then it’s time to dance it out or go for a run or do a yoga tape. I’m bored. Then let’s mix it up, my car needs to move and I wanted to listen to a new podcast anyway, time for a walk on the beach.
If you have the time and the energy and the money, I would even say, invest in the activity. Buy some new walking shoes or some new gym wear. Create a space in the living room for the dance party. And if you don’t have the time or the energy or the money, invest where it feels important and freeing. In my case, I can’t afford a million luxuries nor is it meeting my needs any more (excuse 1,287,453 was another What’s the point?). So change the luxuries to what feels luxurious now. For me, that turned out to be getting a hair cut (getting out). And instead of the zillionth cookie or brownie baking afternoon, I turned to making soups that felt healthier, cheaper, and oh so good when it’s cold (comfort).
While simple, I won’t deny this is hard. It means taking time from all the work and stress and competing needs to look at yourself. It’s hard because by admitting that things aren’t working as they are, it means we are admitting that we need help and we need to change. And change of any sort is hard. So just take it step by step. Enlist your family or friends for help. But please remember, take care of yourself. You’re worth it.