I will admit it: I was almost annoying positive during weeks 1 through 3 of quarantine. I made my list of healthy things to do, I used my Crest White Strips for the first time in months, and I tackled cleaning my garage. We were going to bond as a family in ways we usually don’t have time to with our busy lives, jobs, and school. Bonfires in the backyard! Camp-outs! Sing-a-longs!
But as the weeks have dragged on, my chirpy optimism has ebbed and now my mood changes frequently, often several times throughout the day. The White Strips sit neglected on the counter and there is one semi-clean corner of the garage. We have done some nice family things and spent a lot of time with our dogs but it turns out that our teens aren’t so excited by a family camp-out in the backyard. And tragedy has blazed a path across the country, taking people’s lives and wreaking havoc with people’s livelihoods. The truth of what we have faced and are still facing is sobering.
All of this to say that I think this next phase of quarantine is going to be the hardest yet. We’re resigned but we also are tired of not being able to access loved ones, go to work like normal, and chat comfortably with the people who make our lives run. Many of us are a strange combination of traumatized and bored: we are hurting and lack many of the usual distractions for coping. But that doesn’t mean that it’s time to give up or to trash our healthy resolutions. It means that it is time to re-group.
Here are some tips that I plan to take to heart and hope you will, too:
Revise your COVID-19 resolutions list to make it more realistic.
Your old list may have been based on the idea that you now have a lot of time, but it may not have factored in that you are struggling. Haven’t been able to run five miles every day this week? Pick three days or change your goal to two miles every other day. Modifying your goals to reflect your new understanding is a way of showing yourself compassion without also completely giving in to lethargy.
Be honest with yourself about what you’re doing too much of.
Too much wine on the deck every night? Baking like you’re preparing to be a contestant on The Great British Bake-Off (and eating it)? It’s normal to want comfort but be honest about whether you’re exchanging one set of issues for another. If you are, make a plan for how you are going to limit yourself in a way that feels more healthy.
Plan a digital detox.
I don’t know about how it’s been for you but staring at a screen so much has made me tired in a whole new way. With my work life and my social life existing almost entirely online, there are few hours of the day left for life off-screen. In this next phase, I want to change this up and have a planned time each day to be off technology. I’m curious to see how I feel when I make more time to be present to other things.
Focus on one long-term goal.
My new-to-quarantine self picked too many goals; I was going to be in the best shape ever, tackle all of my household organization projects, and write the great American novel. My phase 2 quarantine self wants to exercise every other day, other goals optional.
This situation is unusual and hard. You’re not going to automatically handle it in a seamless, beautiful way every day. Instead, it will likely be messy and so will you and your emotions. Some days, you may be productive and cheerful. Other days, you may stay in your pajamas. The back and forth is not the problem; it’s a bigger problem if you get stuck in the pj’s phase every day and in negative thinking, as this could signal the beginning of depression.
Struggling on your own and want some help? Consider reaching out for online therapy with our practice, Nova Terra Therapy.
To begin online therapy in Virginia, please follow these steps:
- Contact our Virginia counseling clinic to set up a free 15-minute phone or video consultation to learn more about depression treatment,
- Meet with one of our counselors,
- Get relief and support during this crisis!