By Danielle Lacy, LCSW
The global outbreak of COVID-19 has transitioned the once less meaningful phrase, “staying home” into something more powerful and potentially lifesaving. Before the order was issued by our federal and state governments, the idea of staying indoors was often viewed as a form of leisure or completion of home projects and honey-do lists. Having to live the day-in, day-out within the bounds of our homes is starting to become the new standard, and hopefully temporary, way of living.
There is no doubt, the home, a symbolism of relaxation, sanctuary, and gathering, is transforming into the vicinities of our daily living and survival and creating literal, and figuratively speaking, walls separating us from the outside world. The place we once called home is now transitioning into the workplace, meeting and board rooms, school yards, colleges, churches, childcare centers, restaurants, gyms, doctor and therapy offices, even the movie theaters, we once visited without the thought or concern it could become limited or completely taken away.
Something I have discovered since being in quarantine with my husband, our 5-year-old son, and my parents is the variety of roles I play and the level of dependency I have on the people imbedded within my community that help me to fulfill these roles and build my sense of identity. Whether this is my boss, colleagues, clients, the cashier at the grocery store, the mechanic who replaces the oil in my car, my son’s teachers and para, his classmates, the office manager at our apartment complex, these are just a few of the individuals who help me to satisfy my roles and give meaning and purpose to these roles.
I also recognized the level of dependency I have on the spaces I use outside of my home to complete my roles and form my sense of identity, such as my office space, the hair and nail salons I go to, the grocery store, my favorite sushi restaurant, and places I buy mine and my family’s clothing. Without these things consistently in my life, who am I and how can I effectively complete my roles and holdfast to my identity?
A few weeks back, my boss emailed a guide to me to share with our clients that discussed the anxieties and worries that come with global uncertainty in the face of COVID-19 and some different interventions and coping skills that could be implemented to manage some of these fears. Little did she know… or did she… this guide would also help one of her team members find some relief, as well. Yes, even therapists benefit from the interventions and coping skills they share with their clients. How hypocritical would it be to not use some of the information we promote? 😉
I felt some of the concerns I had was alleviated by one word: balance. To clarify, this portion of the guide discussed maintain wellbeing by finding balance through achievement, connection, and pleasure. After all, these areas of wellbeing play significant parts in formulating my identity (i.e. achievement- being a therapist, mother, and wife and fulfilling those roles to the best of my abilities; connection- those I rely on in times of need or good conversation; and pleasure- hobbies and activities I enjoy, like shopping, eating sushi, and getting my hair and nails done).
Following balance was routine. Think of it this way, how are we supposed to feel balanced and fulfill our roles and sense of identity, if we do not plan accordingly and make sure we are giving equal attention to each area of our wellbeing? Here are some tips to help you find your sense of balance and build routine in your life during this time of disorganization and uncertainty.
Finding Your Balance
- Make a list of things you would like to achieve throughout the week. This could be home, work, or school related. For example, decluttering and re-organizing the closet, making 20 contacts for work, or completing a final paper for class.
- Make a list of the people in your life who are important to you, who you rely on in times need, and who you need to check on.
- Make a list of activities you enjoy that can be done at home or with social distancing. For example, reading a good book, painting, hiking, baking, etc.
Creating Your Routine
- Taking a planner, calendar, or sheet of paper (just write down the days of the week on it), write down your activities of daily living IN PENCIL (you never know if your plans will change). This should include, but is not limited to, waking up, engaging in proper hygiene and dressing, preparing and eating meals, exercising, completing household chores (i.e. doing dishes or a load of laundry, vacuuming, making the bed), and bedtime.
- In between your activities of daily living, insert a time to work towards or complete your achievement, contact one person, and engage in one hobby or activity you enjoy AGAIN IN PENCIL. To make sure there is a fair balance, make sure you are allotting a reasonable amount of time for each item. For example, 1-2 hours to work on your achievement, 30 minutes to 1 hour to contact a loved one, and 1 hour for preferred activity.
- Follow your plan. At the end of the day, ask yourself these questions: Did what I do today give me a sense of achievement? Closeness with others? Pleasure? Did I get a good balance? If not, what can I do differently tomorrow?
- Change your plans, as needed. Just make sure to include your achievement, contact, and hobby, if you make any changes, and USE PENCIL. 😉
The consequences of COVID-19, although unexpected and unfair, does not mean we have to forget, neglect, or postpone our own wellbeing, identity, or self-improvement. We are still an individual with needs, wants, and ambitions and we still live in a community able to help us in fulfill many of those things, even if it looks differently for the time being. You might be living out these roles within the constraints of your home, but this does not mean your efforts are constrained or in vain. When the day comes and you are able to walk out your front door, not just to gather essentials, you will be ready to take whatever new challenges come without feeling behind, drained, or imbalanced. Please take care of yourselves and stay safe. Although we are separated, we are still in this together.