“I can’t sit around doing nothing!”
As soon as we started our coaching session, Mia spoke those words with exhaustion and disappointment in her voice. She had been sick with COVID-19 like symptoms for the past week and was even more secluded (aka self-quarantined) than her chronic illness typically makes her. Mentally she wanted to catch up with things around the house but when she tried to push herself physically, her body retaliated. She had all the time in the world but no physical energy to actually do it. She just wanted to get through this pandemic relatively “normal”.
“I feel so guilty and useless and lazy!”
“I don’t have the bandwidth to even think about the food I’m eating right now”
“Why can’t I just seem to focus?”
Can you relate?
Mia isn’t the only one feeling this way! It’s not just that each of these women has a chronic illness that has already turned their lives upside down. Or that whatever sense of “normal” they had before being diagnosed is long gone. It’s also this international pandemic and the uncertainty that has come along with it. There is no normal in losing your job overnight. Staying 6 feet away from all human life isn’t normal. Toilet paper flying off the shelves and the human race suddenly being ultra interested in clean hands is so not the norm.
It’s like we were living in this world that we thought we had control over only to realize we took so much for granted. Are you feeling like that? Like someone has pulled this film off your eyes and cleared the cobwebs out of your head and you are sad and overwhelmed at all the things you thought you could simply do later?
- I can go to the gym next week.
- I don’t have time to go visit my friends/family. I’ll catch up with them soon.
- I don’t need to worry about my finances right now – we’re making ends meet.
And with the overpowering sense of loss comes fatigue. Utter mental and physical exhaustion. But because this is all new, you don’t know how to respond. You think, “Is this normal to be so overwhelmed? Shouldn’t I be able to get through this like normal?” The answer, my friend, is no. This isn’t normal! Normal is long gone. This is all new territory, never chartered before by this generation. But even then, you CAN get through this pandemic!
So let’s talk strategy! What can and should you do to make it through this?
1. Now is the time to rest
Let me fill you in on what I told Mia – When you’ve not been well, and you try to overdo it, and your body tells you to reign it in, listen to it! Our bodies are pretty darn smart and they’re pretty good at communicating what they need. It doesn’t matter if you’re feeling this way because you’re sick or because you’re overwhelmed. Your body doesn’t know the difference between the two! So, if you can’t focus, stop trying to force yourself to do it. Instead, pray, stretch, take some deep breaths, close out the world. Give yourself the time and space you need to get your mindset right.
If your body is demanding more sleep – give in to it instead of trying to accomplish the ten trillion things on your to-do list. Because girlfriend, if you keep trying to to-do it your body will eventually demand you to-don’t it instead.
2. Don’t stop just because it’s hard
I know… I just told you to rest and now I told you not to stop… So which is it? It’s both! There is a difference between giving your mind and body the space and rest it needs and deserves and giving up on your goals and dreams. There is this devastating sense of giving up that I hear on social media and in person from so many women. This idea that, because we’re in the middle of a pandemic, that means there is no hope, no desire, no motivation to continue taking care of yourself or making strides toward your goals. There is this message I’m hearing that says, “I’ll wait until things settle down before I start thinking about eating healthy or getting into exercise.” Well, not to be accusatory, but how has that worked out for you so far?
The brutal, honest truth is that eventually this pandemic will end and you will be frustrated with yourself for not doing more to take care of yourself while it was happening. If you’re not doing it when there aren’t so many extraneous things tugging for your attention, will you do it when there is?
I can remember sitting at the top of a mountain in Guatemala admiring the beauty that surrounded me. At the same time, I was so angry and frustrated with how messed up the Guatemalan adoption system was. There I was in this gorgeous place, spending time with my kids, learning how to speak Spanish and make homemade tortillas. I had no place to go, no agenda to fulfill, and was free to live my best life while I was there. But instead, I got caught up in my negative emotions when what I really wanted to do was focus on the blessings.
Today is just like that. You have the opportunity to live your best life right where you are, in the circumstances that you are. Or you can wallow in pity, fear, or whatever other emotion you might be feeling right now. Now is the perfect time to start making a positive difference in your life. As my friend Melissa put it, “Being out of work was the best thing to happen. I had a lot to do and I was given a great opportunity to get it done.”
3. Simply take one step forward
I get the overwhelm. I talk myself down off the ledge often. And I know that when you’re feeling panicked about what the future holds, it’s really hard to focus on today, never mind the times to come. But I also know that if you do not move forward, your only other option is to stay exactly where you are.
So don’t worry about every minute detail you think you need to take care of to get to your goal. Just do one thing to move forward. Just one! Ask yourself, “What can I do today to take care of myself?” Maybe it’s a bubble bath or doing a down and dirty foot soak and toenail trimming. Is today the day you finally tackle shaving the forest that has become your legs? Perhaps it’s a perfect day to clean out your fridge so you know what you have to work with for this week’s meals and snacks. There are literally so many small things you could do that may not seem like much but that will definitely set you up for success.
4. Don’t let fear win
When the news of this outbreak started to trickle into the U.S., I didn’t pay much attention to it. But then the virus started spreading. And then it picked up speed and there was just no getting away from it. The news was filled with it. Social media went wild. And I thought to myself, “At least I have work to keep my mind off of it for 8 hours a day!”
As with so many things, life looked me in the eye and said, “Oh yeah? Hold my beer!”. When I got to work, my manager asked me to start triaging all of the phone calls from patients concerned they might have COVID-19. That first day was awful. I could not get away from it. With every phone call, my anxiety rose. I felt almost suffocated by the gravity of what was going on. That night I went home completely exhausted and emotional. I didn’t sleep well and I woke up the next morning wondering how I was going to keep doing this day in and day out for who knows how long.
That morning, I sat in prayer asking God to give me the tools and attitude I needed. I needed to keep serving my employer and the patients that needed me. And then I made a decision to trust Him to deliver. I had this newfound sense of determination without the weight of the world sitting on my shoulders. I was able to go to work with a positive attitude and be the calm in the storm. People needed that quiet restraint; that feeling that everything was going to be okay. They needed someone they trusted to tell them what to do. Knowing that there were steps to take to keep them well.
It’s having steps and a plan that will reduce whatever anxiety you’re having. It’s praying to God for strength that will get you through. Having someone to say your feelings out loud to will help wipe out that fear.
Who do you have in your life that can be that for you?
Can you be that for yourself? Are you able to remind yourself that that fear you’re experiencing is just a feeling and not the truth? Can you say, “I just can’t sit around doing nothing!” and muster up the courage to move? If you don’t have it in you, that’s okay. Not one of us has all our stuff together.
Find a friend to be your sounding board. And if you don’t have that kind of person in your life, I would encourage you to reach out to me for some coaching. Together, we can conquer the world – or at least your little corner of it!