Yes, I made up that word, all by myself.
Anxiety is the word of the hour. As I sip my first cup of decaf for the day, I check in on my body and recognize the tinge that does not seem to go away completely. It dissipates at times, it waxes and wanes, but it does not leave my body completely. It’s maybe a thought, or a chest flutter, or a wave of HOLY *&%$!!! And then I realize, I better get used to coping with it because it could be here for a long time! I don’t want to feel nervous and be irritated with people. I want to be patient and kind. It’s not anyone’s fault we were plunged into a science fiction movie without any acting lessons!
Anxiety is a popular topic in my profession. What we know about it is that it stems from a place of feeling out of control and unsafe in some way. When we regain a sense of control, we tend to feel a lot better, can think more clearly, and are able to focus on what got us in that anxious mess in the first place. Typically, there are things we can stay in control of, even in an “out of control” situation. Case in point: The Covid-19 nightmare. Totally out of our control, but within this crisis there are things we can do to manage the anxious fallout.
So, here is what I am doing to try to alleviate some of the stress:
While "Sheltering In Place," be good to your shelter! On a good day, I want my environment to be organized and free of clutter, if possible. So, you can imagine, on a quarantine day, I really want the home space free of unnecessary stuff. Thankfully, I have my two adult children home with us for the quarantine. As great as that is, it means four separate work spaces so everyone can have desk space, video conferencing space, and a moment of privacy or peace if needed. We have a tiny house and too much stuff! So, I spent day one of quarantine cleaning out my office cabinets and organizing old desks. I gave lots of old school and office supplies to a neighbor whose kids will be at home for the coming months, and packed the trunk of the car with things for Goodwill, in case they open again for drop offs.
Never Never Land
I dream about retirement. I pine away for the day I don’t have to go to work if I don’t want to. I often fantasize about the creative tasks and projects I will accomplish. What I rarely think about however, is how unsettling and fluid it may feel to be without any structure. While I don’t want to be neurotic, I would like this time to feel fruitful in some way. So, because I am not actually retired and actually do have to work, I have to discipline and structure myself. It sounds obvious, but while looking ahead at a potential “no return to school until the Fall” scenario, I could easily drift off into never-never land.
I’m finding it difficult to stick to one task at a time. I begin with a kitchen chore, then get distracted by laundry, then take the dog out, then answer a few texts, then realize the reason I went into the kitchen in the first place, was to get some tea so I could sit down and do some work! Snap out of it Carrie! You still have reports to complete, parents to consult with, and Zoom meetings to attend!
But you don’t feel like doing all that responsible stuff, do you? You feel like you have a little crisis depression and you deserve to be on vacation, sleep more, drink wine, eat chocolate, and somehow escape the Twilight Zone. Well, you do deserve to treat yourself with some special extras, but with limits and boundaries. This could continue longer than we are being told right now, so we can’t have a whole world of Zombies sequestered in their homes. I think about post war trauma, entire cultures wiped out from natural disasters, millions in poverty, etc. And I wonder how humans survive all that stuff?
One day at a time, that's how.
Here is where my Quaroutine comes in. Just like I am recommending that parents of school-age children create a schedule for their kids who are home, I can create one for myself. I can pull out that ol’ sticker chart concept and reward myself if I follow the Quaroutine each day during this bizarre experience!
I’m creating structure based on a mixture of what I want to do and what I have to do. I won’t bore you with the hour to hour plan, but here is what I’m considering as I move forward. And some ideas for you too!
1. I think it will be important to treat the weekends like weekends. Each day could otherwise blend into the next, and I don’t want to slip into that illusion. So, if your regular life includes a standard Monday through Friday schedule, then stick to that. My husband works many nights and weekends, so his days off will be a weekday or two. I will have some Zoom meetings during the week, so that will help me feel like the weekdays are the work days, the evenings are for relaxing, and the weekends, are for …more relaxing, I guess! House chores, gardening, and more creative time!
2. I think it will help keep me sane if there is no television on before at least 6:00 PM each day. I know some would die with this rule, but I hate the sound of the TV on in the daytime. With the availability of streaming and the propensity for binge watching, I think we should all be careful not to have too much screen time. Not to mention how anxiety producing the news is! If you have young kids, or even teens in the house, then you are well aware of the need to limit screen time. As adults, I think we too need to pick up a book more and turn on Netflix less. Save the watching for the evenings. If you have a brood at home with you, then take turns picking the show or the movies, because it will be difficult to all agree on the same show night after night, month after month! Make one night a movie night, one night game night, one night for a show, one night for reading, one night for music. Mix it up!
3. Exercise 7 days per week, both indoor and outdoor. I have been walking once or twice a day and doing online exercise routines. I’m best if I get this done in the morning before work, as per my usual life. But it is fun to add another workout with my girls if they want to work up a sweat later in the day. The walks where I live are easy. We can avoid people by leaping off the sidewalk as we pass, and staying on paths that are still lovely and less traveled. Get the kids out too. I don’t think just back yard time is enough outdoor time. The benefits of gross motor movement combined with fresh air are huge. Good for your lungs, your heart, your skin, and definitely your spirit!
4. Don’t feel guilty for not getting up at a hideously early hour. Sleep in a bit, take time opening your eyes to face the creepy reality that we are in. In our normal lives, we tend to move quickly in the morning to get to the gym, get ready for work, and get out the door. It’s OK to slow way down right now. There is no gym to go to, no office to commute to, and no reason to rush. Set alarms in the house if you want, but set them for later than usual and allow for a different kind of pace in the morning. More time for decaf = more calm.
5. Write a list of what you will accomplish for work each day, and finish it! I have always been a BIG FAN of lists. My mother was a list maker, I am a list maker, and my kids are list makers. The satisfaction of crossing things off a list is just sublime! So, write a short list for the day and a longer list for the whole Quaroutine.
6. I’m scheduling a creative time each day to work on blogging and photography projects. What are the creative passions you have been neglecting? Now is your time to shine! No excuses! Learn Japanese watercolor painting, become a Bonsai expert, write poetry, do something to fulfill that creative soul who is battling the plague right now.
7. Learn a language for five minutes a day, at least! I have been neglecting my French lessons and Duolingo is scolding me regularly, telling me it is sad, and actually giving up on me. Très difficile.
8. Plan dinner in the morning so you know just what you are cooking, just what everyone wants, and most importantly, if you have to brave the market to get any items. In my house, this is really important. With the girls home, we have different dietary needs and desires. I typically wait until I come home from work and my husband and I casually figure something out for dinner. It involves a daily trip to the market down the street. That is not an option now, so BE PREPARED! We are not supposed to venture out to a store unless necessary. That is why people are stockpiling and going crazy. So, when you do shop, buy stuff you can freeze, so you don’t have to go that often.
9. Daily FaceTime with at least one of your favorite people out there who is beyond your six foot radius!
10. Spend time with your family (only the ones in your house)! As empty nesters, my husband and I are acutely aware of the rare gift we have with our girls at home for the quarantine. We don’t know how long this will last and we don’t want us all to remember the time as a horrible jail sentence! Spend the time together as quality time, building beautiful memories of this awful experience.
Now, pour a cup of decaf and please tell us about your Quaroutine?