• Christen Murphy, LMFT

What I've Learned From Corona Virus

I know we're all probably very tired of hearing about COVID-19 by now, and I promise this won't be another post specifically about the virus.


In this time of having extra time, of having less to do, and more time to think and reflect there are some things that have really stood out to me that I wanted to share.


Nobody really knows how to respond to change.

We all expect things to stay the same forever even though we know logically they won't and they can't. When change happens, panic sets in and most people respond illogically (here is where the panic buying of all of the toilet paper comes in). Even if you weren't panic buying toilet paper when COVID-19 hit, it's likely that you did something that was illogical during that time or at a minimum something that was out of character for you.


Change brings uncertainty. "What should I be doing right now?", "What do I need to be doing right now?", "How do I feel about this?" I can't even tell you the number of times I've asked myself those or similar questions over the past two weeks and I would venture to guess that we're all feeling uncertain right now in some way during this time whether it be about work, finances, schedules, homeschooling, etc.


We all need some slow down in our lives.

Our world moves so fast so much of the time and I don't even think we realize it until a crisis or some outside force happens that makes us slow down. We get so used to operating at 75 mph that we don't even know how to function at 50 mph or 30 or 15.


Here's a perfect example: My husband is a workaholic. If you know him, you know that he is constantly thinking about work, at work, emailing about work, strategizing about work and that is just his nature. When he is invested into something, he is all in. That is one of his strong suits (and can also be a downfall at times). I feel completely comfortable sharing this online because we've discussed it often between us! And, because he works so hard and is constantly on-the-go, he rarely gets sick. I seriously think his immune system just knows that he doesn't have time to be sick and so it just fights off whatever whenever because it knows that it's just not the time. So, fast forward to ANYTIME we take a vacation that he has paid time off where he isn't working.. What do you think happens? He gets sick. Every. Single. Time. When his body slows down just enough, his immune system is like "okay friends, here's every virus and nasty crud that we've fought off all year all at once." Literally, there was a period of time where we were traveling out of the country and I was packing our entire medicine cabinet each time because I just KNEW that he would be sick during our vacation. And, he was. *Inset eye roll here.*


I say all of that to say... we need some slow down and we need it regularly to be consistently well. In the past few years that my husband has consistently taken more time to put his phone down and take a day (or two) to be present in the moment and take some time for himself outside of work, he doesn't get sick on vacation! (YAY for him and for us!) The other plus to this is that he gets to enjoy himself consistently on weekends, evenings, and other random times that we choose during the year. A little slow down has been better for him, for our relationship, and better for his ability to be purposeful and productive at work while he's there too.


We have to start taking care of ourselves better, friends. We have to start diligently taking the time to do what our bodies and minds need to keep us happy and healthy and we have to do it regularly. Here is a cute graphic of the different types of self-care and some examples of each that might be helpful in considering how we can care for ourselves in different ways, many of which require slowing down and taking time to heal and be healthy.



A "mental health" crisis can be triggered quickly for a lot of people.

Working in mental health, this is something that I've known and recognized for a long time, but I really wanted to point this out for several reasons. We often be-bop around and believe ourselves to be immune and resistant to the problems of the world and I'm here to tell you that this isn't the case. When our world is dramatically changed almost overnight, our mental health can and will be impacted as a result. The question is, are we prepared to take care of it?


I also want to mention that with this you can insert the words "financial", "health", "existential", "family", "relationship", among others in place of "mental health" above and the words remain true. During this time right now we are at risk more now than ever of bad things happening. I don't mean to be vague here, but the truth remains that bad things result from other bad things. It's like the metaphor that once a crack starts in ice, cracks start showing up other places too. When people start social distancing at home to prevent the spread of a virus, people start losing jobs due to less people out shopping and spending money; marriages start to crumble as a result of spending more time at home and increased financial strain; small businesses start to shut their doors permanently and the cracks spread further throughout a society.


We are inherently strong and capable as humans.

Despite what is thrown at us and all of the challenges we face, we find a way to make things work. When schools are shut down, we teach ourselves how to homeschool our children. When stores are out of hand sanitizer, we find and share 17 recipes of how to make our own with ingredients in our own cabinets. It may not be the most convenient way or the way that it's been traditionally done, but we find a way to make it work and we get by. And you know what's incredible? Most of us are also making sure that the people around us are getting by too. That warms my heart so much!


What is most important will remain.

What is important to us will remain over time; it will persist despite the chaos, despite the noise about the virus and the important things will remain relevant and present to us in the midst of everything else going on. What are those things?


I see a world focused on connection. I see people wanting to connect with friends, with family, with loved ones. I see people on social media whether it be Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, insert your social media platform here, etc. We are all focused on connecting with people we care about and that hasn't changed.


I see groups of people committed to helping one another no matter the sacrifice. I see medical professionals, delivery workers, sales associates, utility workers, pharmacy technicians, grocery stockers, management teams, teachers and school officials, and so many more people out of the front lines working long hard hours to make sure that communities continue to thrive and operate despite so many others being ordered to shut down.


I see post after post urging the public to support small businesses in any way they can whether it be through ordering meals to-go, making donations where requested or needed, purchasing gift cards from salons and businesses forced to shut down, etc.


So, what does all of this mean?

There's no right way to handle a pandemic. We're all losing our minds a little in trying to find the "right" things to be doing. I do think we all need to slow down a little and give our bodies and minds a break.


If you are one of those people hoarding all of the things, put down the toilet paper at the grocery store and save some for the people who really need it. No, seriously. Put down the toilet paper. There will be enough for everyone if we all remember to have some humanity in us. We are all in this together.


Here are some other helpful things to consider.:

  • Have a little patience and a little grace for the people around you. We are all at some level going through this pandemic. Let's try to be on one another's side rather than against each other.

  • Get outside. Social distancing is SO, SO, SO important and please keep doing that, but no one said you can't sit on your porch or go for a walk. Seriously the best I've felt in these few weeks is after a walk with my dogs in the park. We kept 8 feet away from everyone else. We didn't touch anything. We just walked and felt the sunshine. If you have to be in your house or apartment, open your windows and doors and let some air in. I promise it will do your body some good!

  • Interact with people you care about in new ways! I've been trying to send some cards out to people, writing some little handwritten notes, etc. I've always loved receiving them personally and as I said earlier in this post, connection is what is remaining even during the darkness of this virus. Even if you don't have someone to write to, write or draw something for a local nursing home! There are so many people that are feeling isolated and down right now that could use a pick-me-up. It'll help you to do it and it'll help the ones who receive it as well.

  • One of the big cues into diagnosing depression is social isolation so it's a very tottery slope that we are placing ourselves in to be socially distancing in the name of health. Even worse for those with a history of mental illness. How are you checking on those around you? How do we define "checking on" someone during such a critical time? How can you be more diligent in doing your part with the people around you? (Stick around for my next blog post where I discuss this and how to recognize and recommend mental health treatment for a family member!)


Stay well friends!

 

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