I never thought I’d be actually writing on this topic… but the more people I talk to, the more this topic comes up. And I’d like to start by addressing the problem, the real elephant in the room: Most of us find being home uncomfortable because we don’t truly spend enough time alone with our thoughts.
Sure, things are scary with the actual virus and many people struggling to pay their bills and I by no means want to undermine the severity of these issues. But for 80% of us, the scariest part is the extra time our minds finally have to reveal in their true colors. Generally, our minds revert back to past traumas and how we handled those. While you may not be directly affected with the virus or financial stress, you’re most likely experiencing second hand anxiety by absorbing everyone else’s exhausting coping mechanisms spread all over social media.
There comes a point where it all becomes too much. You begin to sing someone else’s narrative to the point of not being able to recognize your own. And I want you to repeat this in your head immediately after reading because it’s important: We’re all doing our best to get through this unfamiliar occurrence. Just because others don’t agree with the way you’re handling your thoughts doesn’t mean you’re wrong. Trying your best, survival, and handling uncertainty are 3 separate intimidating experiences, do not feel bad for caring for yourself in a way that others may not necessarily agree with.
In the same breath, I’d also like to remind you that while the surrounding circumstance isn’t ideal, you don’t have to dread every moment of the day because the news tells to you. For some of my friends, they really needed this break from their busy lives as stress was beginning to manifest in unhealthy ways. For others, it may be a welcomed occasion to spend more time with their kids. It is what you make it, and how you perceive it to be will determine how you’ll walk through this season and every difficult one to follow.
This comes a bit more naturally for me as I’m a true homebody. I cherish time spent at home. My home is a cozy, spotless sanctuary that rejuvenates my physical and mental health. Every morning I look forward to a cup of coffee and a good book as if it were a therapy appointment. I put on headphones and tennis shoes to work out while jamming to an exciting playlist. I still get dressed in my self-appointed “uniform” of athleisure, even if I’m working from home.
So how can you possibly make the best of this time alone at home? Well, my first recommendation is to spend intentional time resting. Not on your phone, not watching tv, but like actual physical time to let your mind drift. If you’re the kind of person who’s mind spirals at the thought of “unstructured thinking,” then try a guided meditation to give it some direction. Before you can change those spiraling thoughts, quietly sit back and pretend the listening voice and the spiraling voices are two separate people having a conversation (because they actually are). Acknowledge that the spiraling voice is there, but know that you don’t have to give it the power to dictate your narrative. More in the book “The Untethered Soul” for this one!
Another recommendation I have, unsurprisingly, is to write in a journal. But not actually the traditional journaling we do in One Ray (which is quick and routinely), make this a special opportunity to go back through your mind and get thoughts out that are covered in cobwebs. I used to write fake letters to people who did me wrong (usually ex-boyfriends lol) and wouldn’t send them. If someone is stealing your joy simply by existing more than they should in your mind, time to either write a fake letter that never gets sent! Write it out, girl. Your mind is designed to come up with new ideas, not store old news. Write your fears, memories, your hopes and dreams, favorite quotes, favorite songs, and make it worth looking back over in 5, 10, and 30 years. I do that to my high school journals and crack up at things I thought were a priority back then.
Lastly, catch up with your family. This is something that was actually a wakeup call for me. Invite people you wouldn’t normally call out of the blue to a conversation of catching up on each other’s lives. This is something I’ve been really trying to do more in the past few months. Just about 2 months ago, my boyfriend and I hosted a small dinner party with my dad, aunt, uncle, cousin, and her boyfriend and honestly it was one of my favorite memories ever. Nothing big or exciting happened, just celebrating being together and laughing at memories was something to savor. I also feel like I’ve had more genuine, non-distracted conversations with my virtual patients or friends during quarantine because I suddenly don’t have a to do list of stupid obligations that occupy too much of my time for what they’re actually worth.
Chances are, we won’t get another opportunity to slow down. You can spend this time wallowing in the news, or you can use it as an opportunity for growth and re-acquainting yourself with your cobwebbed thoughts. The time will pass either way, how do you want to look back and remember this period of a collective, mandatory pause?