Social Distancing 101: The Unknown
Living with fear, frustration, and a whole lot of loneliness
We're all living in it right now. And truth be told, we've all probably felt moments of uncertainty in our lives before. They happen when we're forced to decide what we want to spend the rest of our lives doing or whether or not to move on from someone we know we're not meant to be with. But we can also be honest in saying, the kind of uncertainty binding the entire world together is a little different than any other kind of uncertainty we've experienced before.
So what exactly are we supposed to do when we, well, don't really know what to do—when we don't know how to prepare for what comes next because we don't know what comes next. Well, I'm no expert, because of course we're all in the same boat here. But there are a couple of practices I've put in place to help me sort out my thoughts and feelings regarding everything that's going on, and I want to share them with you in hopes that maybe you could use some of this clarity to your advantage as well.
Frustration is Okay
The world is very frustrating right now. We're frustrated at having to stay inside all of the time. Simultaneously we're frustrated at the people who are carelessly leaving their houses all the time because they're too frustrated with having to be inside all of the time. And we can even admit that sometimes we are those people that take an leisurely and unnecessary trip to the grocery store or to a restaurant that may have just recently opened up because we're so done with being frustrated at the fact that we've just spent over a month cooped up inside all of the time.
To add on to all of that, a lot of the plans we had for spring, summer, and possibly the entire year are now very up-in-the-air—assuming they haven't been postponed or canceled already. This can be anything from a graduation to a wedding. And I know frustration at a canceled event compares differently to the frustration one must feel at working twelve consecutive hours caring for people who are all alone in a time of need or constantly exposing yourself to a wide array of possible carriers because someone needs to make sure the grocery stores are stocked. But that doesn't mean missing out on a big milestone isn't just as heartbreaking.
Many of my career moves and travel plans are being forced to a halt. And it isn't an easy thing to accept. At times I find myself getting irrationally angry or upset, and that's okay. Remember that you are entitled to these feelings. Also remember that you are not the only one that feels them. Lean on those with similar stories. Find a way to cope together. This frustration likely isn't going anywhere any time soon, so let's learn to grow from this and come out the other side together.
Productivity Isn't Necessary
I've been seeing a lot of news articles and social media stories of people who are learning new skills or starting businesses or redecorating bedrooms, and I have to say I am always incredibly impressed. And then I become incredibly stressed. Because have I really done anything except the bare minimum when it comes to producing new writing content and finding the optimal pillow ratio when watching Netflix in bed? No, no I have not.
I told myself that with more time spent inside and less time at work or with friends, I should have more time to build my brand, learn a new language for my next trip abroad, or even write my next book. But some days it would honestly feel like I lost time and I would just be disappointed if I didn't get everything checked off of my to-do list. More disappointed than I did if this had happened to me before practicing quarantine because what excuse did I have to not be productive? Often times when I get stressed, I tend to overwork myself to the point where I then no longer want to do anything even remotely related to work for at least the next three days. Let's just say this cycle repeated itself multiple times over in the last two months.
When I finally sat down to analyze this behavior, I realized that my days had the exact same number of hours while I was in quarantine as the number of hours before I started quarantine. I wasn't working at the time, so I just assumed I would fill those working hours with building upon myself and maintaining a high level of productivity. But I didn't take into account the mental and emotional toll just having to be in quarantine would take on me. Like we've already talked about, it's hard. And some days you don't want to get out of bed at six in the morning just to move to your desk in the corner of the room. You don't want to change out of your comfortable sweatpants and you don't want to pretend like your dog isn't just begging for your attention now that he's realized you're actually staying home.
It's okay if every workday isn't actually a work day while you're on lockdown. Everyone needs a break every now and then, but while you're in quarantine you can't exactly take a break from quarantine. And not being able to have a change of pace or experience something new every day is hard for some, so don't add that extra expectation of creating a new app or writing a new book.
If you're quarantining alone, my heart goes out to you. I'm fortunate enough to be locked away at my parent's house in my hometown. And while sometimes I wish I could quarantine myself from my family, I do have to admit that it's quite nice to have a constant source of conversation and connection with while we're all having to enforce some regular distance.
Now, before you get upset at this subtitle, give me a second to explain. Loneliness is going to happen to you while you're practicing the recommended form of social distancing in your region. It's going to be especially hard if you're someone like me who thrives in social situations. And while digital calls and care packages are a very thoughtful way to supplement some of that need for human interaction, it's definitely not going to compare to having brunch with your girlfriends or cuddling with that special someone.
When you do find yourself experiencing loneliness, try understanding this form of sadness by sitting in it for a couple of minutes. It's difficult to prolong a painful feeling like this, but I truly believe that sitting in your loneliness is one of the best ways to understand it. And if you can understand situations that make you feel lonely, you can put action steps in place to help combat those feelings.
You can't go outside right now. You can't attend your favorite music festival. You can't fly to visit your grandmother for her birthday. And that sucks. And it makes you feel helpless and lonely. But think about what you can do. Think about what you can do to help fight off those feelings and remain as hopeful as you can for a time when we can all rejoin the world.
It can be so easy to lose hope as you move forward during the timeline of this virus. And acknowledging that is good. Everybody is going to handle their respective situations differently, mainly because, well, every situation is going to be a little bit different. But we truly are all struggling in one form or another, so remember to be kind and just keep moving forward.