Welcome the Weird of COVID-19
Did you go to a New Year’s Eve party to ring in the 2020 new year? Or maybe watch the ball drop in NYC? People were bursting with excitement for a new decade. The memes full of hope and joy, and people seemed unified in the desire to kick 2019 to the curb and ring in a bright, shiny new year full of possibilities and renewal. It seemed 2020 wasn’t full of pizzazz from the very beginning. My wife was heartbroken for Australia as the brush fires destroyed the land and animals. To make January more tragic, Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gigi and seven other passengers lost their lives in a shocking accident. “Anything can happen in a moment’s notice” was an overall theme in January. The news started covering the coronavirus, something we all know now as COVID-19. None of us in the US knew how serious it would become, even after seeing Italy go on lockdown. From being in large groups and social settings in early March to a nationwide emergency, March showed the ability to change on a moment’s notice. Still, most of society thought a quick two-week quarantine was all that was in store. Fast forward to everything canceled, parents homeschooling, Zoom becoming a household name, the outrage over the death of George Floyd, and a presidential election; let’s say chaos has been 2020’s middle name. From flattening the curve to staying socially distanced, people feel emotional, lonely, depressed, and grief for their lives back when things were “normal.”
I’m wondering, what if we stop trying to find a new “normal” and stop trying to return to our old routine, and instead acknowledge that all of this is flat out bizarre. Yet in the odd circumstances, what if we used this as an opportunity to learn something. Learn to be in the moment. Please stop trying to rush back to the past or fast forward to the future. What if we can see there is something remarkable happening. Do we just need to welcome the weird? I think YES.
Welcome the weird with these three tips: Tip #1: Get Groovy
Before COVID-19, my guess is you were in a chaotic routine and didn’t think twice about the stress it caused. This crazy busy life you led was all about MORE MORE MORE. Early morning commute to school and work, work all day, pick up kids from school, then take the kids to soccer and dance, cook dinner, and accomplish a to-do list of things from laundry to checking in with friends and family. Squeeze in grocery shopping, dog walking, play-dates, date nights, gym sessions, and church on Sunday.
I bet you had more things to do than you even realized. It was your groove. Now that COVID-19 has been around for a little while, it’s time to find a new groove. Maybe you’re working from home on Zoom. Maybe you’re homeschooling from the kitchen counter. Now, whatever the case is, it is a great time to evaluate what is important to you and get in a new groove.
Which activities are a top priority for your mental health? If you thrive in social settings, perhaps setting up 30-minute Zoom mid-week with 1–3 friends is what you need. Or maybe you love sweating with friends at the gym. Try exploring the outdoors with a friend or purchase workout equipment that offers a community at home to participate with others. Just because you can’t sit in a bar with friends or go to the gym doesn’t mean you can’t get in the groove. You might even find that trimming the fat from ALL of the things to focusing on one or two of the things you love brings you more satisfaction than you thought possible. Get creative and get groovy. Your mental health is worth it!
Tip #2: Keep Your Valuables Safe
I think a silver lining in this pandemic is that it has helped me focus on what matters. Think about how busy you were before COVID-19. You were probably on autopilot with obligations. Now, you have the opportunity for a do-over. What is of utmost importance to you? What is it you truly value? Here are a few ideas on how to keep your valuables safe:
- Connection with loved ones looks very different right now. But you don’t have to give it up or sacrifice it. Zoom face to face, schedule a call, start a Facebook group, or sit outside at the park 6-feet apart in lawn chairs. You can connect with whomever you want, and you can also cut the cord on toxic relationships from the past. Connect with only those who make you happy and value you.
- Spontaneity. Do you remember just scheduling a weekend excursion or maybe even just pulling over to the next store that called your name? Now it seems you need to calculate everything. “Do I really need X? What else do I need to make the trip worthwhile? Can I wait until next week? Is travel worth the risk? Is travel worth the stress?” So many questions and planning, it robs you the joy of being spontaneous and fun. Have you heard “the best things in life are free”? Now more than ever, put this to practice. Take a drive and let the car tell you where to go. Find a new place to go camping or hiking, or even get takeout from somewhere you’ve never tried. Think outside the box, and soon your clipped wings will be taking you to new heights.
- Count your blessings. Teach your kids (and yourself) you’re blessed, even in this season of life. Right now, there are so many people hurting and suffering. One way to count blessings is to start a gratitude journal. But there are also ways to give back to the community, and soon won’t even notice the inconveniences of COVID-19. Some ideas: bake for a neighbor, make/send a card to a nursing home, donate blood or platelets, sew masks, knit blankets/socks for the homeless, clean out the closet or attic or basement and make a donation to a shelter, or foster a pet. The key is to take the focus off yourself and place the love onto others.
- Your mental health. Some days you might binge Netflix, you might be planning the next big business idea the following days. Know that you can do whatever suits you at the moment. Take the opportunity we are in to learn a new skill or hobby (skillshare is excellent!) or to unwind with the Tiger King (no judgment here!). The choice is yours, and you don’t have to do one or the other! There’s room for both.
Before COVID-19 was a thing, my guess is you were in groundhog day. Use this time as a way to restart yourself. Have you ever had a problem with your laptop or phone, and someone said, “Have you tried turning it off and then back on again?” Yep, treat yourself the same way. Unplug and then plug back in. But this time, only plug into the things that charge your battery, not the things that drain you.
Tip #3: You Can Cope and Have Hope
Right now, it might feel like the pandemic is never-ending and apocalyptic. We lose sight of handling the stress of it all and yearn for the life ‘before’ because it was so much more familiar than all of 2020 thus far. But trust me, you can cope with all of this, and one way to do so is to have hope and not despair. Hope means positive self-talk, using words of encouragement. Turn off the news and negativity the world is emoting. 6 months ago, you might not have believed all the things your social media feed contains. And despite all of this new and different stress, here you are. You’ve made it. You’ve done it. You’ve gotten through because you have no choice. You’ve gotten through because you’re strong and have coping skills. You’ve been sad and scared and annoyed and frustrated and inconvenienced. But you’ve also had extra time with your family, you’ve been given an opportunity to re-prioritize, you’ve been given extra time to learn about yourself.
So have hope and pride for all you’ve gotten through. 2020 might not be everything you thought it would be on New Years’ Eve last year but it can still be positive. Keep that gratitude journal I mentioned above, and create a new groove. None of this is normal. None of us want this to be our new normal. Despite everything, welcome the weird. You got this.
Originally published at https://aaronbouren.com on September 1, 2020.