After voluntarily entering self-isolation three days ago, I’ve come to a startling discovery.
Working from home, barely seeing people, meetings over Skype and phone, very little human contact… I have been voluntarily self-isolating for the better part of three years of my life.
I’m an introvert who runs her own businesses from home, and I really thrive on working alone and not having a lot of human interaction throughout my workday.
And up until now, I’ve been exceptionally content with that arrangement, each day for the last several years.
Since the coronavirus outbreak, and Canada going into voluntary self-isolation as a country, the only real change is that my husband is now also working from home. He’s in his basement office, I’m on the top floor in my everyday office. We occasionally cross paths in the kitchen during a workday.
What I’m trying to say is that outwardly and logistically my life has not changed AT ALL since the coronavirus outbreak. Everything for me should be business as usual.
And yet, everything has changed.
I’m an anxious mess. I’m exhausted all the time, focusing on work is harder than ever before, and I feel more drained than I have in years.
That is why I am here to tell you, friends and readers who are now working from home and beating yourselves up for feeling exhausted or unproductive all the time, no, you’re not lazy.
What you’re feeling is entirely normal, and completely reasonable.
And here’s why:
Over the last few decades, positive self-talk has been a main topic of motivational and inspirational speakers.
It’s a main topic because it’s a practice that works. The more you speak to yourself in a positive way, the more positively you feel about yourself.
This theory also applies to the flip scenario — the more negative messaging you receive in the run of a day, the less good you’re going to feel about yourself and the world.
Social media is drowning in coronavirus content, messages of warning, panicked posts and things that just make us feel anxious and scared.
This results in us constantly feeling worried or burdened, and that feeling never really going away.
We truly underestimate how much energy it takes from us to be able to navigate and manage life when being bombarded with harmful, negative messaging at all hours of the day.
It’s no wonder we’re exhausted! Even if life feels normal in every other outward respect, our internal psychology is being tormented and constantly put down with each piece of negative messaging we consume throughout this crisis.
Really obvious negative messaging that we have a visual and tangible example of aside, there are also the subconscious (but in no way small) concerns that are swimming around in the back of our minds at all times.
My current ones look like this:
This very direct and visible/audible negative messaging is taking a real toll on us.
But so are the subconscious, unique worries that we’re each personally carrying based on their own specific circumstances. These are draining some of the last bits of energy we have left at the end of the day.
Talk to anyone who struggles with regular mental health difficulties, and they’ll tell you the same thing:
Trying to manage declining mental health is an incredibly exhausting existence.
I suffer from PTSD because of past trauma, and a constant undercurrent of anxiety is a normal in my life. Most of the time, I can manage it quite well.
But when there are spikes in my PTSD, my anxiety is through the roof, I’m constantly trying to ward off panic attacks and the like… f*ck, that takes all of the energy I possibly have in me to deal with.
Even basic things like cooking become difficult on those days. Because all I’m trying to do in that circumstance is survive.
We are in survival mode. Survival mode is stocked full of adrenaline and being on high alert and constantly having to look over our shoulders. All of these things demand energy from us, and we only have so much energy in the bank for use every day.
And while we can message and call one another and hop on a video chat with loved ones, these days it really is different from usual. We can’t grab a coffee with a friend, or pop over to share a bottle of wine.
We’re missing out on really important and significant quality time with loved ones and our community. And that makes us feel quite lonely.
Things are really hard right now. And it’s okay to feel that way.
For everyone out there who is working remotely when normally they would go to an office and are really struggling with that balance, you need to know that you’re not failing.
You need to know that what you’re doing to maintain a routine, look after your mental health and do all you can to keep yourself healthy and fed and taken care of is more than enough in this current circumstance.
In times of great crisis, survival is the only expectation you need to have of yourself.
On my really bad days with my PTSD, my only goal for myself is to do the bare minimum and survive the day until I go to bed. As long as I’ve gotten through my day, I go to bed proud of myself.
Because desperate times call for desperate measures. And we are in desperate times right now.
You need to stop beating yourself up and recognize that you’re doing the best you can and you should be proud of yourself for that.
It’s okay to go to bed earlier than usual. It’s okay to feel a little melancholy right now. It’s okay to need to have emergency calls with friends because your mental health is really taking a toll.
All of these inner, psychological difficulties we’re now having to manage each day demand an exceptional amount of energy from us. We are not limitless when it comes to how much energy do we have in a day. We have a cap, and that’s it.
Once it’s used, there isn’t any left.
So be gracious with yourself during this time. Be gracious with your body and your mind as it deals with both physical and mental tolls which are a direct symptom of the current crisis that is taking place.
You don’t have to excel in everything you do right now. It’s frankly unfair and unrealistic to expect that out of yourself. Right now, your main goal is to keep yourself safe and healthy, and to get through the day in one piece.
That may not sound like a very lofty goal, but coming from a person who has to navigate difficult circumstances now again with her own mental health, on the really hard days that is a substantial goal.
Breathe. Make a cup of tea or coffee. Turn on some soothing music. Text or call a loved one. Light every candle you have in your house. Have an afternoon nap. Take vitamin D if you have it on hand.
And most importantly, be kind to yourself. Be gracious in your own self-messaging. Close your social media apps and open a book instead. Once every hour, stand outside for at least a minute and just soak up the sun. Remind yourself that you’re going to be okay, and that this will pass.
We’re going to get through this. On a global scale, we are unified in an act of solidarity of overcoming and navigating today’s circumstances.
You’re not alone in this. We’re in this together.