By Judith Roemer
I don’t know if it’s the same for you, but Week 4 of social distancing and #SaferatHome has gotten a little old in my household. The initial novelty of working from home and having breakfast, lunch and dinner (and snacks….so, so many snacks) with my husband has lost its early glow. Even the dog is weary of her human roommates and seems to relish alone time.
Yet, the positive impact of our collective effort is evident. The current projection for the peak of COVID outbreak in Wisconsin is now seven to 10 days earlier than initially projected. Our individual and community sacrifices are making a difference in the trajectory of this pandemic. However, to keep that trajectory flattened, it’s likely you and I (and the dog) will have bear a few more weeks of this: this isolation, this one-day-same-as-the-last, this uncertainty about what comes next.
In psychological and spiritual terms, this time is called the liminal space. It’s when life seems to pause and we sit in a limbo of sorts, almost like we’re in a cosmic waiting room, pacing and watching the clock as we wait for something to happen. Waiting is hard… ask any 6-year-old. The distance between what we want and what is seems tangible, but still out of reach. The stress of uncertainty should not be underestimated. It puts our body in a mild, but chronic flight or fight response.
There are also very real, very significant stressors brought about by this experience. Many of us or our loved ones are working in the healthcare and public safety fields and risk exposure daily. Many have found that their jobs are considered ‘non-essential’ and now must figure out how pay the bills. And many find themselves trying to balance roles of employee/student/home-school teacher. The bottom line: This experience is stressful, no matter your circumstances.
There’s lots of advice out there about how to manage stress, but ultimately the best stress relievers are the ones that work for you. A few things have helped me bear the uncertainty of the past three weeks; I’m sharing them in hopes they are helpful to you too:
- Find ways to connect with others. Technology offers many options for this, but so does talking across the street or out your window to your neighbors. If you are struggling to connect with someone during this time, reach out! There are state and national helplines to connect you to resources.
- Take care of your body. This includes showering, eating regularly (and healthfully when able) and moving. There is a reason people in waiting rooms pace; movement is an outlet for anxiety.
- Go easy on yourself. Have you even been in a pandemic before? Me neither. Hold yourself accountable but keep your expectations reasonable.
- Find meaning where you can. If you are in a helping profession, you are already providing immeasurable service to our community and we are so lucky to have your service. If helping isn’t your profession, there are still many ways to be of service to others including the people in your circle. Find a way to make a difference, even if it seems small. As Mother Theresa said, ‘We can’t all do great things, but we can all do small things with great love’.
Now more than ever is the time for small things. We’ve seen how those small acts, like staying home, are making a difference in our community and our state. Small things can make a difference in our daily lives too. What small thing can you do to make a difference for yourself or someone else today?
Roemer is a licensed professional counselor at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay, Wis. For help within Wisconsin, dial 211 or click here. For help outside of Wisconsin, contact the National Disaster Distress Hotline at (800) 985-5990.