Managing Through a Strange and Stressful Time
Staying strong and ahem… sane.
I'll be honest.
Who among us hasn't felt the urge to snap in times of intense stress? For those of us who have been sideline to addiction, alcoholism, dysfunction, trauma or abuse, we know firsthand what it's like to navigate extreme stress, toxic situations and unimaginable difficulties.
However, with the turn of events surrounding the Corona virus, in these past few weeks everything has shifted into high gear when it comes to all that is strange and stressful.
Most of us are participating in social distancing, which has included altering our professional lives to remain home around the clock; only venturing outdoors for isolated activities and to run necessary errands.
We have witnessed (but hopefully not been guilty of) the surges of "panic buying" and hoarding of essential items such as toilet paper and bottled water from the grocery stores.
It's been weird.
I decided to make a list of the key elements that have been personally keeping me structured and somewhat sane.
You are welcome to my strategies, as much as I invite you to create your own.
More than ever, taking care of me is showing up in moments of stress. I have learned that taking the time to take care of myself creates an inner wellness that kicks in when confronted with stress.
This ranges from from a regular morning routine of prayer, breathing and meditation, along with a morning run and yoga in the evening—when I can get it all in.
If I can't get to it, I'm okay with that. Self-care should never feel like a burden.
Self-care also includes the the books I read, what I write or blog about, and the podcasts I fill up on.
As well as the shower and skincare products I love.
It all factors in to how I’m feeling.
Running every morning has kept me present, disciplined and grounded. As much as it's helped me physically, it impacts me mentally and emotionally.
But it doesn’t have to be running.
Taking a walk, doing 50 jumping jacks, yoga, workout videos, etc., doing something to break a sweat and get the body moving daily does a world of good for us.
Especially when things are as intense as they are right now.
Structure is stability.
For me, sticking to a routine feels safe and sane. When it feels like the whole world is on fire, focusing on what time I start work, load the laundry, go for a walk, and so on, are incredibly comforting outlets.
CONNECT WITH OTHERS
I’m an introvert by nature. I can go hours, even days or more without taking to anyone. Connecting is something I have to do on purpose.
That said, isolation is not good for anyone. It’s important to stay connected. I believe in the concept of Unbuntu that Nelson Mandela spoke of (I wrote about this in my 2nd book, Unbroken, regarding my family's strategy for being "Divorced, but not Divided").
The concept implies that we are all bound together in ways invisible to the eye. There is a oneness to humanity; we need one another.
We achieve this by sharing ourselves with others, and taking care of one another.
When this concept is healthy and in place (such as in support groups, among other conscious relationships), there is no limit to how our lives improve.
During this time of separating, online recovery meetings and apps such as FaceTime, Zoom, House Party or Skype are good options for eye to eye contact with others.
And they're kind of fun!
Now is also a good time to reach out in some "old school" ways, such as writing a letter and sending it by mail.
Random calling, emailing, or sending cards to friends and family more often (and taking more time to do it), can fortify our social life.
These are beautiful gestures, and sometimes things we don’t do as much in this day and age. And what a joy to be on the receiving end!
WHERE'S MY FOCUS?
Bad news travels fast and is not always accurate.
I'll be honest, I keep catching myself getting sucked in to negativity. I try to be aware of what I'm feeling and why, I then can reroute my mind to what is real, accurate, and healthy.
Constant news watching and/or having conversations with alarmists and people who are prone to worst case scenario perceptions might not be the best practice through this intense time.
For me, when things seem dreary and distressing, it feels healthy to limit contact with those who create upset, as well as to turn off the news and social media.
It's okay to socially distance ourselves from that. We are not called to live in fear, terror or torment.
Having faith, for me, is an absolute lifeline. I can't get through a day without turning to it, much less a time of pandemic and quarantine.
I try to remain in constant connection with faith and my processes of healing and wise decision making.
My system isn't perfect, but it's working.
Peace is my GPS. The more peace and strength I have, the more I know I am on the right track.
Taking breaks to do things like breathing exercises, stepping outside to walk in the grass and so on… long enough to pause and think about what is actually happening in this moment, are great ways to separate from chaos, worry and drama.
Think for a moment.
Right now, in this moment… nothing new is happening.
We are okay.
All is well.
Not everyone is an animal lover, but for those of us who are—they are great emotional support.
Our two cats make us laugh throughout the day with their unique personalities, and give a sense of warmth and coziness at night when they lounge alongside us.
And recently, we got a new puppy! Winston has added so much happiness and love to our home. He has been a perfect addition to our lives, and at a perfect time.
Pets pull us into the now.
Animals help to put our minds on something else that needs taken care of, instead of focusing on ourselves.
They also give us unconditional love and loyalty.
In my opinion, pets are right up there with great therapy or a trip to the spa.
PROJECTS AND GOALS
Working on myself, my health and fitness, my character defects, and things I want to improve is a great place to focus pent up energy.
Setting a goal or starting a project like increased running distance, new articles and podcasts, a household improvement project, etc. through this time assures that we come out of it better than we went into it.
It's important to be mindful and aware. But not respond to whatever is going on as if our hair is on fire.
Let’s not get on board with fear, terror or panic. That’s torment. Panic leads to selfish, wild decisions.
Slow it down.
Pause and think.
Above all, let's take life a day at a time—with moments to breathe, work on productive and uplifting things, assess ourselves and consider our reality—while maintaining a kindhearted attitude toward others.
It's possible, especially when it's intentional.
This is how I’m choosing to manage in this WEIRD, strange and stressful time.
I do believe this: once it’s over we’ll be stronger for it.
We’ll be grateful for the return of conveniences we’ve missed, and all of the excesses we normally have access to.
Looking back over this chapter of life, I believe we can be proud of how we handled it.
And more than anything… when this is all over—the most important thing will be how we treated one another.
I wish you well,
For other posts by Annie Highwater, click here.
Annie Highwater is a Writer, Speaker, Podcast Host and Family Advocate. She has a particular interest in family pathology and concepts of dysfunction, addiction, alcoholism and conflict. Annie published her memoir, Unhooked: A Mother’s Story of Unhitching from the Roller Coaster of Her Son’s Addiction, in 2016. Her story sheds light on the personal challenges facing the affected parents and family members, and illustrates how family dynamics both help and hinder the recovery process. Annie’s second book, Unbroken, Navigating the Madness of Family Dysfunction, Addiction, Alcoholism and Heartache was published in August of 2018. She resides in Columbus, Ohio and enjoys writing, long distance running, hiking, the great outdoors and visiting her son in California as often as possible.