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Stuff is weird right now. Here are seven tips to help you get through.

COVID-19 has wrought havoc on the societal norms we’ve taken for granted for so many years. The year 2020 will be remembered for its disruption of — well — everything. Not one industry, workplace, gathering, or group of people has remained untouched.

As a person with clinical anxiety and depression, keeping my own spirits afloat has been no easy task. Initially, I was overcome with fear, sadness, and the ever-present quandary: “What will the new normal be?” It was pure hell for at least three months.

Since then, I’ve found some peace in knowing I’m not in control, and that’s okay. Here are seven tips that have helped me breathe — sometimes literally — when the stress became overwhelming.

  1. Remind yourself that you are not alone in this situation. Millions of people worldwide have had their lives and routines disrupted. Every norm has been upended. From planning an event to going grocery shopping, there are more steps involved. We’re all equally miserable. As my bestie says, “I’ve come to grips with the fact that life is going to suck for a while, and that’s okay.” We are truly, undeniably #inthistogether.
  2. Do things that make you happy. For me, it’s setting and reaching goals at work, developing my skills at the art of watercolor, and walking down a wooded trail with my children. You may not be able to go to the bar to have a drink with friends, but you can invite them to come sit outside with you and talk. If you have a fire pit and a couple of camp chairs, bonus!
  3. Stay in touch with those you love. I found myself withdrawing from friends and relatives when COVID-19 initially hit. I felt drained, and I didn’t have enough energy to initiate a conversation. But talking with my two brothers always lights a little spark of happiness inside me and I take that with me through the day.
  4. Build a skill set. Yes, we’ve all made at least ten loaves of banana bread by now. But have you mastered the art of time management? Maybe you have an interest in graphic design. Watch YouTube videos or get a Skillshare subscription, buy supplies online, and get started. Read up on your favorite subject from high school or grab that banjo you inherited and start plucking away. This is the perfect time to invest in yourself.
  5. Volunteer. Local food banks have been challenged like never before and need help distributing supplies. Homeless shelters and mental health programs are overwhelmed. Offering a helping hand to others feels good and can help you make connections that will last a lifetime.
  6. Adopt a family for the holidays. Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services, the Salvation Army, and many local churches conduct these programs every year. Do some research and make someone else’s holidays super special.
  7. Don’t be too hard on yourself. This advice comes from my heart and my own personal experience. I spent a lot of time beating myself up for not being strong enough when the stress really started to hit. I am a longtime sufferer of clinical anxiety, and I had to realize that as a human being, I am vulnerable, and that’s okay. I am not impervious. I enlisted the help of a therapist to help me learn coping skills. A professional mental health counselor or therapist listens to what you’re telling them, and suggests ways to reduce the impact of stress. Hiring a therapist does not mean you’re crazy. It means you want to do more, be more, and have the skills to get through the hard parts of life.

Above all, remember that biologically, human beings have needs that cannot be met by smartphones alone.

We need more.

If you or someone you love is struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harm, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800–273–8255. Or text “HOME” to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Textline Counselor.

Esther Hofknecht Curtis is an independent writer and a professional in the field of mental health and substance use disorders. You can follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheArdentReader19977. If you or someone you love is struggling with thoughts of harming themselves or others,

Book nerd and freelance writer finding gold in ordinary places. Email me at ejhcurtis@gmail.com Visit https://www.facebook.com/TheArdentReader19977/

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