10 Tips for Managing Overwhelm During COVID-19
How to ensure you and your family stay healthy and well during the pandemic crisis.
This unprecedented time of COVID-19 and worldwide pandemic is extremely tough, on so many levels. Families and households have been disrupted, people have lost jobs and homes; many businesses have closed their doors and others continue to struggle wondering how long they can make it in a time like this, keep their staff, keep their doors open, and keep pivoting as the seasons change. And there are still many unknowns until COVID is behind us.
Millions of children, starting as young as Preschool, are participating in online learning, many sitting for long hours, with short breaks, isolated, often alone, and bored. In other cases, children are sitting in busy households trying to find space to learn and focus each day.
Times are hard and we were unprepared.
In situations that are seemingly out of control, how do we find balance and peace, not only for ourselves, but for those we love and care about? The answer is not simple nor straightforward. But, there are some tips we can use to help move us through this time and manage the stress of the new normal. Let’s take a look at the following ten tips.
Tip # 1: Release what you are unable to control.
To make it through this time and sustain my mental/physical energy and health, I have been forced to scale back and release control of many things. This is especially true for items that are just not essential right now. I have reduced expectations for myself (and for my family), and no longer strive for A+ work 100% of the time. Instead, I focus intently on making it through each day with peace, resilience, a keen awareness, and a positive mindset, being very aware that each day is volatile, and that control is scarce.
Especially during this time, we need to take care of ourselves first and foremost and leave unreasonable expectations behind. To do this, we need to keep our health in check and move forward at a sustainable pace that works for each of us (and for our families). Everyone’s pace is different, and your pace will change each day, depending on what’s going on within your household and all around you. Take on one day at a time and move through each day with focus and grace. We are human, and only have so much energy within us. That is a fact.
Our energy, both mental and physical, can only take us so far. And right now, we are in survival mode, doing our best each day; that is all we can do. Release what seems unessential right now; release what you are unable to control during this unprecedented time.
Tip # 2 Take it day by day.
To limit stress in my day, with my family and in my business, I am constantly checking in with myself and setting reasonable goals and expectations for each day. I also try not to get disappointed if I do not get everything accomplished for that day. Each day, I create a “to do” list of my priority items, and a few “extras” if the time allows. I try hard to only focus on this list and remind myself to take the day moment-by-moment. Then, when a spontaneous shift in my schedule arrives (and it often does!), I can adapt with more ease, as I am prepared and expecting unknowns. During this time, we need to be adaptable and flexible. Limit your stress and any potential overwhelm by checking in with yourself regularly and taking things day by day.
I generally do not spend time looking back on simpler, predictable pre pandemic times, unless there was a great learning I want to reflect on and use now. And of course, I complain sometimes; we are human after all! Giving myself the flexibility to be human allows me to be okay with this way of life for now and roll with the shifts, unknowns and struggles as best I can. It is a survival mentality, and it is helping me take care of my family, my business, my health, and my family’s overall health and wellness. That is all that can be expected when we are simply trying to survive.
Tip # 3 Have open, ongoing conversations.
I try to have ongoing conversations with friends and family, and with my twelve-year-old son, so we can each check in, share how we are doing on any given day. I have found it beneficial to get things out, connect, share our stories, struggles, challenges, and our need for help or advice sometimes. We also share helpful ideas, things we are grateful for, and any good news to report.
This time is tough, but there are still good things happening around us. I love hearing happy, positive, success stories during this time, more than ever before. It gives me tremendous joy, inspiration and reminds me that there are still good and wonderful things happening around us, even when it’s really, really tough.
We cannot ignore or discount that this is the most trying time we have ever experienced in our lives. With that, it is important to share with people, vent, ask for advice or help. We simply can’t go at it alone… which leads me to tip # 4!
Tip # 4: Do NOT go at it alone. Reach out. Ask for help.
In today’s world, we are often quick to glorify the strong and independent — the one who is able to pull herself up by her bootstraps and do it alone. However, we were not made to be isolated and do it alone!
I have gotten much better at asking for help when I need it, from friends, neighbors, my husband, and my son. I simply cannot go at this alone. Especially during this time, I encourage you to reach out for help. Talk with others about how you are coping, your struggles, what you need during this time. And if technology is the only option, connect through technology if you are feeling isolated. Join trusted and reputable support groups to get lifted up or re-inspired. Leverage virtual therapy resources like talkspace─ they are reachable 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. We need to rely on others now more than ever. And we need to have honest, open conversations if we are going to work through and process this time in a healthy manner. There is no benefit in burying our struggles or isolating ourselves. And you are not alone; we are all struggling together. Our stories are likely not all that different.
You can also seek out help and inspiration through support centers, church communities, reputable Facebook and Instagram communities, and telehealth therapists. There are many resources available to help you navigate through this time. And let’s not forget the abundance of FREE self-help, inspirational podcasts available to us. My playlist is lengthy, but here are some of my go-tos: Brene’ Brown’s Unlocking Us. I highly recommend a listen to Brene’s episode about Burnout; Sara Dean of The Shameless Mom Academy. I highly recommend a listen to Sara’s Episode # 488 titled “It’s Ok If You’re Tired; Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, and Jay Shetty On Purpose. I also found this list “20 Best Self-Help Podcasts to Listen to in 2020.” I have not personally checked them all out, but they seem to cover a range of relevant self-help topics for today’s time, from procrastination and anxiety/depression to grieving and major life changes.
Tip # 5 Be kind, be helpful, be open.
I always try to be kind, helpful and open when I am out and about. It’s who I am at my core. It is a bit harder to show it these days, with social distancing and a mask on, but we can still show acts of kindness. And people can tell when you break a smile under the mask; and in my experience, people share a smile, a wave or “hello” back.
We all need connection more than ever. And a smile goes a long way. And while we are socially distanced, you can still buy the person behind you, in the drive-thru, or at the walk-up window, a cup of coffee, a treat, or a meal. Actually, not long ago, this happened to me. I was in the Starbucks drive-thru line. The line was very long as was the wait. My turn finally came to pick up my coffee and breakfast sandwich. The cashier told me that the car in front of me had paid for my entire order. I was stunned. It came out of nowhere!
I started to question, “Do I know this person? Why did they do that?” That was so kind, generous, unexpected. When I drove away, I ended up sitting behind the generous person at a red stoplight. I wanted to hop out of my car quickly to say, “thank you.” Instead, I gave a “thank you” wave from my driver’s seat; he or she waved back. I was touched and grateful for that act of kindness. It brightened the rest of my day.
Now more than ever, kindness is key. Share a smile, a “hello” or wave with someone in passing, wish someone a good day (in person, via text, through email or social media), check in on someone who is struggling, volunteer, give to a charity or help others in need if you are able. You may find the recipient of that kind act may not be the only one benefiting from your kindness!
Tip # 6. Face this time head on, and refrain from sugar coating.
Early on when COVID hit and for many months after, I kept powering through with all responsibilities, doing my best, working extra, EXTRA hard, seldom ever venting or complaining. I never felt I had the right to vent or complain when so many around me, in our country, in our world, were struggling way more than I was.
I held my struggles in, until one day, about six months into COVID, I ran into an acquaintance whom I had not seen since the onset of the pandemic. We started talking and shared… a lot! It was the most freeing moment for me. We shared our struggles, the state of things, our mental, physical, emotional exhaustion, managing our home life during this time, and our defeat for having no answers. I realized from that moment that we are all grieving; and we need to release our grief.
This is not the time to act like everything is going well and that there are no struggles. We have lost a lot during this time, and this time is trying for each and every one of us. Be honest with yourself and with others, do not hide or sugar coat your struggles.
We must not ignore what is happening around us, nationally, in our homes, and globally. Our country’s well-being is at stake. If we do not face this time head on and with honesty, we are going to see more long-term damage, in the form of depression, suicide, PTSD, addictions, anxiety and isolation ─ across all ages and generations.
Be real with your struggles. By facing them head on, we can work through them, gain a level of control, and come out way better on the other end. We deserve this─ our kids, our families, everyone deserves this!
Tip # 7: Keep your overindulgences in check.
I can drink a good glass of wine no problem. And sometimes, I can drink two glasses of wine no problem; and sometimes even three. I will say, during this pandemic, I have enjoyed wine a bit more often than I would like. Aside from enjoying wine socially with family and friends, a nice glass of wine has often signaled the wrap-up of a long workday for me, a time to transition into the evening, cook dinner and relax with my family. I have turned to a glass or two of wine a bit more often during COVID. It is all good and fine in the moment, but it does not get me bouncing out of bed in the morning, ready to take on another challenging day.
When we overindulge, it can make us feel good, in the moment, but it is temporary─ never long lasting. Indulging occasionally is completely fine. With all the pressures and stresses we are dealing with today, if we over-indulge regularly, we are potentially setting ourselves up with new unhealthy habits or addictions — which can be destructive and hard to recover from.
If you have taken up drinking or drinking more, developing unhealthy eating habits, taking any sort of drugs, online gambling, watching too much pornography, excessive online shopping, or any other vice as a means to cope, please keep these behaviors in check. The last thing any of us need are addictions and new struggles to work through long after COVID passes.
When this pandemic crisis comes to an end, how will you see yourself, your life on the other end? Will you have created new, healthy habits and come out strong and better? Or will you have new addictions to battle? This time is clearly a struggle, but how you choose to handle it is a choice. You get to choose how you want to come out on the other end.
Tip # 8: Think about what you will do when this pandemic passes.
Incorporate positive distractions! Start thinking about post COVID. What do you want or wish your life to look like? Is there anything you can start sketching out now, researching now, for later? What will be at the top of your list, or your top 5 desires when we get our freedom back? Some of my positive distractions include: to plan a socially close gathering with good friends and family (and give out a lot of hugs!), go to musicals and live music shows, get my son REALLY active again and back into his favorite sports!, do a girlfriend trip, enjoy and (continue to) support the wonderful establishments throughout Seattle, and a bigger ticket item is to revisit Spain.
What about you? Do you want to explore new hobbies? Get married? Travel? When COVID ends, where will you travel first? Who do you most want to see? What are you missing most during this time, that you cannot wait to get back? Do you want to live in the same place, neighborhood, city, state, country? Do you want to start a new business? What will you do differently?
Use this time to escape a little (we all need it!), dream, plan for your future. This time is temporary; it will pass. And when it does, we can start chipping away at our lists.
Tip # 9: We are being called to learn something.
While I would never wish this time on any of us, I do believe this time happened for a reason. And while the reason is not quite clear, I do believe we are all being called to stop, reflect, and learn something. I believe there is a lot to learn from this. So far, this time has taught me the importance of gratitude, relationships (family, friends, community), connection, kindness, affection, to slow down and be more present.
Maybe this time is trying to teach us to slow down, stop moving so fast letting life and time pass us by. Maybe this time is trying to teach us that we have been neglecting ourselves, our families, our kids, or that our career or job needs a change. Maybe we need a complete overhaul.
This time may be trying to teach us that we need to do things differently or that our priorities have been out of whack. Have we lost community and connection? Maybe this time is trying to teach us to step back into community, that we are not meant to be alone, isolated, socially distanced. What do you think this time is trying to teach you?
Tip # 10. Be grateful.
My family and I often share what we are grateful for when we sit down to dinner. I also try to practice gratitude throughout my day, while working or taking a walk, or when things are simply not going well for me. This grounds me and reminds me that even when times are tough, there is still much to appreciate and be thankful for.
Do you practice gratitude? Are you aware of all the good that exists around you today? Try to make a list of the things you are grateful for and see what surfaces. It can be extra simple. For example, when I take a walk in my neighborhood, I am grateful for the abundances of nature around me, the beautiful trees and plants (of all colors) that line our sidewalks and streets. I am also grateful when we have a sunny day, as the gray days can be quite tough, especially this time of year. I believe this time is calling upon us to start practicing daily gratitude. COVID has stripped us of so much in our regular lives. I feel we are being called to look inward and remember all the things to still be grateful for.
What are you grateful for? How can you bring more gratitude into your life? And perhaps, above all, be patient with yourself, and with those around you. This is a battle we are all fighting, together. This time more than ever we all need understanding, grace, support, peace, kindness, help, connection, and a lot of resilience. We are going to make it through, but let’s make sure we all come out healthy and well at the end of this.
I would love to hear from you as we continue to navigate this time together. Contact me and tell me: What things you and your families are doing to try and stay healthy and well during COVID? What’s working? What are you grateful for?