Have Your Habits Changed in Quarantine?
As we continue in this historic, record breaking moment in time, I notice that I have created new habits and deepened others. At the onset, nine weeks ago, I was focusing on the novelty of what lay before me, not having a clue that more than two months later the world would still be in quarantine.
I am maintaining a regular schedule working as a therapist offering telehealth sessions with established and new clients. I am writing articles; some on the emotional and social impact of the pandemic. Both of these endeavors help me maintain my own stability. Knowing that my clients are counting on me, helps me get out of bed in the morning.
I meditate, pray, read, watch comedy shows, exercise in my living room (which now doubles as my gym), take walks in the neighborhood, watch inspiring videos, and listen to uplifting music. My go-to station is WXPN out of the University of Pennsylvania. Every other week grocery shopping, regular cleaning, and laundry help to keep me balanced. Catch as catch can conversations with neighbors help to create a sense of camaraderie and reminders that we will get through this together.
To counter feeling isolated, I participate in Zoom calls, speak with friends, FaceTime with my son, daughter-in-law and now nearly 4-month-old grandson and each morning, I record a video for him in which I sing or recite a nursery rhyme. I would be doing that if I were with him. I want him to know that I am there in the only way I can be now.
Every few weeks, we do a distance visit. This Mother’s Day, the family gathered on their lawn, spread the requisite space apart as we attempted to make it seem as normal as possible. Hard to do when the primary topic of conversation was the virus and how it had changed our lives and habits. Blessedly, the baby slept most of the time as my daughter-in-law held him. Had things actually been ‘normal,’ each of us (grandparents, aunt and uncle) would have cuddled with him. I can only imagine the day when we can with all of the stored-up love that as of now can’t be expressed that way. Some days, tears are part of my routine, coming without warning at times.
I was listening to an interview with Kenneth Duckworth, the Chief Medical Officer of NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) who spoke of the impact of what we both refer to as physical distancing rather than “social distancing”. Since we are social beings who need contact with each other, the spatial separation adds to the stress levels we are feeling in the face of fear of how our lives will be forever altered. He referred to this as an act of collective service which helps slow the spread of the virus and assists medical caregivers in keeping pace with the need for treatment.
In another conversation on NPR, he mentioned the ways in which the experience that many are having will help to de-stigmatize mental health issues. Even those who are not predisposed to anxiety and depression are feeling it. I raise my hand and freely admit that I am in that group. It gives me a clearer view of what some of my clients experience on a daily basis.
I awaken most mornings with a gut twisting sense of panic and wonder with trepidation what the new day might bring. In the blissful ignorance of pre-pandemic reality, I would, with eager anticipation, greet the morning and think about the activities I would engage in that could include getting together with friends and family, helping take care of my newborn grandson, teaching workshops, officiating weddings, organizing Free Hugs events, going to the movies or out to eat.