Managing COVID-19 Restriction Anxiety

Folks, welcome to another morning in America. It’s Sunday morning, roughly 10am while I write this. In a lot of place, under normal circumstances, a lot of people would either be getting ready for church, coming home from church (depending on which service they attended), having a relaxed brunch with their family or have been up and motivated and working on a miscellaneous project around their house. But this isn’t a normal morning. All across our land there are restrictions on movement and lots of isolations going on – “social distancing” – to combat the spread of COVID-19, otherwise known as the coronavirus.

I have previously written several pieces on my professional platform (the place I actually work: Officer.com) regarding COVID-19 and the precautions being taken. I regularly preach against panic, in favor of common sense, and to avoid buying into the sensationalism that’s all too often built into “news” reporting. My friends and family know that I’m generally a pretty positive and optimistic person and I’ve been known, on occasion, to even be the guy people turn to for advice (even my kids as they’ve gotten older). For all that, I found myself yesterday feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the negativity that seemed to be saturating my world.

Now understand, my particular circumstance hasn’t changed that much. I work from home 99% of the time anyway, so “staying home” is something I usually do anyway. I do miss my local hangout and the friends I would normally get to socialize with. However, one of them is in a higher-risk population (diabetic) and one of them works in a nursing home full of higher risk folks, so taking my wife – who runs a local drug store – to socialize with them or even inviting them over (since the hangout is closed for now anyway) seems highly irresponsible. Still, that’s not a major impact on my day. I can talk to them on the phone and, thanks to technology we could “hang out” virtually if we wanted.

For all that, I found myself feeling a little overwhelmed by all of the bombardment of doom and gloom news yesterday. I had a number of friends call who needed some reassurance and a friendly voice. I called some other friends who are in the higher risk population groups to check on them and offer them some reassurances as well. None of my children live nearby so I called or texted to check on them if I didn’t see anything on their social media feeds (those can be wonderful for just knowing your kids are okay). When my oldest son called me just to talk it was quite uplifting to have him give me my own usual advice back: circumstances are what they are and you can’t change them so stressing them does you know good. Focus on something else and drive on.

Yep; exactly what I needed to hear. My own advice handed back to me. But it made me stop and think. Why was I feeling so overwhelmed? What it boiled down to was that I had been so focused on all of the “news” about COVID-19 that I was ignoring too much of what else was going on in the world and, in particular, with the friends and family I have who are making the best of this challenging time.

I have a friend whose son has Down Syndrome. Usually, part of that young man’s day is embracing structure and appreciating things most of us overlook. The structure has changed and that might have caused some discomfort for him, but from what I see on social media, he and his sister are still embracing the beauty they see in every day.

I have two other friends, both whom have sons on the Autism Spectrum at varying levels. One of them isn’t in touch with reality enough to truly understand what’s going on, but he’s in touch enough to know – like always – he’d better do what mom says or things won’t go so nicely for him. He is disassociated enough from reality that the negativity of everything being thrust upon the airwaves and in our social feeds (all too often) are lost on him – to his own benefit for sure.

The other friend has two sons on the Autism Spectrum and she’s doing the best she can to keep them entertained at home. They are both highly dependent on structure and schedules and that had to be completely recreated at home when schools were closed. Her strength is involving them in family activities that they enjoy and that keeps them sufficiently entertained / engaged that they don’t have time to focus on what’s not normal.

In considering all of this I realized that the greatest strengths being shown are by those who have challenges bigger than “the norm.” Those folks don’t have time to constantly watch television, scroll the internet, or whatever. They are too busy providing care and guidance to those who face other challenges.

There I was on my sofa talking to my son when I realized that the largest part of my problem was that for the past few days almost all of my focus had been on COVID-19, how it was changing things, restrictions in place, the things I couldn’t do, the places I couldn’t go, etc. I was so busy thinking about all that, I wasn’t even taking time to recognize all the potential in my day. How many projects can I get done around my house? My work days haven’t changed. The weather is getting nicer. What could I get done in my yard? My wife and I recently procured a project vehicle – a 1986 truck – that we’d like to fix up. What can I get done on that?

Folks, staying home doesn’t mean staying glued to the TV or constantly on social media. It’s not punishment unless we perceive it that way.  Sure, we all need to stay informed so I’d recommend you actually schedule a time, twice a day, to get caught up on news for your local state regarding the COVID-19 response. That should take you, at most, 15 minutes, twice a day. That’s only a half hour out of your day. The rest of the day should be as normal as you can make it for what I’ve come to view as a working staycation. Plan your work hours and be disciplined about them, but plan what you’ll do to take advantage of your “off” time. What projects do you have that you were looking for time to do? What books do you have that you wanted to read? What room do you have that you wanted to rearrange, redecorate, etc.?

Minimize how much you let the COVID-19 negativity and sensationalism infiltrate your day. Be aware. Be informed. But beyond that focus on what’s good in each day and take advantage of the current circumstance. It is inevitable that, after this has passed (and it will), someone will think, “Darn. You know what I should have / could have done with some of that time?” Identify those opportunities and take advantage of them.

 

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