So, it’s 2020, and the whole world is under shelter in place or quarantine due to a pandemic. Did you ever think we would find ourselves in this position in a million years? It’s Twilight Zone time.
Now that we’ve been stuck in place for a couple of weeks, I hope you all are adjusting and learning how to create a life under quarantine.No, it’s far from an ideal situation, but I think that there are some things that you can do to create structure and get through the time as best as possible for yourself, and those living with you.
I’m going to go through some suggestions, ranging from financial, to emotional/psychological, to lockdown marriage tips, to self-care, including how to alleviate inevitable boredom that’s probably showed up in the first week.
As far as the financial front goes, I hope you’ve been able to keep your job. A lot of people have been able to, but many have suffered furloughs or income losses. Fear, anxiety, and panic around money are completely understandable in this situation, and you may experience all of those things at different times, or all at once. As of April 7th, I’ve settled down a lot, and have gotten into a consistent emotional rhythm, although still feeling powerless as to know what’s to come tomorrow, or the day after that.
It’s important to recognize the emotions and irrational thinking that we may succumb to, and make those different from the practical steps that we can take now. You don’t want to act on those emotions, or irrational thinking, as to make a misstep.
First, being clear and communicative with your spouse is a very good first step (or anyone else living in your household under lockdown). If you need to communicate with others, such as service providers like your financial advisor, your boss, or your mortgage lender, those things are probably appropriate at this time too. Make a list of the people, services and utilities that you want to communicate with, and follow up and contact them.
If you’re afraid and there’s a reality that you may not have enough money, I would really initiate those conversations now if you are needing help from those individuals or service providers. Don’t stick your head in the sand and not do anything.
Those conversations may be difficult, because you may not be used to asking for help, or you may be scared that you would be told ‘no’. It’s important to have those conversations early and now, because we don’t know how long the shutdown will last, and we don’t know if the things that you’re needing from those people may still be available in a couple of months, when it comes to financial help or loans (like loans, deferment, grants, etc., depending on your situation). Get on the same page with your spouse or your significant other about what actions you’re taking before you do them, and follow up after you’ve done them so you’re working as a team together and no one feels left out.
With your spouse, or if you’re single, I would sketch out a quick budget, and look at your major expenses such as rent/mortgage, student loan, car payments, outstanding credit card debt, taxes, retirement, child care or expenses, or any other major expenditures that you need to worry about, and get them down on paper or in a good budget software. Come up with a plan where both of you get on the same page, so that you know what you’re doing and that you have a strategy in terms of payment or other options like deferral, etc. Know what each other is thinking and doing, and you’ll get things done and have less marriage stress at the same time.
Also, take a look at your day-to-day spending, and decide what you want to keep going, and where can you cut some corners (e.g. eating out, gym membership, movies, entertainment, etc.). We know food, gas, and utilities are essential items, but since you have some memberships either online or in person, can you cut out some of those just for the time being? Will that help with your cash flow so that you can move through the shut down with a little more ease and less stress?
As far as the emotional/psychological level goes, how are you dealing with your own emotions and thoughts? Are you aware of some of the negative or irrational thoughts that are coming up for you? Have you really stopped to think to yourself, “ What am I feeling about all this right now? How is that changing from me from day to day, or hour to hour? Are certain feelings tending to come up more than others for me?” Take stock, so as to know where’s your coming from emotionally.
As I said earlier, it’s completely understandable to have every emotion under the sun right now: fear, anxiety, panic, terror, worry, sadness, depression, loneliness, boredom and general dis-ease. You’re worried about yourself, your well-being, the well-being of your family and loved ones, as well as for those suffering around the country and world right now. Maybe people are doing worse than you are, but you’re still scared about the outcome of all this, not just for COVID-19, but for the economic health of the country.
The greatest thing that you can do for yourself, and those around you, is to recognize your emotions, put a name on them, and learn how to sit with them instead of running from them.
You can do this anywhere at any time, but if you sit in meditation, this can also help you get more in touch. Also, talking it out with someone at home, or with a therapist like myself, can also help you to clarify your feelings and emotions, and help you work through them so you don’t have to stay stuck in them. Your emotional state may go up-and-down like several roller coaster loops, as most peoples’ are right now. Just recognize that will probably happen, and just see them as a normal part of this very difficult time. Emotions come and go, but actually stopping to have them will allow them to come-and-go faster and with less “blockage.”
You may also have irrational thoughts or beliefs about all of the situations that are happening now with respect to the COVID-19 virus. It may help to not consume as much news, or dial it down a little bit, as well as take the necessary precautions you need to feel safe, like wearing a mask, gloves, washing your hands, and staying six feet away from others when out food shopping. Watch your paranoia or compulsive thinking that may be irrational, that may not be grounded in reality and in the here and now. Identify the fear that might underlie your irrational thinking, and contact that place in your body physically and sit with it.
It will probably also help you to not speculate about the future, in terms of things getting worse or scenarios that may happen that we don’t know if we will or not. All of us also don’t know what’s to come, whether it means with the economy, the virus outbreak, spread and curve flattening, or finding a cure, so save your mental energy and not expend it on fearful scenarios that may not come true.
You also may have some old stuff/issues coming up for you, from growing up or from your past. This is normal, as well. There may be adjacent issues that you may or may not have addressed, which were underneath some of the feelings that are being brought up with Covid.
Maybe they’re the relationship issues between you and your significant other, but are now coming to the forefront under quarantine, or maybe you have money issues that you may want to talk through or deal with, now that they’ve come to the forefront. Maybe you didn’t have the support you needed from your parents or caregivers, and this situation is more difficult for you. Whatever it is, trust that experience, and allow yourself to acknowledge it and deal with it if you can.
As far as things in your relationship or marriage, communication is key. It’s going to be difficult to be stuck in the same place with your significant other for a long period of time, especially when you may be used to going to work or having your own personal space. It may be even harder if you have kids, because you have many of you in the same house 24/7. You’ll get stir-crazy, and irritable, and tempers may flare over smaller things left and right.
I think practicing tolerance and patience is also a good idea. Things that would generally bug you, you have to weigh out whether or not you need to say something to your significant other or spouse, or let it go. Things are definitely going to come up now that you are with each other under the same roof all the time.
For men, it’s typical that they withdraw or pull away from their spouse and the issues that come between them. A lot of guys typically don’t deal with issues because they don’t want to start a fight, or are conflict avoidant.
There may be no way out of conflict at this point, because you’re together all of the time. Learning proper communication, conflict strategies, and active listening will help you and your spouse or significant other, and we can address those in another blog post and video here shortly. If you have a hard time with conflict, or asserting yourself, now may be the right time to start practicing it, even in little ways that might help you and your household.
Also, watch the tendency to drink too much, eat too much, or generally just fall into negative behaviors that might end up getting you into a negative routine, or may end up harming your relationship in someway.
I know more way more people are drinking now, a lot more than before, smoking more weed, binge eating, and generally just letting things go.
I understand the need for hedonism, when the rules have been thrown out for everyone, but it’s also important to feel good and healthy, so that you don’t end up deteriorating in other ways, like in your relationship, mental health, work, etc.
Basic self care will also go a long way to help you, and those living with you. Eating right, getting the right and adequate sleep, keeping a structure, getting outside and into nature, and regular exercise (even walking/jogging outside a couple of times a week), will go a long way, both for you and those you’re living with.
It helps me to wake up at the same time, shower, and eat breakfast, all things that help me create the consistent structure that I would have had if things were normal. It gives me the sense of purpose for the day if I try to keep it as close to normal, and is a form of self-care to me.
You may want to try some online exercise, such as with a stationery bike or yoga. Maybe you can find some dumbbells from NextDoor or Craigslist, and have a cheapish workout right in your home.
Taking time to spend with your kids in a quality way is also important, because they’re bound to remember this time as a good time if they know you’re there and wanting to spend time with them.