In this time of Isolation changing despair into opportunity
Do you remember the saying that no man is an island, entire of itself? Well, we sure know now.
As a trauma and relationship specialist in South Jersey for 40 years, I know what despair looks and feels like. I was there once upon a time, myself. This ugly, invasive, destructive and deadly virus invites despair.
So, I found ways to defy that creeping, crippling depression, and make use of this time of isolation.
I humbly offer some suggestions:
There may be families, sick and old parents, or children who may not be visited. Find a way to connect. Perhaps a letter requesting someone read it to the person who cannot. Or, requesting a nurse or caretaker to pass along a loving message. It hurts like hell, not to be with the people you love. Texting and e-mailing keeps my connections close. People are also using Face time on their cell phones. Facebook and Zoom are still other options.
Then there are the people who are isolated with a person who is abusive. Perhaps there are children isolated with abusive parents who are not being properly fed. Their only meals were those that the schools provided. Phone numbers for your area can get you help. Worst case scenario, there is always 911.
For those of us who live alone, here is what I do to STAY PRESENT: I keep my thoughts busy and creative. Dwelling on what isn’t, only keeps you down. Personally, I do not like the state of “down”. I was there myself, a long time ago.
I begin my day by showering even though there is no one to be with and then, dressing. I dress as if there will be visitors. It helps to keep your morale up. I no longer put on my eye-liner or accessories. Earrings – yes. Don’t want to lose the holes. My hair is another story. I am not alone. I have no access to a hairdresser and her magical way of making me look younger, with her wonderful coloring talents. So, I am watching as my hair grows longer and longer, and the roots take over. I can’t help but wonder what we women will like when this is over. I suspect we will all be dowdy and many years older. The men, well, they will look more mature and perhaps with long hair, they will even look sexy. .So, I view this time as an experiment.
However, I do dress nicely, as if someone were coming to see me. It perks me up, and I know I am still Paula, showing self- respect. Those sweats don’t do it! This morning I laughed at myself, finding that I was trying to match my black socks!!!
Then, I do my exercises and make my bed. I like walking into my bedroom, seeing it so nice. Keeping your space neat is a way of feeling comfortable in your environment. Messy makes for anxiety. None of us need anxiety and therefore, I do not watch the news more than once or tops twice a day. Pay attention to the medical and scientific briefings, over anything else. And, then get back to your life. Worry does not accomplish anything good. It affects your mood, your body…
I enjoy a healthy breakfast. I make my meals something to look forward to. For information on how to eat healthy and what vitamins are good to take, check out the big medical schools on line. I am taking Probiotics and drinking warm water or tea, such as green tea every 20 minutes. Our stomach chemistry has a lot to do with healing.
Then I suggest you compose a global wish list. With empty time ahead, what would I like to accomplish that I might not have time to do, in my regular life? It’s an opportunity to re-organize my classical music CD’s drawers, etc.
Then I write a schedule for the day, listing by priority of things I’d want to accomplish.
For those of us who live alone, we can keep in touch with the people who matter. Set your alarm and start your day. Write things you might like to do with your future. Write letters, update your Christmas card list, write articles. When you speak with people, do not bring them down with talk of the “V’ word. Try to make your connections fun and light. Start an introspective journal.
Watch movies. Read a book. Write a book. Your memoirs might be of interest to others. And, we have the internet where we can watch podcasts, lectures, or take courses, explore virtual museums or far-away places. Now is the time! There are adult paint-by-numbers and coloring books. Do not spend your time spending money. That is too easy. You can do with less.
Those with families at home have a different kind of challenge. Teach the children that they have a special time to go to their rooms and read or whatever. You need to spend alone time with your partner. Do not neglect your intimate connection. It is a “must” no matter what is going on in your life. Learn ways to resolve issues. I teach a Dialogue that moves couples toward each other. They begin to understand the other’s internal worlds. Then, as they learn empathy skills, the couple, parent and child get to see that the person beside them is a different person with different desires and needs. With that kind of understanding, you can move into negotiating the issues. EMDR (there is something to look up and try – it offers deep healing when integrating with other skills). Of course, there are personality disorders that make some of this a challenge. There are those of us clinicians who are available to help over the phone or by Zoom. Check out our profiles on the internet.
When you are in isolation with your family, you might watch movies that are age appropriate, as well as comedy shows. Tell each other funny or interesting stories. This is an opportunity to get closer. Make special meals, or let each contribute to making a meal. Make a dessert to let them know they are special to you. Find activities to do with your family that provide eye-to-eye contact and interaction, such as board games, puzzles, skits. Teach them Scrabble. Exercise together. Share chores to let them have some responsibility.
Zoom can be a way of visiting, setting up play groups for you and for your kids. Be careful with the alcohol. The professionals say one drink for a woman and two max for a man. DO NOT DRINK EVERY DAY. LET SATURDAY NIGHT BE SPECIAL. When there is a habit formed of alcohol, there are more quarrels and sometimes abuse. Your children absolutely should not see the habit of drinking as a way to pass time, or deal with depression (it only increases the depression) and you are neglecting an important role as parent of teaching coping skills for the “real” world.
Take breaks if you need to. Find a corner or a space that is restricted to you for a period of time, and read or do a crossword puzzle. Learn a meditation which teaches loving compassion and kindness. There are free meditations on the internet.
In other words, get creative and make this a time of personal growth. There is so much for which to be grateful. Make a list of those things, smile and get on with your new life for as long as it takes. Perhaps you may find a path to your personal peace and pass it on.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I used therapy and personal growth to keep on loving and finding something positive in every experience. I learned how to see the good, and the positive side. And, most importantly, I learned to STAY PRESENT. It is what it is, and what we can make it, is up to us.
In this time of isolation and daunting changes, in this time of many losses, use it as an opportunity to find the resilience in you. Keep on loving and stay safe.