The pandemic did a number on me. I didn’t even realize how deeply it affected me until I was left cleaning up the disastrous mess it made. Recently, I realized I went into survival mode and am just now finding my way back into some form of normalcy.
Quarantine forced me to step away from many of the typical routines I was accustomed to: Sunday church, MWF “Mommy & Me” exercise classes, a weekly community group, swim classes, and so on. As a family, we had routines in place and schedules that were rarely altered. We often had outings with friends and frequently invited families over. We led such a busy life that when the mandated social distancing was first implemented (aside from the fear of getting sick), it was a welcome break.
We started off enjoying the time to step away from the chaos and relax. We had more family walks, sweet moments of playing with our (then) nearly two-year-old, and fun date nights in. Quickly the newness wore off. The isolation felt suffocating and the excitement of spending so much time together turned into frustration. Almost as quickly as they arose, the negative emotions faded away and left me in a mundane, monotone state that I still seem to be escaping.
On top of dealing with a pandemic, my family moved, welcomed a new baby, and experienced job loss. We dealt with so much change that it was hard to recognize the turmoil we were experiencing. Our normal became turning on auto-pilot and coasting through some hard moments without ever stopping to fully process what was going on and how we were impacted.
By avoiding the analysis of all that transpired, we had a hard time verbalizing just how we felt. We missed seeing our friends on a regular basis without fear of getting ourselves or our children sick. We missed date nights when we could comfortably step away from parenting for a few hours, knowing our children were safe at home. We missed the security of a steady paycheck. We missed having outlets to process and vent about all that was changing at once. We especially missed the people who so often surrounded us; video chatting will never be a sufficient replacement.
Now, with a little bit of time and space for retrospect, even though there is still so much chaos in our world, I’m realizing I have certain non-negotiables when it comes to self-care.
- I need a village. This is a statement I’ve always known, especially living in a city that’s five hours away from my closest family members, but it didn’t hit home until 2020. The collection of friends that have become family, that drop off a meal on a hard day or watch my children when I literally have no one else to turn to, are priceless. They have become an integral part of my family’s well-being, and finding ways to continue to gather, despite the chaos of the world, is a true necessity.
- I need time away. As special as the time has been to be together as a family, I now understand, even more, the importance of stepping away. Some days it is just taking a solo walk or even driving to pick up groceries alone. However short the moment may be, I need time alone daily.
- Showering takes precedence. But really… As a stay-at-home mom, in the middle of an isolating time, it became tough to press pause on the never-ending list of chores. Sometimes the dishes and laundry just have to wait so I can take time for myself.
- I need outlets. Before the pandemic, I was part of a workout group, a Bunco club, a local playgroup, a book club, and more. Maintaining all of those after March 2020 became impossible and unsafe. I thought we could jump back in sooner rather than later, but as the months ticked by, my need for connection with others became blatantly apparent. Reimplementing these groups in a safe way has brought so much vibrance back into my life.
- Anxiety takes a toll. I knew myself to be a slightly anxious person who craved control, but the anxiety that built up over the past 18 months became overwhelming. I’ve learned I can’t control much and that’s actually okay. I will continue to make choices to protect my family to the best of my ability and let that be enough. I have to let go and let God take control because the stress of trying to deal with all the burdens is more than I can bear.
There is still so much unknown. Things continue to change daily and some days I’m better about reeling in my anxiety than others. The main thing I continue to remind myself is to push forward—carry on. A new normal is developing, and I can continue to dwell in what I’ve lost or find ways to take control of how I approach the present and be excited for the future.