Katie Pfeiffer, MA, LMHC
More Thoughts on the Apocalypse: Revise Your Value Structure in Order to Survive Social Distancing
First of all, I just want to tell you that you are doing a GREAT JOB! Maybe you are homeschooling your kids, which is possibly something you never thought you would do, or never wanted to do. Maybe you are attempting to work from home while your toddler, cat and dog destroy your home in the background on your Zoom meeting. Maybe you are single and bored out of your skull and lifting your head off the pillow takes so much energy you just lay there most days. Maybe you are partnered and bickering because you are both unemployed and stressed. The thing you need to know is that you are doing the best you can and whatever it is, it’s OK.
So, it turns out a small handful of super smart people knew this was going to happen, but for most of us this seems like a really bad and long episode of Black Mirror. Given the unexpected nature of this crisis for most of us, we need to reframe our thinking.
Here are a couple things to do immediately:
May I reiterate- HAVE MORE COMPASSION FOR YOURSELF
You are not just working from home, unemployed, taking care of your family, cleaning your house, laying in bed, whatever. You are managing a crisis. Whether you are managing it for just yourself or for other people as well, remember this is a huge mental burden and it’s going to account for a large amount of energy. If you are tired, this is why. It’s like how pregnant people have an elevated heart rate because their body is working on forming a new human, same idea - just for your brain, it’s in overdrive right now.
RETHINK THE VALUE OF YOUR TIME AND BEHAVIORS
Most of us are all too well accustomed to placing dollar signs on our time and therefore if our time is not spent directly in the pursuit of making money, we decide that’s less valuable. This is why we habitually de-value stay at home parenting as a culture or discount the value of all the unpaid labor we do around the house. Give yourself credit for everything that you are doing, even if all you did today was take a shower, cook a meal and/or walk your dog. If making a To-Do list is stressful for you, make a list of things you already did. It might surprise you what you accomplished while you were beating yourself up.
STOP THINKING OF THIS AS LEISURE TIME
When we say “oh if I only had time to do x, y or z” what we really mean is “oh if only I had a significant break from work AND had passive income to support myself and my family I would do x, y or z.” This is not what’s happening for a lot of people. Think of the time you’ve spent this week fighting with the unemployment website, fretting about how you’re going to get groceries, or pay your rent, or how you’re going to get your father to stay in the damn house, this is NOT leisure.
BUT DO ENJOY THE ARTS
There is a reason we binge on Netflix, can’t put down a book or need to have a daily Beyoncé dance party, it’s a little bit of (mostly healthy) escapism. And it’s a lot better than drinking or drugging. I like to remind myself that someone, often lots of people, put a lot of time into writing, producing, directing and acting for my enjoyment. So if you find yourself turning to this stuff as a coping strategy, instead of taking that online class, remember that we are in the midst of trying times and if this is the one thing you can focus on or enjoy, that’s ok.
And as always, if you need help, please reach out. If you need low cost counseling, LGBTQ-friendly counseling, teletherapy, or any other specifier, remember that there are options for you and I’m happy to connect you with them.