Oh The Stress


Today marks the beginning of week 2 of social distancing. I’m an introvert, so the idea of distance doesn’t bother me all that much. I live life watching from a corner on a good day, coming out to engage on occasion and then retreating back to my natural state. Being stuck in the corner with others, however, is a new experience–it’s a bit more stressful.

I wanted to take a bit of a snapshot this week, letting folks see where I am in my own journey. It’s good to journal this way, but it might also validate where you are if you feel stress rising from the smallest triggers–you’re not “crazy,” this is normal.

Looking back on the last few weeks, I probably should have taken the mental step of cancelling my Florida trip a week earlier than I did. When I see a break on the horizon I tend to sprint to the goal, and then collapse into rest. When I cancelled my trip only a few days before I was set to depart I’d already been “sprinting.” My heart and mind are ready to collapse into rest, but instead I’ve been caught by an entire world that is now swept up into a new reality. As such, I’m facing a bit of mental fatigue.

This means I need to be very deliberate in how I set my goals for each day. I need to make sure I’m finding moments to sit and reflect so I can exercise my mind on something. As we transition into this new reality I’m finding this difficult to do. On1 Photo, for example, released a major update last Friday, and I only just installed it today. My mental energy reserves were too depleted to take the steps to do it. I’m thankful for my wife, who is making sure that we both have space to do our work. She’s a teacher, so my instinct is to just watch Bump so she can spend the hours she needs to be with her students–but she’s having none of it.

My mental and social depletion is also leading to silly errors in my tech use, and I’m experiencing a rising impatience for providing tech support for people who become panicky and immobile when confronted with a tool they’ve not used before 1. These are things I need I need to keep an eye on, breaks are going to be essential if I’m going to be functional by the end of all this. And with it raining all week I’ll need to get my elliptical set up to make sure I’m getting in some exercise. Walks are not going to be a thing.

So here’s my advice to folks, which I need to follow myself.

First, and I saw this from a post on Facebook, it is OK to be grieving–even for “little” things. What we consider “normal” is now long gone, and it won’t be coming back. Seniors have lost the end of their senior year and all that comes with it. “Once in a lifetime” trips have been cancelled, and may never be rescheduled. Weddings have been postponed, birthdays are being celebrated in solitude, and family gatherings have been pulled off the schedule. In the grand scheme of things none of these things is a big deal. Compared, that is, to families grieving a loved one for whom then cannot have funeral or to medical professionals who working in dangerous circumstances without protective equipment.

But even if, comparatively speaking, our grief is not over “big issues” it’s still ok to grieve loss. Steer into it and start the journey forward, because grief will out whether we deny it our not. And toxic grief is a destructive force, while healthy grief leads people to seek life.

Second, breathe. Breaths are moments of pause, reflection, and self-understanding, and it’s been difficult for take these moments because my breathes tend to be taken in solitude–which is now in short supply. I’m going have to develop an ability to breathe in more crowded circumstances, and my education has already begun. I’m writing this post while Bump watches TV, which is not something I would attempt in typical circumstances, but it’s necessary for me to decompress this way, so I can return to being “present” again. If you find yourself flustered by small things you know you’re capable of doing–find a way to quiet down and take some breaths of pause.

Third, take a day a week to be “frivolous.” At least, that’s what our culture has taught us to call it. In reality, it’s rest. Just take a day and say, “This is not a day for productivity, I’m going to recharge.” Play a game, pursue a hobby, read a book, or just do nothing–and don’t feel guilty about it one bit. Even now we need some re-creation.

We will get through this, but some deliberation is required.

  1. And I’m not very patient with that scenario on a good day.