Some of my friends are really struggling with the physical isolation of social distancing. Most of our friends know that we have to practice germ restrictions year-round- especially during cold and flu season. Our middle kiddo has a mitochondrial disorder. Because her body doesn’t make energy as efficiently as it should- something as simple as a stuffy nose for the boys, has the potential to give he major setbacks. Since social distancing for the general public began, I’ve had a few people reach out and say, “I don’t know how you do it!”
I figured I would share this because It has been such a part of our lifestyle since we found out about the mitochondrial disorder. It’s second nature to us now. But we’ve had about four years to adjust! (In fact, I didn’t even know there was a name for it before all of this!) We haven’t always been as well adjusted to the physical isolation of separating our family from our communities as we are today. (And we still have many days where we struggle!) PLUS, we learned the art of physically isolating ourselves during a time that there was not the added stress of Covid19. So we had an easier time easing into it.
So for friends that are struggling with the isolation of social distancing, please know that it is HARD. Especially at first. But it will get better. And then it will get worse. And then it will get better. And then it may get worse. But it will ALWAYS get better.
Over the years, I’ve realized there are a few things that help me when it gets hard to be away from friends and family. I am RARELY this open about this kind of thing on social media. But I figured I would share this in case it can help someone else. We’re all different and cope in different ways, so if they don’t help, or if you’re not struggling- no worries! But if I can offer anyone a little bit of support as you adapt to physical distancing- I’m happy to share.
1. Find out what makes you feel good, and then figure out a way to do that online. For me- I feel really good when I can help people. When we first started having to stay home during cold and flu season, we had to make some hard choices to avoid germs. One choice was having to quit my marketing job, which I really loved. But daycare was no longer an option (cause #germs). During that phase, I spent HOURS in online groups answering photography questions for people that were starting out. Or helping small businesses with their marketing. That HELPING people (mostly online and over the phone) satisfied a social component that was missing. It also made me feel like I was HELPING someone, which fills my cup! And it was a chance for me to get positive feedback.
Let’s be honest- in the workplace, you get affirmations frequently! You get a paycheck. Affirmation. You get coworkers that thank you now and then for your part in a project. You have peers that ask how your weekend was. In a home environment- that isn’t always the case. No one thanks me for washing and folding towels. No one asks me how my weekend was because they were all there. And I don’t have a “boss” to tell me my last project was a success. So now and then- try to find a way to get affirmation in a way that is meaningful to you.
2. Plant seeds. Sure, I mean real seeds, but I also mean something you will notice later. Paint your kiddos’ toenails today. You’ll notice it throughout the week. Feed the birds. They will pop by and bring you joy all week. Plant an Appleseed from your kid’s snack in a cup and peek in on it a week or two later. Write a letter and print a few photos and mail them to your grandma. You will get the warm fuzzies when you do it. You will also get the warm fuzzies when Grandma calls to thank you. And when you see a cardinal. And when your seed sprouts, and your when kiddo has her little bare feet kicked up, and it’s the cutest.
3. Find something you can control in a healthy way. Having to isolate your family can totally make you feel like you’ve lost control of something. Find something you CAN control. For me, it’s often online courses or workshops. They make me feel like I’m learning and growing. They make me feel like I have control over my skill sets.
4. You will feel lonely, that’s normal. And hard. But you will get through it. But when you DO feel alone, think of five things you love about the people you’re isolated with. Say a prayer or meditate on how grateful you are for them. And then call or text a friend to check in on them. Because someone out there is feeling lonely too.
5. Encourage your children to do something just a little mischievous. I’m not talking about robbing a bank- find something just the tiniest bit naughty. Put the phone on speaker and call their grandparents and ask them if their refrigerator is running. If you have a crib mattress, zip a sleeping bag around it and let them “sled” down the stairs. Give them ice cream for breakfast. Let the kids play with water in the bathroom sink. Let them spill. (I usually just set towels out and let them know that all I ask is that they clean it up when they are done. Don’t forget to check their work drying everything up!)
6. Take care of yourself. Get dressed. Take a shower. If you have the means- order shampoo that smells REALLY good. Or a shampoo you used as a kid, for a little touch of nostalgia. If you usually put on makeup- put on makeup. If you have a favorite candle, light it. Do you love diffusing a calming smell? Do it. There is just something about doing little things for yourself that makes a big difference. Double points if there is a smell you love involved. Call me crazy, but I’m TOTALLY serious. Add some great smells into your self care. Do it.
7. Make a list and check it off. Seriously. Take a minute and write down a few things you want to do in a day. It can be as simple as, “Play hide and seek with the kids 20 minutes. Write a letter to Grandma. Make the kids’ Christmas list. Take a shower.” And as you do them- check them off. Making a list accomplishes a few things. It will make you more intentional about DOING things. It will feel good to check things off. You will look at it and feel like you’ve accomplished something. You will also feel like you had control over something.
8. When you find something that helps you feel more connected or less lonely, make a note! There may be days that isolation feels big. Bigger than relief. Think about how good you felt when you did that thing and MAKE yourself do it again. Once you get started, you will likely be glad you did it. For example- some days, I consider going for a walk with the kids, but it seems like such a production to get everyone loaded up into the stroller and on their bikes. (And to the bathroom before we leave!) But I’ve never regretted it. If I can just remind myself that- it’s so much easier to get everyone ready and get on our walk. I’m always grateful I did it, even on the days I don’t know if I feel up to coordinating it.
9. Although you are PHYSICALLY isolating. If you’re like me, you have SO MUCH ACCESS to socializing! Social media, Facetime/WhatsApp, phone calls, email, websites, etc. There are so many ways to connect to your community through your phone and online. It’s so easy to forget that because you may be completely disrupting your normal routine, but i encourage you to connect with other humans wherever you can.
This is such a strange time. But it will end. You will be ok, and you will adjust to your new normal when all of this virus stuff is done. Laugh with your Littles. Ask your partner how they’re doing. Call your relatives. Snapchat your friends.
Spring and then summer are right around the corner. Extra sunshine and extra warmth. I know you can get through this