Spoiler alert: This post is NOT about a makeover related to style and fashion or hair and makeup. So, if that’s what you are interested in right now, you definitely have not come to the right place. Well, unless, you are interested in perfecting a concealer-translucent finishing powder-neutral eyeliner-lip balm-bandana to tame cowlicks look, then, look no further. I perfected that look years ago and did not need a pandemic to lure me into a state of comfort and low maintenance. But I digress.
This past week left me in need of a makeover of a much different kind, and by the looks of my social media feeds, apparently, I am far from alone in this. Having become adept at managing bouts of anxiety and depression over the years, in some ways, I feel like I have been preparing for this pandemic for most of my adult life. I have been using my tried and true coping mechanisms to successfully manage my emotions, and both on and off the job, I have been offering support to others regarding how to cope with the changes courtesy of COVID-19. I had settled into a new rhythm and focused on the hum of daily life. Then, things got out of tune.
The week was uneventful, except, of course, for the pandemic. I was ambushed by waves of anxiety, sadness, frustration, and irritability, and I instinctively went on the defensive. I tried to extinguish these feelings with a variety of tactics. Positive thinking. Indulging in some comfort food. Imploring myself to toughen up. The more I resisted this emotional assault, the more these feelings persisted. As the week wore on, I felt more and more worn out. Emotionally. Physically. Spiritually. I was ready to wave the white flag. So, that’s what I did.
At some point, it occurred to me that what I was doing was definitely not working, and to continue to do so and expecting a different outcome was the very definition of insanity. I was not doing myself or anyone else any favors by continuing to engage in this battle plan. So, I took a breath, took a step back, and took a different course of action.
Feel the emotions. The first thing that I did was to acknowledge each emotion that was clamoring for my attention, much like a parent with a child who wants something. As I identified each feeling, I allowed myself to feel them, really feel them, minus the agenda of wanting to make them disappear. As I gave myself permission to experience these emotions, the tears came readily, followed by a sense of relief. No, it didn’t feel good to feel painful emotions, but it did feel better to provide them with safe passage through my mind and heart.
Choose a better thought. As I began to work through these emotions, I gained better clarity into the thoughts that had created these feelings. These thoughts were riddled with familiar phrases:
I can’t do this. This is too much to handle. I don’t want to go through this.
These thoughts also were accompanied about an abundance of what ifs:
What if someone I love contracts COVID-19? What if these social restrictions continue for months on end? What if the global community never fully recovers?
I felt terrible and trying to do a 180 and think thoughts to contrary only made me feel worse. So, I chose better thoughts that I could get behind and that made me feel even slightly better:
I have gotten through challenges in the past, and I can get through this. I am doing everything I can to keep myself and others safe and sound. It’s okay to feel how I feel right now.
Choosing better thoughts led to feeling better, more positive feelings.
Set realistic expectations. I tend to have more realistic expectations for others than I do for myself. I don’t know why I thought that I was not entitled to feel a range of emotions during this current situation, but I realized that I was holding myself to an unfair set of expectations. Berating myself for not living up to perceived standards did not, and will not, serve me well. Treating myself with compassion, patience, and love do serve me well, and during difficult times, I need an extra serving or two, instead of depriving myself. Like everyone else, I am a human being doing the best I can from day-to-day. Some days, my best looks differently than others, and that is okay, as am I.
Seek out support. Although separated physically from everyone other than my daughters, I still have a great deal of support, and for that I am grateful beyond measure. When in the middle of a meltdown, I have difficulty seeing a way out and focus more on problems than solutions, and I was reminded to seek support from sources outside of myself. My sweet boyfriend. My extraordinary daughters. My wonderful colleagues. An amazing life coach. My family and friends. Inspirational books and podcasts. My favorite music. There is support available for the asking, and I am glad that I finally got around to asking, instead of going this alone.
As a new week approaches, I am feeling much calmer and more focused and motivated, thanks to my emotional makeover. Pandemic or not, I reminded myself that it is okay to have a meltdown and that I can choose to stay mired in it for as long as I decide. Today, I stand by my decision to move upward and onward post meltdown.
That’s another story . . .
Categories: That's Another Story