Technology, a double-edged sword. The positive is that you can get information 24/7 from numerous sources with differing opinions. The negative is that you can get information 24/7 from numerous sources with differing opinions. During our first week of quarantine, in between trying to get work done and keeping up with the news, I found myself depressed and exhausted. I became obsessed with reading everything and anything I could get my hands on about Covid-19. Although I was well aware of my commitment to work as well as my commitment to my family and community, I was consumed. I knew I needed to figure out how to balance all this, get back on track. As I entered the second week of isolation, I knew it was time to find my grounding and my balance.
On March 13th, I was notified by the president of our university that we would be closing and working from home. March 13th seems like months ago. Yet, as I write this piece, it’s only been 15 days. Why does it seem so much longer? After some serious introspection, I surmised that my perception of time was likely due to the overload of information in a very short period of time. I was overwhelmed and feeling like it was all surreal. The more I was sucked into the news frenzy, the more I lost touch with reality. Never a good thing to do in a crisis. I knew I had to shift my mindset and get my head, heart and body in a better place. Although it’s a work in progress, here’s what I’m learning:
Information is hitting hard and fast, and that ain’t good. Between our social media platforms and news outlets, we are being bombarded with information which seems to be hurting more than helping. According to an article by Libby Simon, MSW from PsycCentral, “Information overload is affecting our lives, and is multiplied exponentially when we are forced to wade through dizzying amounts of information to make simple everyday decisions. All of this places heavy demands on brain function, which becomes overwhelming and confusing. The result may be what some commentators have coined as, ‘data smog’ or ‘data asphyxiation'”. I definitely have experienced the fog!
Therefore, ascertain what’s pertinent, vital information along with “light” information that might offer a bit of mental refuge versus unnecessary noise. Personally, I’ve decided to check-in with the CDC once a day, typically first thing in the morning. I post positive quotes as my way of promoting more positive thoughts. I limit my time on social media, three times per day for 15-20 minutes. After 7 p.m. all social media and online news sources are closed. It’s made a difference.
Creating productive workspace. When I owned my own business years ago, the first five years I had a home office. I didn’t do well. My attention span is often challenged, and I was constantly distracted at home. Once I moved in to a formal office, I found my focus and balance. Now, I’m back at home. As mentioned earlier, my first week was rough. But as I start getting things back on track, I’ve moved my computer up in to my old home office. On Sunday night I create a schedule for myself for the coming week. I provide reasonable breaks throughout the day, which takes place of normal office interruptions. The beauty of this strategy is that it provides the structure I need, along with purpose. I need to feel that what I’m doing is meaningful and the first week it didn’t. I suffered from data asphyxiation for sure. Now that I’ve created a schedule, I’m more focused and driven. Additionally, I have set up weekly goals (3) which puts me back into the groove of accomplishment.
Caring for self and others. During this unprecedented time, we hear the importance of self-care. Yet with so many lives being lost, our first responders being pushed to their limit, isn’t it selfish to worry about our health? The clear answer is, no! According to NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Health, “Taking care of yourself is valid on its own, and it helps you support the people you love.” Your job is to make sure you’re do all you can to stay healthy. That makes a difference. Exercise, meditation whatever you need to escape and give your mind and body time to reconvene is vital. When you’re in a good place physically and mentally, you can help others, and there are plenty of ways to do that. Local charities and community sites are reaching out to community members to assist in ways that still honors the “stay-at-home” mandate. There are a number of health and wellness professionals offering free classes on line. Take advantage of it. If you’re in an environment where being alone is impossible, go in to the bathroom and just do 3 minutes of deep breathing. It’s something. We all want to feel like we’re doing something outside of ourselves, but we can’t do anything if we’re not well. The saying, “It starts with you” has never been more relevant.
If there’s one positive out of all of this chaos is the understanding that we are connected far more than we realize. We’ve simply been distracted and pulled away from our meaningful connections. There are so many good, caring, brilliant people that we’re discovering through this time. If you look back on history, we have always prevailed, this time is no different. We are resilient, we are passionate, we are innovative, we are amazing. If I may be so bold as to shift a phrase from Mahatma Gandhi, be the calm that you want to see in the world. We need it now more than ever.