How to stay mentally healthy, find new opportunities three months into coronavirus in Austin
We get it. It’s been three months since we first learned that there were two confirmed COVID-19 cases in Travis County and schools were closed, workers sent home to work, businesses shuttered.
While Central Texas is starting to reopen, social distancing, mask-wearing, hand-washing, staying at home and working from home are still recommended, especially if you are in the population of people age 65 or older or with a preexisting condition or around someone who has those risk factors.
“It’s OK to feel confused, lost and have a lack of clarity or a plan,” wrote Renee Trudeau when asked about how to make the best of this time and how to begin to find a new energy. The Austin author coaches people on how to live life intentionally. “It’s OK to not feel wise, discerning or be having aha moments. That will come later,” she writes.
People are “quarantine-weary right now,” she wrote. They need to be “gentle with themselves. Many are in survival mode and need to take life hour by hour, and that’s OK.”
She suggested we make self-care our priority, work on finding connection and focus on what in our lives is going well.
Debbie Roberson, owner of Thriveworks’ North Austin, Bastrop, Pflugerville, Cedar Park and South Austin locations, sees this time as three distinct months of emotions.
The first month was “panic, pivot and perform” to get done whatever was necessary to find a new normal and to survive.
The second month was “accept, awe and able.” People took on fun projects around the house, they got organized, they found things to do for fun and ways to safely get out of the house.
This third month, though, that’s “exhaustion, excuses and irritation,” she says. We thought we could do it all, and now there is the realization that this is lasting longer than we thought. We’re getting irritated with the people in our lives and at ourselves for not being able to do it all.
Roberson sees the pandemic as “a collective case of grief and loss.” We are grieving, she says, the loss of lives as well as the state of the economy, the racial unrest and the loss of the life we knew before, including our time with friends and family.
Find ways to be more flexible in your thinking, she says; try to let go of the rigid thinking that is getting in your way. You can write down your frustrations and then throw that paper in the trash to let them go.
Focus, instead, on the things you do have the power to change, and accept the things that you do not have control over such as the loss of a job or a furlough.
“It is a mind shift to realize that things may be like this for a much longer time,” she says. “How can we create our new normal that is high-functioning and allows us to also grieve for the parts that are missing right now?”
That might mean creating a new schedule; it might mean evaluating your skills, your interests, your personality to find the right fit for the next opportunity.
“Dare to dream big right now and see what new doors might open up for you,” she says.
Carrie Vanston, who is a professional coach and calls herself the Alligator Wrangler, helps people get out of the alligator pit, whatever might have them stuck.
She recommends that people think about the value that they bring. Change the core thought from “I’m stuck at home” or “I’ve been downsized” to something positive about how you can take advantage of this opportunity.
If there was something you’ve always wanted to do in your career, this is the time to start working toward that. For one client, it meant building up a website for her side business of making jewelry, Vanston says.
Write down your fears, but then write down your passions, your ideas, the steps to get you there. Create goals for what you really, really want, rather than what you feel you have to do.
Vanston also recommends concentrating on gratitude to give you renewed energy.
Seek ways to connect with people and learn more about them to build allies who will help you in the future.
See yourself doing the things you want to do, and reflect on past experiences of times that were difficult and how you were able to overcome them.
Find things to look forward to each day, as well as in the future.
“Really look at what you truly want,” Vanston says. Focus on that instead of all the noise and discouragements around you.
This is a time to make the connections and make people aware of you and the talents you bring, Vanston says. Volunteer to do things that will move you closer to the career you want to have.
She says this time period is forcing people “to think in positive, affirming ways, to create a vision of what will move them forward.”
While you’re finding a new career focus, Roberson reminds us that we can use this time to enjoy the things we never have time to do like the books we’ve wanted to read and the shows we’ve wanted to watch.
Find new self-care routines. If you’ve run out of puzzles or you’re tired of walking the same path every day, find a new route, find a new hobby. If the friend you always reach out to isn’t available or is in a negative zone, try a different friend.
Surround yourself with positive people, Roberson says.
And if you’re really struggling, if you feel like there’s no hope, reach out. If you have thoughts of suicide or are not showering, not eating or eating too much, not sleeping or sleeping too much, not able to get out of bed, not communicating with others or snapping at others, seek help.
Roberson’s ThriveWorks is seeing a sharp increase in requests for counseling services in the last three months, she says, especially with men. A common theme has been that they just feel stuck.
Her guess is that it’s not only the stress of these months that has more people, especially men, seeking help, but also the fact that counselors are using telemedicine and there isn’t the stigma of having to walk into a counseling office.
While you might be able to set new goals, start a new career or find a new hobby, you might not be. “It’s OK to just not be ready to pivot,” Trudeau writes. “It’s OK to just be where you are and to try to best support yourself.”