May 5th, 2020 by Sterk Family Law
The year 2020, for most of us, started with new hopes, new goals and new resolutions set, as each year does. As with most years, we resolved to make this our “best year yet.” As we came off the high of the holidays, we may have felt revived or some of us may have felt a crash. There were memes floating around about reliving the roaring 20’s through themed parties to celebrate events that would happen. Some of us had monumental birthdays, weddings, or events coming up. The year started with a roar of great ambition, a fresh start. Then, as many of us listened to the news, we heard mumbling of some virus overseas.
The leap year brought an extra day to the days we carried on with normal abodes. We woke up, did our routines; got the kids ready, worked out, went to work, came home, had our date nights or sports practices. We went on with our dailies with little to no regard to the fact that a silent attack was about to attack our lives as we knew it. As March rolled in, the news was abuzz with the influx of the coronavirus. Many of us started to have internal thoughts, worries, and questions about this new strain of the virus and how it would affect us or our families. Many employers started to quietly prepare plans to accommodate the what-ifs and keep their employees calm. The news networks all spit out conflicting messages, contributing to the confusion.
On March 20, 2020, residents of Illinois were initially advised that the state would be under a mandated shelter-in-place Order. The questions, worries, and fears that many of us had before came rushing to reality. Many non-essential workers would not be able to go to work the next week to earn a living and would need to figure out how to receive unemployment benefits and support their families. Some essential businesses would have to make a massive shift in their operations to keep employees safe and to follow the order which resulted in many people working from their homes for the first time in their lives. Other essential workers and businesses would have to face the reality of the change in a different form; front-line workers would soon see an influx of ill citizens and have to put their own safety to the side to care for others while other essential workers had to overhaul their standard operations to include safety measures. Parents and children had to now turn their homes into classrooms and parents had to step into the roles of educators while trying to balance work, life, and the confusion of Common Core math.
The (Mental) Struggle Is Real
Change. Each and every one of us has had to deal with the coronavirus change and the change has caused inevitable stress. Our homes, sanctuaries for most, have become makeshift schools, workplaces, and for those in toxic, abusive relationships, prisons. Although many people previously complained about the stress or lack of desire to rush in the morning to get ready for work or school, there was at least the ability to leave the house, interact with others, go out for a lunch meeting or a networking event after work. For introverts, the shelter-in-place may feel like a perfect world…no need to talk to anyone or leave the house. For extroverts, staying in place and the lack of socialization has been hard on their outgoing personalities.
Many people are being affected by mental health issues such as anxiety, insomnia, depression, and substance abuse for the first time in their lives as a result of the changes, isolation, and forced containment. In a tracking poll conducted in March by KFF, it was found that 47% of people who were sheltering in place reported “negative mental health effects resulting from worry or stress related to coronavirus.” For those who have had mental health concerns or substance abuse issues, the change is putting additional strain on these individuals. Stress causes not only affects mental wellness but can also affect people’s physiological well-being which can be a vicious circle. For example, if you are stressed and anxious trying to maintain a busy work life, manage your children (who are likely stressed and anxious) and their school work, a relationship with your partner (who is likely also stressed and anxious), your mind may not ever really shut-off and you find yourself tossing and turning during the night or having panic attacks about what tomorrow is going to bring. When you don’t get a proper night’s sleep, your body and mind are going to be physically exhausted, you won’t feel well, and it affects your day and productions on all levels. Wash, rinse, and repeat – this is a downward spiral that is easy to go further and further down, faster and faster and can be hard to dig your way out of.
“Help! I Need Somebody!” We all do.
Whether you are trying to manage your mental health for the first time or if you are trying to combat new barriers, you need somebody to talk to. Help can come in the form of a friend, family member, or mental health or addiction professional. While, for some, talking about our feelings is a struggle in itself, the more the emotions get vaulted up, the probability for implosion is nearly inevitable.
In addition to talking to someone about how you may be feeling, try to develop other healthy ways to help yourself:
- If you are finding yourself glued to your device and burying yourself in work more than you were before, set a timer and learn to walk away. Set your boundaries but be realistic. If you worked a standard 9 to 5, 8-hour day before and playing the role of super parent, super employee, super teacher, and finding time for you isn’t working in the 9 to 5 time frame, speak with your employer to see if you can make some adjustments. You still have to get your job done but creatively adjusting your schedule may help you manage.
- Create a routine, make a list, and set realistic goals for yourself. While it’s convenient to roll out of bed and sit in front of your computer, try to get up, shower, and get dressed in non-lounge clothes to motivate yourself. Sit down and triage your tasks for the day and keep it realistic; set 5 goals and focus on doing those. Making a list and setting goals for yourself will help keep you focused and should also help push some anxiety to the side because some things really can wait until tomorrow (or even the next day)!
- While you’re walking away from your computer, go for a walk outside! Take a stroll around your neighborhood and see how your neighbors may have decorated their windows with cheerful messages and artwork or wave at neighbors (and their dogs) you may have never seen before.
- Many fitness centers and other apps are offering virtual classes or free access to their apps so this could be a great time to kickstart a fitness routine. If cardio isn’t your thing, there are yoga or meditation apps available too.
- If listening or watching the news is causing you stress, take a break from listening or watching. If you need the “noise” in your day, consider finding or making a playlist of music instead.
- If you are on social media outlets, guess what? Many people have become very “vocal” behind their devices with their opinions or clicking the share button without checking facts. You may find yourself getting upset or into virtual arguments with someone who you haven’t seen since high school so taking a break from apps could help relieve stress too.
- Since restaurants are closed and you can’t go out to eat, find a virtual cooking class to wow yourself or your family with the culinary genius you had dormant inside you. If all else fails and you really can’t cook, you can support local business by ordering takeout.
- If your glass of wine after work is turning into a bottle of wine every night, try to limit or cease your intake if possible.
You aren’t alone
Although no one knows when this pandemic will end and it is impossible to fix things which are out of our control, we hope you know that you aren’t alone in this and that each and every one of us is dealing with our mental health in some capacity as well.
If you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions including depression, sadness, anxiety, or feel like you want to cause harm yourself or others, here are some contacts for you:
Written by Kelly Garver
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