This is a guest post from the Ketchikan Wellness Coalition.
May is Mental Health Awareness month and I have been thinking about my own mental health during this time of dealing with Covid-19. Here is my story.
I arrived back from training for work in Seattle on Friday, March 13th in the evening. Seattle was the hotspot for Covid-19 and since I had just spent a week there, I was told that I needed to self quarantine and work from home. I was not prepared for what was to come. I had been working at my new job as the Drug Free Communities Program Coordinator for the Ketchikan Wellness Coalition for one month and now I had to work from home? Whoa! I barely knew what I was doing and now I had to do it from home! After a conference call with my coworkers where we set a plan in motion, I was off and running.
I read up on how to work from home and the things that you should do to be successful. The advice was to stick to your regular routine. Get up at the same time, shower and get started working at your usual time. Eliminate distractions and take regular breaks just like you would if you were working in your office. Use Zoom, email and phone calls to keep in contact with everyone. Eat nutritious food, drink plenty of water and get outside to exercise as much as possible while remaining socially distant. Keep yourself busy with projects that you have not had time to do. Okay… I can do this. And I did… for 14 days. On the day my self quarantine was over… the governor issued a hunker down in place order. What? I just finished 14 days of self quarantine and I wanted to see my friends and family! Nope! Stay home! Keep everyone safe! Things were getting worse with Covid-19 and new mandates were coming daily. Reports came in regarding how many positive cases we had in Alaska and in Ketchikan. Fear gripped our island as more cases were announced.
I was doing okay until week 2 in hunker down status. I lost it! Full on crying jag in complete frustration of not being able to do what I wanted to do and not being able to be with my family. I felt like I was in prison! I am an extreme extrovert and a hugger who desperately needed to see and hug people. Daily phone calls with my family were just not cutting it. I felt so deprived of human contact and missed my family so much that I couldn’t get moving. In fact… I couldn’t get motivated to eat or take a shower and I spent the whole day working in my nightgown. Yep… I didn’t even brush my teeth and I cried most of the day. On a weekly check in with my coworkers, I could barely speak. And then it happened. My coworkers expressed that they were feeling the same way. It had not been a good week for any of us. We were all struggling with isolation in some way and we were all trying to figure out how cope with our new normal. Then it dawned on me… I needed to do isolation my way… with humor and less stress.
So what has worked for me? Cutting myself some slack. I get started with work the same time every day and I have weekly scheduled meetings to keep me on track BUT there are some days that I am working in my nightgown. Yes, I am actually writing this article on a rainy afternoon in my nightgown. My husband teases me that he is going to write me up for a workplace violation for not taking a shower and getting dressed before going to work. Some days, I take a dance break and sing along to the Bear Necessities from the Jungle Book. I take a walk several times per week and attend meetings with my faith congregation. I have sewn masks for my family, friends and neighbors. I have been baking and cooking more. I hug my husband every chance I get. I have learned how to host a Zoom meeting and updated some of my computer skills. I have been physically present with my family while gardening and practicing social distancing on two occasions. I finally got to see my dad in person when I delivered pumpkin bread to him. We practiced social distancing… No hugging… but it was enough to make me feel normal again after 7 weeks of not being with him in person.
This is a tough time for all of us whether you are working from home or not working at all. Cut yourself some slack and do what works for you. What works for you might change every day and that is okay. Just do the best you can and that is more than enough.
Healthy Minds is a monthly column coordinated by Ketchikan Wellness Coalition as a way to share positive stories from people living with mental illness, offer information from local mental health professionals about maintaining mental health in your life, and provide details on tangible activities or actions you can take to strengthen your mental wellness. If you would like to contribute to the column, please contact Romanda Simpson at firstname.lastname@example.org