When I look out my window each morning, it is different but the same as it was two months ago. I still see our beautiful downtown skyline, our Willis Tower reaching up to the sky, and the Hancock standing strongly not far in the distance. What makes me pause is the lack of people, the very few cars, and the much quieter (dare I say it) environment.
I still have moments when I think of the pandemic and what means to the humans on this planet and to our future. Sometimes, I find myself in a surreal moment. I wonder if any of you have this feeling as well. I ask myself, is this really happening? At times, anxiety comes with these moments. I have found that mindfulness is helpful to ease this anxiety, such as concentrating on my breathing, focusing sounds around me, or moving my focus to what my four-year-old daughter is doing (she may be trying to ride our large dog).
Like many of you, I am having issues adjusting to staying in my home all the time. I am definitely wishing we rented an apartment that was bigger but I am grateful for every square foot as we have lived in less. I also daydream about having a forest in my living room so that I could frolick within the confines of my home. Due to the shelter-in-place, our exercise is limited to what we are able to do in our homes or walking and running outside. I know many of you are missing your gyms and yoga studios. Thankfully many studios and gyms are offering classes online. It is very important for each of us to continue to stay active to improve our mood, decrease anxiety, and to keep us overall physically healthy.
Sleep might have been disrupted for some due to adjustment struggles and anxiety. I personally have had sleep issues during my adjustment with this new reality. It is important to sleep to decrease anxiety and improve mood. We adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night for healthy functioning. Meditation, such as yoga nidra, and yin yoga before preparing for bed can both decrease anxiety which may improve sleep. Improving our sleep hygiene may help as well. Our sleep hygiene is made of practices and habits and structure that impact our sleep, and very likely many of these were disrupted by our adjustment to this pandemic. For instance, how much, when, and if we exercise impacts our sleep. What and when we eat does as well. Our caffeine intact is definitely a factor. It is helpful to make our sleep environment relaxing. I like aromatherapy and warm baths before bed. I also do not read or watch anything upsetting, anxiety provoking, or stimulating before bed. I think this is important to allow a sleep inducing environment.
Staying connected to others has been very important to me and has likely been important to many of you. There has been an adjustment to how I stay connected as well. I think that if there is a will, there is a way. I utilize Google Hangout and FaceTime for video chats with friends and family rather than phone as much so that I can actually “see” them more. I definitely utilize video more than I used to. Movie nights out with friends have become virtual movie nights in, which were a different experience for me, but still fun. I have found that twoseven and Netflix party platforms are both useful for this service but have some flaws. Since we cannot see our loved ones in person, I think it is important to find a way to be as connected as possible to other humans, and video technology helps us.
My four-year-old daughter has had issues adjusting as well to not seeing her friends or family in person. FaceTime play sessions have been helpful for her. She and her friends and cousins play with their own toys at the same time through FaceTime while talking to each other. The can talk about their toys and play for 2 hours! As with significant changes, children may not know how to handle them and may exhibit some behavioral issues. My daughter has had more tantrums and has had some urinary incontinence. I think that it is important for us all to remember that children need to to adjust and just as we are having a difficult time with these changes, our children are too. Young children can have difficulty adjusting to having a new car or sofa, much less not going to school and not seeing their friends and family. One for my daughter’s biggest grievances is not being able to go to her neighborhood park. I think patience is key with children. Teletherapy is always an option if needed.
I have noticed many acts of kindness, empathy, and care from human to human despite our need to keep physical distance. The term “social distancing” which means out of large crowds and maintaining a physical distance of at least 6 feet from others, does not mean that we should be “socially distant” from others. If anything, during this time, we should find ways to connect to other humans as much as possible. Even though we are relatively physically isolated in the pandemic, we are together in this journey.
-Dr. Terry Dornak, Psy.D., CCATP