The Paradox of Life During Coronavirus

In the time of COVID-19, life has changed. Many of us feel simultaneously overwhelmed and bored. I commonly hear how tired folks are when in fact, their lives are being lived in a smaller footprint. Time drags on and melts away as days all blend together, going fast and slow at the same time. It is so hard to make sense of all this.

How can this be? On one hand, everything has been put on hold. We have stopped running around, traveling, going places.  Ideally, it is a “stay-cation.” This moment opens the opportunity to get all the things done that have been put off, from cleaning out the closet to getting into shape. Kids who have begged to stay home now can’t go to school. Sounds like it would be a wish come true.

On the other hand, every pattern and routine has been disrupted. We don’t go to work, movies, parties or even go out in public without a mask. Grocery shopping includes verifying that the carts have been cleaned and that we stay 6 feet apart. Dining out has been replaced with cooking at home or picking up orders from a local restaurant or looking for a place with outside dining that all feel comfortable with. Changes include figuring out how to accommodate work and schooling with the daily life activities of cooking, cleaning, laundry, parenting and bill paying, all the while maintaining relationships with those with whom we live. It is exhausting; we are chronically challenged to manage all this in a new way.

Compounding things is the unintended consequence of health and safety measures of social distancing that prompt anxiety about the future and loneliness. Much is unknown. Who will get it?  What will be the extent of the illness if you or someone you love gets it? Will I have a job? When will my kids be able to go back to school? What are the long-term effects of my kids learning online, not having time with peers playing and interacting? What we have depended on has been shaken. These unknowns take up a lot of emotional energy, dragging us down.

Change is hard under normal circumstances. This is an exceptional time and the changes are everywhere. Changes are at home in our daily lives while the world outside is also shifting. In this upside down and inside out phase we are all in there is so much that is different. The juggling alone is tiring.  Beyond that, there is much to relearn. There is a lot of work required to figure out how to manage.  Things we took for granted now require effort. Work demands innovative thinking and new approaches to getting things done to replace previous processes that were running well. The go-to recreation to refresh and revitalize ourselves is gone, opening the challenge to find ways to spell oneself at home. With the loss of playdates, camps, school, and after school activities, parents now have to structure their kids’ daily activities. These burdens add to the complexity of navigating through the day. All these changes can be disorienting, fatiguing, and exhausting

This is a unique moment. We can appreciate both the time and freedom to do things that have been provided by the recent changes in the world and the challenge of managing day to day life in that same changed world. On one hand, there is a freedom that comes from being at home. On the other hand, being at home introduces new trials for how to meet the daily demands of maintaining life in a new “normal.” This makes for the paradox of being both overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time!

The path forward requires accepting the reality of the chaos while considering the opportunities of the moment. What can you do in the current circumstances? There are tons of resources online. Many companies are generating lots of free content. Put together a wish list, all the things you had put off or wanted to find time to do. Set a goal to try something new. Learn a language? Go through photos you’ve stashed in a box for another time? Clean out drawers, closets or the garage? Try a new recipe? It is amazing the number of things we once wished we had time to do, and now that we have the time, we don’t remember them. Be patient and take small steps. Looking at the opportunities this time presents opens a way through. It helps us narrow our focus to things we actually can control!

About the Author

Debra Kessler, Psy.D. Debra Kessler, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in the care of children and their families. Dr. Kessler was awarded her Bachelor of Science in Nursing, graduating Magna Cum Laude from Vanderbilt University. While working as an RN in Pediatric Intensive Care, she pursued a Masters Degree in Pediatrics from UCLA to further her skills in caring for children. After a career in nursing that included bedside nursing, Kessler chose to focus her attention on addressing the emotional needs of children and their families by obtaining a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at California School of Professional Psychology. Her post-doctorate work was done with Child Development Institute treating autistic and developmentally challenged preschool and young children and at Reiss-Davis Child Study center addressing the needs of school children, adolescents and their families. She has contributed to Infant/Child Mental Health, Early Intervention, and Relationship-Based Therapies: A Neurorelational Framework for Interdisciplinary Practice (Lillas &Turnbull 2009). Dr. Kessler has an active practice in Montrose, California. In a family centered manner, she treats a range of developmental and emotional issues including adoption/attachment difficulties, bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, autism/Asperger’s syndrome, ADHD, learning challenges, regulatory difficulties and other issues that interfere with children reaching their potential.

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