It’s something I hear every day from my own head. My social anxiety has often stopped me from going outside and participating in life. And now it’s as if I don’t have to as I hear that phrase from authorities and news outlets with the current pandemic. I hear terms like “social distancing” and “social isolation” and think of how prepared my mental struggle has made me. It’s as if my anxiety now has an excuse to run my life because everything it feared is true. And it’s scary wondering if you’re taking a backseat to your mental illness.
For some of us who are staying indoors, it can be hard to be productive. Why would we need to wake up on time, change into actual clothes, or do much more than lay around? Isn’t it a good time to sleep until the afternoon or spend countless hours mindlessly browsing the internet?
No, it’s not.
You can’t let your mental struggles win. You can fight back against it. We may be confined inside but we are not powerless. We can continue to care and show up for ourselves while isolated. Finding what works for you may take time, but simply starting and trying is a win.
When the pandemic first took root and I was at home, it was definitely hard to do much of anything. The depression that stemmed from the anxiety reveled in this new normal. But weeks and months later, I found a routine. I work hard the night before to get to sleep earlier, giving myself enough time to get ready for bed without staring at a screen. Then upon waking, I change my clothes. Doing so changes my outlook. I feel more prepared to get things done when I am out of my pajamas. As much as my mental health wants to be lazy all day, I know that I ultimately shouldn’t for the sake of my well-being.
I go slow, not overworking myself or setting overly high expectations. If I don’t get up exactly when my alarm goes off, that is okay. If my mind wanders and I decide to do something else, that is okay too. If I can’t get myself to talk to other people, as that is a challenge for me, I find other ways to communicate. I don’t read the news constantly as it just brings me down more. If I start off strong but slow down as the day wears on, I don’t tell myself I’ve failed. I can try again tomorrow.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. You are trying.
Continue to check in with yourself as you would a beloved friend. Ask yourself, “How you are doing?” We don’t often direct that question inwardly, but we need to. Where your mind is at and how you’re feeling are important to be aware of. It can change daily or even hourly. Being observant of yourself gives you more opportunities to adjust as needed and move in a more positive, supportive direction.
It is a scary, anxiety-riddled time we’re living in. We’re told our home is our safest space. We’re told to stay put. But we don’t have to feel stuck inside our minds while we are inside. We cannot let our anxiety keep us from living our lives. We can survive these uncertain times without being wrought with and overtaken by worry.