I had a lovely and helpful Zoom meeting yesterday with a group of my women friends. We had gathered virtually for our usual in-person twice a month meeting. Our focus was on checking in with how everyone was coping with the coronavirus situation. I was fascinated by the variety of reactions expressed about being isolated at home while social or physical distancing. Some of my friends were really struggling with being alone while others were fine to be on their own. Some found they were experiencing less everyday anxiety because there were fewer expectations for having to accomplish anything. Others had increased anxiety. There were a few people who, like me, already work from home in a solitary endeavor so they are used to being isolated. Some really missed their social engagements, others not so much. Many were taking advantage of nice weather to go outside for walks in nature. Some were grateful for Zoom and other ways to engage with each other virtually. Too many Zoom sessions in a day exhausts me, so I am setting limits on my virtual social interaction. Gratitude came up frequently.
Although there were some similarities and themes for how we are handling our day-to-day, I was struck by how differently we were all managing this change in lifestyle. There is no one right way to get through an experience that you have never had before. And that is truly what makes this an unusual time. Most of us have never been through a pandemic and we don’t have any foundational understanding of what to do and how we will react. One of my friends was being hard on herself because she feels like she is overacting and not behaving calmly and leaderly like she usually does in times of upheaval. Be kind to yourself if you are reacting very differently from how you have in the past to unusual circumstances. And allow that how you react may be very different from your family, friends and loved ones. Now is a chance to talk to each other to make sure that you understand each other’s fears and needs and desires. As I have been personally experiencing, those fears and needs and desires can change rapidly so check in with each other often.
I find that simple questions to start the conversation are really helpful. “How are you feeling?” “What do you need right now?” “What’s going on for you today?” “How are you managing having the kids at home?” Allow the other person to feel safe about describing their experience by quietly listening to what they have to say. And it might be helpful to set ground rules, like, “I really want to talk about the corona virus and how it’s being handled,” or “I really need a break from talking about it.” Be flexible and open to what the other person needs. And of course let them know what you need. And keep in mind that people have rhythms through the day for how they process information. I do not want to go into too much depth in the evening—I am just not at my best at that time and get overwhelmed easily. I am a morning and day person. Others need to percolate on issues and want to talk later in the day. That isn’t always easy to coordinate between two people, but do your best.
My husband asked me yesterday to think about what I want to take away from my experience during the coronavirus pandemic. What a great area to explore! What do you want to remember about these weeks? What are you learning about yourself, about your loved ones, about life during these times? Ponder these questions with love and kindness and see what you discover. We have a tremendous opportunity to be present for each other right now, so take advantage of opening your heart to one another, share your experiences and show your gratitude.