Things Not to Say to Someone Struggling During the Pandemic

Now is the time to practice empathy. Everyone is dealing with this pandemic in a different way. This is a new time for all of us and the impacts and challenges of this pandemic vary greatly from person to person. We have no idea what the other person is dealing with or how they are coping and handling their stress. When someone is struggling it can be easy to try to solve their problem or tell them what they should be grateful or thankful for. We want to try to point out the positives, but the reality is this can come across as judgemental, insensitive, and create added guilt for the person already struggling. I encourage everyone to be cognizant of what they are saying and how they are saying it when trying to provide support. Practice empathy not sympathy. Check out Brene Brown’s video to get a great understanding on the difference between the two!

Below are some of the situations I have struggled with during the pandemic and what I wished people would stop saying to me, and what I wished they would say instead. These may not be true for everyone, but use the ones you think could be helpful and I encourage you to watch Brene Brown’s video for some tools to use to help those you love who are struggling. 

For those struggling to stay home

Do not say:

  • Enjoy this time
  • Take advantage and deep clean your house or get all your to do projects done
  • Use this time to learn something new
  • At least you are healthy
  • Be thankful you have a home

Instead try:

  • I can’t imagine how hard this is for you
  • It is normal to feel stressed right now, don’t put additional pressure on yourself
  • Many are struggling staying at home right now, you are not alone. 
  • How you are feeling is completely understandable and expected.
  • There is no normal right now, it is ok to feel the way you are feeling.

For those who are struggling being home with their children

Do not say:

  • You need to take advantage of this time with them
  • They are only young once
  • You won’t get this time back
  • This is an opportunity
  • I wish I had that much time home with my child 

Instead try:

  • It must be really hard to be a parent right now
  • I bet every parent is beyond stressed right now
  • I can’t imagine how difficult this must be
  • I know you are doing the best you can
  • You are a good parent, even if you don’t always feel like it right now!

For those who are struggling with teleworking

Do not say:

  • At least you have a job
  • At least you are getting paid
  • So many people have it worse than you
  • At least you get to stay at home
  • At least you are being exposed at work

Instead try:

  • It must be hard to try to work from home
  • I can’t imagine trying to manage a work life balance while teleworking
  • A lot of teleworkers are feeling pressure to perform at or above normal standards and that has to be challenging
  • Everything you are feeling is normal and understandable
  • You are a good employee, even if you don’t always feel like it right now!

For those who are struggling with being alone

Do not say:

  • At least you are heathy
  • We are all in this together (for many this can make them feel more isolated)
  • At least you don’t have to worry about making anyone sick
  • Take this time as an opportunity to reflect and grow
  • You will be with people again soon

Instead try:

  • I can’t imagine how hard this is for you
  • Everything you are feeling is normal and understandable
  • I am hear to listen if you need to talk
  • You will be with people again someday, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.

This is just a short list of items people may be struggling with. Please share below what you have been struggling with and what you wish people would stop saying and what they could say instead. Let’s help each other practice empathy and share what does and does not work for us. I do believe this time will pass and that we can all survive our adversities if we can empathize with ourselves and with others. Stay healthy and stay sane!

Struggles of an Extrovert Turned Introvert

I am a people person. I am the person that smiles at everyone they see on the street and at the grocery store. The person who will strike up a conversation in line for coffee. The person who will force you out of your comfort zone, while somehow helping you feel comfortable doing it. I am the person that hates small talk, but will dive head first into a meaningful conversation with a complete stranger. I am the person that will share their soul with you, no questions asked. I am the person that probably trusts too easily and continually seeks out the best in people, even when I shouldn’t. What makes me happy, what keeps me whole, what makes my soul sing is meeting people, talking to people, helping people, connecting with people. This is what I live for, this is what moves me from surviving to thriving. 

The last few weeks have been a real struggle for me. I feel like a trapped animal. I am suffocating in my own home. As I sit here it’s like the walls are closing in on me. I am doing the best I can to take care of myself and my family, but I know I am not at my best. I am physically and emotionally exhausted. I spend a lot of time looking longingly out the window, patiently waiting for the day I can start going to work again, meeting with friends again, exploring the world again. I am anxious for the day that I can smile at a stranger without getting the “she might be contagious, why is she smiling at me,” look. I am dying to stand in a coffee line where I don’t have to be six feet apart from the person in front of me. I want nothing more than to have a meaningful conversation with a stranger without masks or plastic partitions. I want life to go back to normal. I want to connect again.

I can feel small pieces of my soul disappearing and dying everyday I spend teleworking and communicating with colleagues electronically. I am the annoying person in the office that says hello to everyone. The person that wants to talk about the weekend, about your family, about your projects, about the news, about dreams, about passions, about life. I don’t know who I am right now, I don’t know what to do with myself when I can’t connect. I am a people person, I need to be around people, I need variety, I need intellectual exchanges, I need to be challenged, I need interaction. I need more than the isolation I have been forced into. 

Don’t get me wrong I am more than thankful to be physically healthy, but as an extrovert suddenly forced into becoming an introvert I worry more and more about my mental health everyday. I am grateful to be at home with my family, to be safe and out of harm’s way, to be financially secure and employed. I am grateful for my wonderful husband who is doing everything he can to help me maintain a sense of myself. I am thankful for my mother who has been an amazing support system through this difficult time. I am so blessed to have a daughter who loves me and brings me many moments of joy. I know I am one of the lucky ones and I won’t forget that any time soon. My family is what keeps me going, they are what is preventing me from having a full on mental breakdown. 

I will continue to follow the stay at home orders and quarantine myself and my family. I believe it is the right thing to do and I know it is saving lives, and that is by far more important than being an extrovert right now. I am so thankful to all those who are working and supporting our communities so the rest of us can stay at home. Out of respect to you, I promise that I too will do my part by staying home and helping to flatten the curve. We are all facing different challenges and hardships, some more difficult than others, but we are all doing the best we can to survive. I will continue to do the best I can during this difficult time. I know I will make it out of this alive and that one day soon I will move from surviving back to thriving. To all my fellow extroverts turned introverts I feel you and I know your struggle! One day we will be free to be extroverts again 🙂

Is My Tinfoil Hat on Straight?

My sleep terrorist has returned!  After a short hiatus, she is back in full force (Confronting My Sleep Terrorist), and to add insult to injury she has been joined by other secret agents and terrorists sent to destroy me and cause havoc in my already chaotic life! 

Pretty sure whoever started this whole global pandemic did it on purpose to punish me. The stay at home order that has closed my four year old’s daycare facility, also to punish me. The lack of social interaction, the depleted toilet paper situation, the rainy days, the telework challenges and complications, the constant cookie negotiations (Cookie Negotiations the New Normal?), the oncoming collapse of the economy, the barking dog, the non stop children’s programming streaming on my tv, all of it, it is all some sort of sick punishment for something I did, no idea what I did or when I did it, maybe it’s karma from a past life.  I just don’t know.

In times of crisis, like we are currently facing, we all have a tendency to start taking everything happening around us, especially the things out of our control, as personal attacks against us. When my mind starts filling with these conspiracy theory thoughts, I stop and ask myself one question. Is my tinfoil hat on straight? 

My daughter in her tinfoil hat, because she is so much cuter!

This question uses humor to ground me, recenter me, and focus my thoughts. It reminds me that I am the one acting like a crazy person and the world is not out to get me. The things happening around me aren’t some sort of ploy to make me miserable or punish me for past acts. A global pandemic and all of the resulting issues has nothing to do with me as an individual. Yes these things are impacting my life in a major way, but I have to get rid of my beliefs that anything about these events means anything at all about me as a person.

I have to remember that my daughter is not a terrorist, just a scared child who is having trouble sleeping in these uncertain and unpredictable times. I have to remember that all of the closures, including daycare and my office, are for the good of the whole and the safety of myself and my family. I have to remember that depleted toilet paper is the result of terrified people trying to control just one thing in their lives. The pandemic, the possible future collapse of the economy, the barking dog, the limited social interaction, the children’s programming, and cookie negotiations are not a punishment, just a result of incredibly unfortunate circumstances. I have to remember that I have survived hardship in the past and I will survive this as well. 

So when these thoughts start creeping up on you, please take a moment, take a breath, and ask yourself is my tinfoil hat on straight? It is normal to have these thoughts, but we need to keep them in check before they take control of us. It is human to make ourselves the center of the universe, therefore, everything that is happening must somehow be connected to us or about us, but nothing that is happening out in the world right now is to punish you or some kind of karmic action. I promise! Together we will get through this and one day life will return to normal. Stay strong. Stay safe. And please stay sane!

Better Parent vs. Great Employee

Everyday during this quarantine has been pretty much the same. Wake up, get dressed (basically put on warmer pj’s), get my daughter up, start the coffee, put on a show for my daughter, start the computer, and get to work. The day continues in a never ending emotional tug of war between work and home. Both demanding my attention and concentration and both important to me, but I am ashamed to admit that more often than not, work wins. 

At least once every couple of days I have to explain to my four year old that I cannot color, play games, or read to her because I have work to do. We talk about how mommy and daddy have to work to make money so we can pay for the house, food, gas, toys, and treats. She accepts this answer, but I know she doesn’t really understand. Recently I have started asking myself what message is she really walking away with? That work is important and we need to work to make money to pay bills? Or that work is more important than she is?

If I had to guess, I would bet money on the second one, that she walks away believing that work is more important than she is. Before all of the stay at home orders my daughter enjoyed going to daycare and playing with her friends.  She often talked about how much she missed us, but that it was ok because she had so much fun while we were gone. Now we are asking our four year old to do what most adults can’t even do. We are asking her to entertain herself for eight or more hours a day inside our house in a room, alone, with just some toys and a tv. Yes, we spend some time with her between meetings/emails/projects, but if I were put in that situation I would hate it and I would go nuts too.

It is no wonder that she is constantly interrupting us and looking for attention. She has been taken out of her regular routine where she interacts with so many different teachers and children and is now forced to stay at home with only mom and dad. She doesn’t understand what is happening in the world, she just knows that people are sick. She will ask three or four times a week to go somewhere, telling us that she is not sick and that she promises not to make anyone else sick. It is absolutely heartbreaking. This is harder for her than for us and as I write this I am realizing just how much I have let her down in this time of crisis. 

I often get annoyed when she wants to play. SHE IS FOUR YEARS OLD. Of course she wants to play. I get annoyed by all of her overwhelming energy. SHE IS FOUR YEARS OLD. Of course she has endless energy and she is locked in the house all day while we work, what do we expect? By the time I get my work hours in for the day I am exhausted and have to help with chores and the last thing I want to do is entertain her, but again SHE IS FOUR YEARS OLD. Of course she wants to be entertained, of course she wants to spend time with her parents, of course she wants attention. SHE IS FOUR YEARS OLD and she is scared and confused!!

I need to continue to work, there is no getting around that, but in this time of chaos I need to allow myself to do less, to produce less, to accept this current reality and put my focus back on my priorities, my daughter and my family. It is time that as a nation we accept the world around us and we stop putting this unrelenting pressure on ourselves to continue working and living like we did before the coronavirus. That is not possible! It is time that we admit things are not ok and that while we will survive, now is not a time to try to force ourselves to also thrive. 

I have been trying to do it all and be it all and by doing this I am failing everyone. I am not the employee I want to be, the wife I want to be, the mother I want to be, the daughter I want to be, or the friend I want to be. During this crisis I am going to have to choose and today I choose the people I love. I choose to work a little less and play a little more. I choose to hug my daughter every time she interrupts and tell her that I love her and that she is the most important thing to me. I choose to make my breaks a little longer so she gets the attention she needs. I choose to make up missed work after she goes to bed at night or before she wakes in the morning. I choose to bring whatever joy I can to my loved ones while we face these continuing uncertainties. 

I am choosing to acknowledge what so many of us keep trying to put a positive spin on, that this sucks. Every single thing about this virus, the impacts it has on our families, communities, and economy sucks. It just plain sucks! I am embracing that life is not normal and won’t be for a long time, and I am choosing to change the way I live and work to make sure that when this is all over, if nothing else my daughter knows that she is loved and supported and can always count on her parents when the shit hits the fan.  I am re-prioritizing my priorities. I choose to be a better parent over being a great employee.The choice is yours.

Today we took a little extra time to play outside and enjoy the sun while it was out 🙂

Things to Ponder Besides the Pandemic

As the hours turn into days, the days into weeks, and slowly the weeks are turning into months I have found that I am spending way too much time focusing on this pandemic and all the negative elements that are completely out of my control. I am spiralling almost daily into a bout of anxiety and depression that is not healthy and completely unhelpful in the given situation. 

In an effort to refocus I have come up with a list of other things to think about. I find this list helpful in preventing my daily spiral, whenever I feel the urge to go down that path of anxiety and depression I go back to my list and spend some time thinking about something different. I even start conversations on these topics with my fellow quarantine mates (husband and daughter) so I can challenge my own perspectives, and well have some fun conversations.

These lists are just for fun and to move your mind from the ongoing crisis we are facing to something a little less daunting. Most are fun in nature and some are to get us back to a grateful state of being. I am not actually looking for answers, just things to ponder, but please feel free to comment if you have answers or other things to think about. I hope they can help you like they helped me!

Gratitude:

  • What is the best thing that happened to me today?
    • This week?
    • This month?
    • This year?
  • What have I enjoyed the most during my time at home?
  • Who has been the most helpful during this crisis and have I thanked them?
  • Focusing on today, not living in the past or the future, what things am I grateful for right now?
    • Examples: My health, family, friends, roof over my head, food on my table, a job, a great support system, the ability to telework, spending more time with my daughter, learning new skills while safe at home, being able to support others in my community that need help, having other topics to keep my mind occupied, etc.
  • What things can I do to make this pandemic a little more bearable for those I love and the people in my community?

Getting the Creative Juices Flowing:

  • If I had to title the book or movie based on my life in quarantine what would it be?
  • If you were to start a blog what would it be about?
    • What special skills do you have to offer to the world? What can you do that very few other people can?
  • If you could have any artistic or creative skill set what would it be?
    • Is there anything you can do now, especially with some extra time at home, to move towards obtaining that skill set?
  • If you could write a letter to anyone living or dead who would it be and what would it say?
    • Why not actually write that letter?
  • If you have ever played Cards Against Humanity what cards would you create?

Random Thoughts and Questions:

  • How do kids get themselves stuck in those toy claw machines?
  • What would I do if I found myself being visited by a ghost?
    • What if I have been haunted before, but didn’t realize it??
  • Does my dog bark in its head to think like I hear my voice in my head?
  • If a pathological liar tells you that they are lying are they lying or telling the truth?
  • What if we are actually:
    • In the Matrix?
    • Part of a reality tv show?
    • In one of many parallel universes?
  • Why do our taste buds change over time?
  • Do plants and trees feel things?
  • How much wood does a woodchuck actually chuck?
  • How do people come up with tv shows like Spongebob, I mean seriously?

These are just a few things I ponder when trying not to think about the pandemic, again I hope this helps, and please share any other ideas you ponder in the comments below!

Pandemic Parenting Starring Barbie and Chelsea

Since the stay at home order came into effect in Idaho I have found myself with a lot of extra time in the evenings. My four year old is constantly asking me to play dolls and after so many days I had to find a way to make it a little more entertaining, so I started replaying daily quarantine events between my daughter and I using the dolls. It made me laugh, though she didn’t find it that funny. So I decided to take it to the next level and document these interactions for the world to witness! I need to clarify that while Barbie and Chelsea (the little girl) have smiles on their faces, in real life most of these events don’t include smiles! 🙂

Another show mom!

The remote in on the table!

I’m hungry!

Notice the food right in front of her!

I dont need to brush my hair!

Nope looks good 🙂

I hate baths!

Then she never wants to get out!

Mom, where is my bear??

Really?!?!?

I want to go outside, why won’t it stop raining!

Starring out the window wont stop the rain.

I want to go somewhere!

EVERYTHING IS CLOSED!!

What’s for dinner? I’m hungry!

When will it be ready?!?!?!?

Yuck, I dont like that!

I won’t eat that! Today I don’t like spagetti!

I don’t want to go to bed!

Two hours and five tantrums later she is asleep…

That concludes our daily quarantine activities. Throw in some telework and a little bit of restless sleep and that’s our current life 🙂

Disclaimer: I am very lucky to be at home safe with my family who is healthy. I take this pandemic very seriously and wholeheartedly appreciate the people working hard to keep us safe and supplied during these difficult times. I am just sharing this to provide some comedic relief for those who may need it right now!

I Hear You

To the health care personnel working day in and day out to help the sick while worrying about exposing the ones they love, I hear you.

To the grocery store employees who report to work amid the chaos and shortages while worrying about what is to come, I hear you. 

To the essential employees who continue to do their jobs while everyone else gets to stay safe at home, I hear you. 

To the teachers learning how to teach virtually and worried about your school kids while at home with your own children, I hear you.

To the people who have been furloughed or layed off and trying to figure out how to pay the bills, I hear you.

To the parents struggling to teach, entertain, and keep their children safe while still trying to work and survive, I hear you.

To the seniors doing your best to stay healthy and stay home while also doing what you need to in order to survive, I hear you.

To the young people who are doing everything they can to keep a sense of normalcy while everything is falling down around you, I hear you.

To those who are religious and turning to faith while struggling with the idea that a pandemic like this is even possible, I hear you.

To the people buying what they feel is needed to survive this pandemic and worried about running out of supplies, I hear you.

To the people of the world, I hear you. I hear each and everyone of you. You each use different words, but I hear you. You each have a different viewpoint on this pandemic, and I hear you. Each and everyone of you is scared, and I hear you. I hear you because I am scared too. 

What we are currently facing is unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetimes, and is impacting us as individuals, families, communities, states, countries, and globally. We don’t know what is going to happen, how to stop it, and what the ultimate implications will be. It is scary, it is downright terrifying. I hear that, I hear you.

When you compare the struggles you are facing to the struggles of others, I hear you. When you attack those whose experiences are different than you, I hear you. When you get angry, frustrated, and depressed I hear you. I hear you and I know you are in pain, I know you are facing unimaginable circumstances and suffering. I know you have millions of fears circling through your mind. I know because I am right there with you. We may not share the same struggles, we may not be attacking the same people, or getting angry, frustrated or depressed about the same things, but I hear you and I am afraid too.

It is ok to be afraid. It is ok that we aren’t all struggling in the same way and each and everyone of us is allowed to be afraid and to work through that fear in our own way. It is ok to be scared, worried, frightened, and downright miserable. It is ok to feel. 

In the last few days I have experienced a few things that at first I took very personally, but then realized had absolutely nothing to do with me and everything to do with the person I was communicating with. I heard the words they were saying, but I did not hear them. When I finally took the time to get out of my own mind and really listen to what was behind the words I was able hear them for the first time, to hear the fear, pain, and worry behind the words.

We are all afraid of something. We are all facing fears we didn’t even know were possible just months ago. We are all doing the best we can, and we don’t all have the best coping skills. Sometimes our coping may come out as hoarding, disrespect, disobedience, judgement, or cruelty, I do not condone this behavior, but I do believe if we really try to hear these people, we will see they are scared just like us. We don’t have to agree with the behavior, but right now it is vital that we continue to view each other as human beings in pain, regardless of what we think of their coping methods.

My one ask is that we try to remember, even though it does not feel like it, we are all in this together. We are all fighting the same enemy and we are all trying to do what we can to survive. We are all coping with immense feelings of fear, loss, and grief. We need to practice empathy and try whenever possible to resist the urge to judge. Be kind. Be patient. Be compassionate. Empathize without judgement. Listen. We will survive this together!