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How This Skill Is Helping Me Survive COVID-19 With Depression and Anxiety

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One Thursday in March, I signed out of my work email and hurried home. My kids got off the bus, giddy with excitement, knowing they wouldn’t have to go back to school the next day, or the next week. They were blissfully unaware of the anxious looks passed between me and my husband as we tried to figure out where this journey would take us. This spur of the moment, surprise to everyone and no one all at the same time, extended vacation brought to us by the coronavirus (COVID-19). Lazy days of sleeping in. Cocktails by the pool. Long walks on the beach. Reading in a hammock under the shade of a tree. Breathing in fresh air. Deep breaths.

Only, this isn’t a vacation. This is a pandemic. This is crisis management. In one day, my house turned into an office complex, an elementary and middle school, a gym, movie theater, library and restaurant. My house is also now a therapist’s office. Because therapy is now a video conference. It really is an all-inclusive resort. We get to be together as a family all the time. Repeat, we are together as a family all the time. As a parent and spouse who desperately loves her kids and husband and has tons of guilt about working too much and not being there for them enough, this is a gift. As a raging introvert with a large personal space bubble, this feels painfully constricting. As a person who struggles with depression and anxiety who works so hard every day to get out and face the world, this feels like a respite. But also, as a person who struggles with depression and anxiety who works so hard every day to get out and face the world, being in my house every day feels like a trap. That’s because although I’ve gotten used to getting up and out, and I’m managing my day-to-day life without too much difficulty, there’s always this little voice inside telling me it’s not worth it, that I’m not worth anything. And as much as I’ve learned to manage the volume of that voice, it never really shuts up. And it never leaves. It’s been with me for over 20 years that I can count. And all of a sudden, it has the space and time to speak up. So, I breathe. Long, deep breaths all the way into myself. Long enough and loud enough so my breath is at the forefront of my being.

Of course, now that being at home is the new normal, we’re all being afforded the luxury of time. Time we used to spend commuting, running errands, shopping for pleasure, visiting museums, hanging out with friends. And apparently the societal expectation is for us to take advantage of this time to better ourselves. We should learn how to knit, how to sew, grow our own vegetables. We should be running, doing yoga, weight training and aerobics. We should learn a language, study history, take up bird watching. It’s all too much. Maybe some people have the bandwidth to incorporate some or all of this enrichment into their lives right now, but I’m just trying to get through one day at a time. Trying to maintain a sort of equilibrium to survive this unprecedented circumstance. Trying to breathe.

I’m really trying to focus on that which is truly meaningful to me, rather than kowtowing to the notion I need to be striving for personal excellence during this time. I cook and experiment in the kitchen because it brings me joy to do so and I find it truly relaxing. I bake challah weekly because the sensory process of working the dough is meditative for me. I’m reading more than ever because I love the escape, and because it’s the only damn thing that’s mine alone right now. I thought I’d do yoga because I should, and then I realized trying to carve out the time and space for that was stressing me out and it went out the window, because who the hell needs that kind of pressure right now? This is not a vacation. This is survival, and the only things I’m trying to succeed at are kindness, compassion, patience and grace for myself and others… and some days are better than others. I take a lot of deep breaths. I think that’s going to be my new skill. Breath.

Struggling with your mental health due to COVID-19? You’re not alone. Check out the following articles from our community:

Unsplash image by Anastasiia Tarasova

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