Rocky at the top of the stairs

I had a friend say to me this morning “I’m finding myself fearful of things that haven’t even happened yet.”

Yes, for even the most optimistic people, 2020 is doing a number on us. It seems as if every day something else is happening in our world – wildfires, protests, racial tension and deaths from COVID.

Our emotional and mental health is more fragile than ever. There’s so much uncertainty that we just can’t get our footing. And it just keeps piling up. Families are dealing with the heartache of not being with their loved ones during their final moments and isolation in the grief that follows.  Some are coping with the stress of losing a job or while others are exhausted and stressed essential workers who are working under difficult circumstances. And of course, there’s the Presidential election causing anger and fear regardless of what side you’re on.

Yesterday my community experienced the loss of a high school student suddenly and unexpectedly which has profoundly affected many of us.

We are all struggling mightily to try and find a reason for everything happening in our world right now but there are more questions than answers.

It’s as if the earth continues to shake under our feet and we don’t know how to find stable ground.  We’re literally hanging on by a thread until it stops cracking open.

At the beginning of the pandemic I did a video series with my friend who also is a member of the clergy talking about how to cope with everything happening.  Even if we’re spiritual it’s hard to find answers as we wonder what all of this really means.

There were a few times in my life when I’ve experience debilitating anxiety and fear of the future:

  • In 1997 my first-born son died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. He was 3 months and 24 days’ old.
  • I lived in Los Angeles during the riots and the Northridge earthquake.
  • I was working in New York City during 9/11.
  • I live near Sandy Hook elementary school and my childrens’ teachers had their own children attending that school.

I’m sure many of you have had times in your life like this as well.

But 2020 is different.  We’re like a boxer in a ring where the blows keep coming and we’re up against the ropes. 2020 is a relentless fighter that doesn’t seem to be content until we’re down on the mat knocked out.  It’s playing with our psyche and wearing us down.

I’m going to keep going with the boxing metaphor for a moment here and remind you of the movie Rocky.  If you’re too young to have seen the original watch it. In the final scenes Rocky is getting destroyed in the ring. He’s a bloody mess. To this day I’d still close my eyes at the scene where their cutting his eyelid so he can still see as he’s fighting.  His opponent, Apollo Creed, is beating the crap out of him and you almost wish Rocky would stay down as it’s so painful to watch him being beaten so badly.  The film ends with Rocky losing, by judges’ decision, but winning a more personal victory by “going the distance,” making it through an entire fifteen rounds in the ring as no previous challenger had.

That’s us right now – we’re going the distance.  We feel beaten up and exhausted, but we keep getting up to fight this SOB 2020.

Part of fighting though is self-care.  Here are some tips on staying mentally and emotionally strong.

Don’t engage on social media. Fights over social media about masks, vaccines and politicians drain us of energy and amplify our bad feelings. Be confident in your beliefs and stay strong but don’t engage in nasty discourse. Also take a digital break and step away from social media and the endless stream of news.

Breathe. I know that sounds strange but think about when you’re scared.  You end up holding your breath and then letting out a sigh of relief. When you find yourself tensing up, practice breathing in for a count of 4, holding it for a count of 4 and breathing out for a count of 4.  Do this several times and you’ll find yourself relaxing.

Share your feelings.  This is when social media is good. If you’re overwhelmed and anxious about distance learning and feel as if you’re screwing it up, talk to other moms.  You’re not alone! It helps to speak with other people who are having the same anxieties and can empathize. Essential workers who are parents have it especially difficult.  Find groups where you can get support.

Talk to someone.  If you are especially depressed and anxious speak to a therapist. Your feelings are valid, and a therapist can help you manage them.  If you have serious depression issues they can also suggest medication.

Get a change of scenery. Not only does exercise release endorphins which improve your mood and reduce stress but taking a walk and stepping away from what you’re currently doing helps clear your mind.

We may be down but we’re not out! We will go the distance like Rocky. Care for yourself right now and keep your eye on the future.

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