By Danny Camp, D.Min., LMFT
“Pandemic” is a scary thought. Most of us don’t recall living through a pandemic before, so everything from social distancing to wearing masks in public is a new way of being. The stay-at-home order, however, is the part that can be most difficult for many. Isolation can create depression, anxiety, conflict within a quarantined household, or just plain ol’ boredom. If being isolated is causing any adverse thoughts or behaviors, here a few things you need to be doing.
- Establish and maintain a daily routine.
It’s highly unlikely that your schedule looks exactly like it did a few weeks ago, but having a regular routine gives us a sense of peace and order in our lives. Continue to wake up and go to bed at regular times. Tend to daily hygiene, including bathing, fixing your hair, shaving, and getting dressed for the day. (You might choose clothes that are more comfortable than what you would normally wear to work, but don’t stay in your pajamas all day!)
My oldest daughter thrives when things are orderly. So, every Sunday morning, she gets up and gets dressed for worship. Then, nicely dressed with Bible in hand, she comes into the living room and takes her seat on the couch to watch worship online with the rest of the family. After worship is over, she changes into her regular clothes for the rest of the day. This small action gives her a sense of control when it seems like we’ve lost all order. While you might not dress up for an online worship service, recognize that a regular routine helps bring a sense of normalcy and peace.
- Connect with at least a few people every single day.
Obviously, we are restricted from connecting too closely, which is difficult for those whose primary love language is physical touch. But even if we can’t hug or shake hands, we can still stay in touch. Make it a part of your daily routine to call or FaceTime someone every day. Consider reaching out to someone who might need some extra encouragement—the widow/widower or single person who’s home alone, or perhaps the single mom who has only talked to children and is longing for some adult conversation. If you get out to walk or exercise, remind the people that you pass (at a safe distance of course) that it is a beautiful day God has blessed us with.
- Start making a gratitude list.
Where are you seeing God at work in this? While that might sound like a strange question in the midst of pandemic, God brings beauty out of ashes. (Isaiah 61:3) Are you finally getting to share a majority of meals with your family? Are you able to slow down in ways that you haven’t done in longer than you can remember? Are you reconnecting virtually with old friends that you haven’t talked to in too long? Are you talking this newfound time using to dive into scripture, or prayer, or other spiritual disciplines? Are you learning a new skill or reinvigorating an old hobby? As you think about how God is using this time, how He is bringing beauty from ashes, write down the things you are realizing so that you can keep building on that list every day. And, when you connect with others, share with them what you see God doing for you.
- Get creative.
When was the last time you had a picnic in your own yard? When was the last time you experimented with a new recipe? Rearranged a room in your home just for fun? Asked your kids what they are thinking? Blew bubbles? Played hide-and-go-seek? Listened to a new genre of music? Wrote a poem? Read something just for fun? Played a board game? Tried to learn a new language? Worked a puzzle? Played whiffle ball? There are so many ways we can use this time of isolation that doesn’t require staring at a screen. While everyone has different levels of creativity, trying something new can help keep us from getting mentally stuck during isolation.
While isolation is inconvenient for most, it can be truly devastating to others. If you are feeling depression or anxiety to a level that is debilitating, please reach out to someone. Remember, depression tries to get you to do the exact opposite of what you need to do to defeat it—to eat too much or too little, to stay in bed all the time whether you’re sleeping or not, to isolate, and to consistently focus on yourself in a harsh and negative way. If isolation or the uncertainty of the pandemic is particularly challenging for you, contact AGAPE and we can connect you with one of our therapists. We’re able to provide sessions virtually via phone or by video call, and we offer a sliding scale fee. To request an appointment, click here or call 615-781-3000.