“Is this the real life, is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide no escape from reality” – Queen.

This part of Bohemian Rhapsody song accurately describes my feeling. It is just the fifth month in 2020, and it feels like my annual patience and strength quota have reached the maximum limit. The news has been terrifying lately and slowly murdering me. I am quite sure there is a competition between these news channels on who can deliver the worst news in 2020. Maybe it is the right time for me to change my voice note to “I am sorry, the old Irma can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Cause she’s dead!”… mentally.

COVID-19 came as a surprise to the whole world. It reminds me of the moment when Ross mentioned Rachel’s name when he was about to marry Emily, when Boston Rob was eliminated from the Survivor: Winners at War, when Donald Trump won the presidential election in 2016, or when Jessica, the Love Is Blind cast, broke off her engagement (just kidding, we all knew this would have happened. Poor Mark!). Hold off on your judgment, in my defense, I have some time to kill!

COVID-19 came as a shock and it changed our lives in different ways. It forces us to face uncertainty. I know change is the only thing that is permanent in life and I am certain we have been through drastic changes before, such as losing our loved ones, move to another location, change our jobs, and so on. Change is inevitable and uncertainty will follow. We can agree that life after COVID-19 will not be normal in one night. The world will recover gradually, and the fear will disappear slowly. Our relationship with others is tested, it can easily be broken or strengthen during this quarantine. Our trust in humanity is on trial, as we have seen Coronavirus brings out the racism and discrimination in society. So, if this change is such a challenge, how can we embrace it? I am not going to talk about how to work from home effectively because I believe at this time, we figured that out already. This blog is just to share some tips I have been doing and helping me. These are simple things that I have been practicing during COVID-19. As someone with anxiety disorder, I find these tips useful (Disclaimer: the implementation is not a smooth journey).

–       Worry time

It is normal when we face a difficult change, we want to hold on to our regular, old life. Change is hard, especially when we think about what our life could have been right now if things were different. Therefore, every day I allocate a certain amount of time just to worry about anything in my mind on that day. I write down my worries in my journal, sometimes I record myself talking about my discomfort feelings. I find this method to be useful because it is like my recycling day where I can throw out my “garbage” and clean my mental space. I notice when I postpone my worries, the feeling becomes less terrifying. It means I acknowledge my feeling, but I still have control. For people with anxiety, control is one of our favorite words.

–       Self-compassion

It is pivotal to be more patient and gentler with ourselves during this wild ride. We have a different coping mechanism during this self-isolation. Comparing our methods is not going to make us feel better. Just because someone completed ten online courses in a month does not mean it is now a general standard. We move through emotional stages (disbelief, anger, sadness, acceptance, and hope) at different paces, there is no timeframe and everyone’s feeling is valid. Take time to take care of ourselves, to make us feel calm, safe, and happy. For me, I feel happy and calm when I am putting on a face mask, sometimes I make the mask myself. Some people dance, some write a journal, others cook, whatever practice of kindness in our daily lives. Shifting the energy from thinking about our imaginary normal life to doing enjoyable things that feed us physically and mentally. 

–       Be honest

Now is not the time to answer “I am great” when someone asked about your condition unless you are genuinely not disturbed by COVID-19 at all. Giving an honest update about your feelings is not a sign of weakness. It shows empathy because our vulnerability will encourage others to be vulnerable and be more confident in reaching out. This is the time when we become closer by living apart. This is the time to be that wonderful friend we all want to be friends with. Nonetheless, it is okay to request space for ourselves because we can’t pour any water when our glass is empty. When we know that everyone is facing the same situation, feeling the same uncertain fear and worrying about the same future, it uplifts our mood which can lead to stronger collaboration. 

I think we should use our worries to motivate us to create alternative plans and be cautious. Limiting news to read or to watch is a good way to maintain our sanity. Finding the balance between trying a new routine and relaxing. Talking to a therapist if your worry is out of control (check Atlas Corps guidance on how to make an appointment with a therapist – covered by insurance). Let’s focus on what feels certain in life and what we can control. Let’s think about the things we are grateful for. What are you grateful for today?