How to Keep Smiling While COVID Rages On
We have been living in an all-encompassing global pandemic for just over a year now. Let your mind process that fact. COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of our lives for an extended period of time, and it is important to recognize that when reflecting on the state of our lives and mentality. Allow yourself to take stock of all the ways COVID has impacted you and acknowledge that living during a pandemic can be mentally and emotionally taxing.
This week’s journal theme is about smiles. The mindful moment challenge is to become fascinated with smiles; in a time where finding a reason to smile can be challenging at times, I wanted to share my sources for smiling and weathering the long-lasting emotional wear from COVID.
Take a Realistic Emotional Inventory
Before working on your smile, allow yourself to take an emotional inventory now that you’ve adjusted your lifestyle. It is possible that you have become more desensitized to the emotional implications of living in a pandemic as a coping mechanism to getting through it. Fear, anxiety, and sadness are so overwhelming, especially when they linger over a long period of time. However, in order to accurately recognize our needs and feel true happiness, we cannot live in denial and wholly ignore these feelings. Acknowledge your emotions and validate your feelings. It is okay to be struggling and overwhelmed! Put names to the sources of your emotions. Now you can begin to establish your needs and how to overcome them and get your smile back.
One of the most critical things I’ve done to combat the wear of COVID has been establishing routines. Now that our lifestyles are bound to our living spaces, it can be easy to let your days have no structure. However, I found that setting a routine and being productive helps to strengthen my sense of purpose, success, and increases the meaning of my days.
Take note of the things you need and want to do daily, and write down a chronological routine that motivates you, but also encourages productivity. One of the biggest considerations in this process is to be realistic in what you can accomplish. This is the area where I often struggle and some of you may remember me talking about how I noticed recently that my daily to-do lists had been totally and completely unrealistic. My stress level took a nosedive after being more intentional in assessing what I really can accomplish over the course of a day.
On the days when your routine is too demanding or you feel too overwhelmed by the weight of the pandemic’s effects, give yourself grace. Allow yourself to not adhere to your routine for the day and instead indulge your emotions and feel what you need to. This is not slacking or shirking; this is being wise and in tune with the needs of your body, mind and soul.
Self-care is always important and a beneficial practice, but when life is much more self-involved now that we are alone more often and dependent on ourselves, perhaps it is more important than ever. After all, how can you make someone else smile or smile yourself if you don’t feel fulfilled or taken care of? (And recognize that you can still be “alone more often”, even if your family is home with you every day. Relationships outside our immediate family are important too.)
Do you need to socialize?
Who can you make a commitment with to talk on the phone with each week?
Schedule a zoom call with some friends to talk or play online games like you would during a normal gathering, just virtually! This article has a list of games you can play on zoom.
We are living in unprecedented, historical times. You can ground yourself by articulating and facing your feelings when reflecting on each day and journaling your thoughts.
Journaling also provides an opportunity for you to get to know yourself and develop your sense of self. This will help you begin to better recognize your needs and the methods of self-care that work best for you.
Introspective alone time
Take advantage of the time you get with yourself and take care of your body and mind through self-care. However, consider balance in this practice. Indulge yourself with a face mask, bubble bath, or your favorite meal, but also actively consider what less enjoyable tasks taking care of your body and mind require. Do not avoid difficult emotions or conversations, but approach them mindfully. Can you find a way to exercise or be active at home? Remember that self-care is a holistic practice that is more than just indulging.
Find Sources of Joy
With all of the time we spend at home, there is so much time to explore the internet for opportunities and inspiration. Adapting a hobby was a popular recommendation at the beginning of quarantine and is still a good outlet, but take this time to find new sources of joy as well.
Do you have a list of books you’ve always meant to read?
Or have you been recommended podcasts you never got to listening to?
What album have you always wanted to listen to from beginning to end with your attention focused only on listening?
Does what you see in your home provide joy? How could you add beauty to your living spaces?
Are you finding time to get outside and connect with the rhythm of the earth and each unique season?
Personalize your opportunities to find joy and be systematic about it. It’s easy to say you want to watch a classic movie you’ve never seen, but be intentional about how and when you will get to it. If you have multiple podcasts you want to listen to, determine exactly what day and time you will listen to one. If you find joy from productivity, use this spare time to organize parts of your space you always put off. Make a schedule for finishing the books you need to read. Include finding joy in your daily routine so that you can use that predetermined time to engage in creating your own happiness.
We Can Make It Through This
We may not know when the pandemic will end or what life will look like on the other side, but we can take steps to take control of how we live our lives in the meantime. By actively making changes to our surroundings, to how we approach nurturing ourselves and by becoming more cognizant of our emotions and emotional needs, we can take action in small ways to help bring more moments of happiness into our lives. Share in the comments any additional suggestions you may have for adding more bright spots to our days.