The coronavirus has brought on an enormous amount of change in all of our lives. Dealing with these changes is a challenge for all of us. Throughout my work sabbatical we’ve learned many lessons that are helping us navigate the unknowns of the coronavirus pandemic.
This week, I’ve been working on a post about how we prepared financially for my one year work sabbatical. But that post doesn’t seem appropriate in the midst of the dramatic financial changes the world is experiencing from the coronavirus. I will still post that article eventually because it has some good financial preparation tips, but I’m just not posting it today.
Today, I’m writing about dealing with the unknowns of the coronavirus.
Since my husband works in a self-employed service industry with direct customer contact, the fear of losing income is quite real for us. We are concerned for all the people who are being laid off and/or forced to temporarily close their businesses while the nation deals with this pandemic. The country is dealing with unprecedented things like closed schools, food and supply shortages, and social distancing.
We obviously don’t have all the answers, but through lessons learned during my sabbatical we feel more equipped to deal with these unknowns now than we would have if this had happened a year ago. Our financial preparations are helping us weather this storm and I’ll address those in other posts. This post is about the non-financial lessons we’ve learned that are helping us deal with this strange and unpredictable time.
Let Go of Things you Can’t Control
Try as we may, we cannot control everything in our lives. Stressing about the little things will just make us anxious. It is better to let go of things that we cannot control and enjoy the little moments in our lives that give us joy. By focusing on the things that we can control, our own choices, we can find gratitude, joy, peace, and freedom to love those around us. We often have to have faith and trust that things will work out.
Consumerism and “things” are not what bring us happiness. There is much joy in living a simpler life and focusing on time with friends and family. Cleaning out the excess clutter, not buying more, and using the things that we already have not only clears our physical spaces, but also our minds. It gives us space for clarity and creativity.
Relax Through Uncertainty
We planned my sabbatical to last about one year with the intention of me going back to work at some point. I’ve tried to relax throughout it and enjoy my wonderful time off. For the most part I have. But in the back of my mind there is always a little nagging voice wondering what my next job will be. I’ve been learning ways to help me relax and enjoy the time. Making sure to take time for my journaling, exercise, eating right, creativity, and talking with others helps me enjoy the time I’ve been given. Those same relaxation techniques will help when dealing with the unknowns about this coronavirus situation.
It feels a bit like 9-11. The uncertainty and the fear of the unknown. The likelihood that this will change the world. I imagine that this event is going to shape our future world and I wonder how it will impact our kid’s lives. They were not born yet by 9-11 so they didn’t experience the way the world changed, but they will certainly remember this. I’m taking it day by day, just like we did back then. Letting go of things I cannot control and loving each other through the uncertainty.
Mental Health Matters
Recovering from burnout has taught me a lot about taking care of my mental health. Being able to take time off has allowed me to figure out what I need to keep myself healthy. I’ve learned how to better maintain boundaries to allow time for my own self care that keep me healthy so that I can take care of those I love.
Accepting our emotions is part of the healing process. Ignoring them can make things worse. They don’t need to rule our lives, but we do have to work through them.
One of my favorite quotes is from Lysa Terkerust, “Feelings are indicators, not dictators. They can indicate where your heart is in the moment, but that doesn’t mean they have the right to dictate your behavior and boss you around.”
Having the time and space to identify what truly matters to me without the external pressure of work performance has been helpful. May this social distancing give us all a little time to identify what truly matters in our lives and to pursue the things that we’ve been putting off because we were too busy.
Let Go of Expectations
A big part of recovering from burnout has been taking a hard look at my expectations. Do they come from inside me or from external sources? Are they realistic? I realized that many of my expectations could be let go and I would still have a good life, even a better life! I’ve struggled with perfectionism my whole life. Letting go of expectations is hard for me but helps me enjoy life. See my post about how tiny changes can make a big difference.
During these coronavirus school closures, I heard comments and ideas about homeschooling your kids while school is closed. I contemplated these statements briefly but was able to quickly realize that is not my calling. At least not right now. And I can uphold my boundary to follow what feels most important to me at this time. Which is caring for my family, loving them, giving them food, attention, emotional support, and caring for them if they get sick. I am not going to stress about teaching them at this point or having a strict daily schedule. I do have list of things that the kids work on each day on their own time. It still gives us direction and some purpose, and they are not on electronics the entire day.
I had this expectation, that after a few months on sabbatical I would magically feel better. That my burnout would be gone, I’d have all the energy in the world, and I’d feel back to normal. I thought I wouldn’t think about all the awful things that happened at work. But that isn’t how it has worked out. Traumatic things take time to get over. Change takes time. Adaptation takes time. Forgiveness and healing take time. Personal growth takes time.
Coming to the realization that healing and recovery take longer than anticipated is growing my patience with myself and with others. It is helping me accept that this pandemic is going to take time. The time for the disease process to run its course throughout the country and the world, as well as the economic recovery. The schools and businesses will take time to get back to normal. Everything is going to change. It will take time, but we will all find a new normal.
Ability to Adapt
Being on sabbatical has giving me the opportunity to experiment with a lot of different activities, interests, and be involved in groups that I never had time for. We’ve adapted to living on one income instead of two incomes. It has opened our eyes to opportunities that we did not see before.
That ability to think outside the box and solve problems will help us as we navigate all the changes that are happening and are still to come. We have faith that God will guide us and that we can change and adapt to new ways of life.
I pray that you can embrace the stillness to tune in to what matters to you, take care of yourself and your families, find ways to relax, enjoy the little things in life, and take things day by day.
To all the health care workers out there, I am praying for you multiple times a day. You were all overworked before this. Now you are being asked to do even more. I am thankful for you and all that you do.