Emotional HealthFamily 8 minutes to read

We’re past the 6-month marker of COVID-19 shutting down the area around us. In many ways some things are starting to get back to normal. Restaurants seem to be busy, people are visiting pumpkin patches, and school has started again. 

In Oregon, most of the schools are still online so many parents have their kids home continuing their education from their living room. Laptops, headphones, textbooks, paper, and pencils cover the kitchen table, folding tables, and corners of our living spaces. If you are going crazy from this, you are not alone.

Last May, when it seemed like things with COVID-19 could still be lingering here in the fall, my husband and I made the decision to homeschool our kids for this school year. We homeschooled our oldest last year but this year it would be all three of them, pre-k through second grade. I personally love school so it’s been a lot of fun for me to lesson plan and learn alongside them. But, it takes a ton of time and pulls energy from other areas of my day.

So, here we go again.

I woke up Monday and really just wanted to go back to sleep. I wasn’t ready for another week of homeschool and work. I thought to myself, Welcome to another day still in this house

With coffee in hand, I made my way up the stairs to my desk. I got some work done, despite the yelling I heard downstairs from my kids, not wanting to do their math. After work, I came downstairs to mayhem and already felt so behind on the day. 

I found myself wanting to be anywhere but here in this house. I start thinking that maybe our place in Central Oregon has some availability and we could get away for a few days. Unexpectedly, there were three nights available starting the next day! My mind immediately wandered to how we could get there. We had canceled our usual summer vacation in Central Oregon due to COVID-19 and I was dying to get over there. I checked the weather and it was supposed to be sunny and 80 degrees all week. Perfect. I’m not usually a spontaneous person but I felt like we had to go. We had to get out of this house we’ve been in for months. We could work and do school from there. At least we wouldn’t be here for a few days. 

While I called to make the reservation, I was making lists in my head of all I needed to do to quickly get ready for the trip. I got on the phone, only to find out it wasn’t available. My fantasizing about getting away instantly vanished and over the next several hours I felt worse than I did earlier that morning. 

It wasn’t really THAT big of a deal and these kind of last minute things don’t usually work out. In the past, stuff like this happened and it was a bummer but not something that caused overwhelming sadness. But here I was, completely depleted of all positive emotion, all because this little four day trip didn’t work out. 

What is 2020 doing to me?

Here’s how I see it: 2020 has impacted us all in one way or another and these things, even the little things, wear down our emotional, physical, and spiritual health. 

My personal recap of 2020 and the stress it has caused for me: 

  • Recovered from my whole family having the flu for a month in January.
  • My husband left his full-time job to pursue his own business in February.
  • Homeschooling my oldest child who has learning and sensory processing issues.
  • Diet changes in our family due to allergies.
  • Fear of getting COVID-19 with my family having asthma.
  • Suddenly homeschooling all three children, instead of one.
  • Fear of not being able to access the right food, toilet paper, etc.
  • Loss of in-person schools and a system that was taking care of my kids. 
  • Loss of my gym and childcare while I worked out.
  • Loss of in-person church and childcare during the service.
  • Loss of kid’s activities and things they enjoyed doing.
  • Fear my husband’s new business would not survive COVID-19.
  • Started online counseling with my oldest child.
  • Two months of complete social distancing from everyone.
  • Loss of my mother-in-law passing away from a 12-year battle with cancer.
  • Made the decision to homeschool all the kids for 2020-2021.
  • Canceled our yearly summer vacation to Central Oregon.
  • A social distanced summer without camps, swim lessons, and friends.
  • Started doing a little extra work for my husband’s business.
  • Fear of wildfires being so close and possible evacuation.
  • Started the school year homeschooling all three kids.
  • In my house all the time with very few breaks for me and my husband.

It’s been a wild year for everyone. We can look at this list and think how so many others have it way worse. I believe this and know it is very true. But it’s not really the purpose of making this list. By making this list, I have identified a lot of stress in my life this year. Your list probably doesn’t look too different than mine. 

This amount of stress, continuing for so long, adds up and really wears on us. 

When little unexpected things happen and it feels like I can’t handle it, it’s probably because I can’t. In many ways, 2020 rocked everything we once knew about normal. Even if we are trying to live as “normal” as possible and we are coming to accept a “new normal,” it’s still far from it. 

  • Parenting is more challenging.
  • Marriages are being tested.
  • Self-care is dwindling.
  • Goals are harder to attain.
  • Motivation is slipping away.

We are all trying to accept and adapt to this “new normal” but things are most definitely not normal. They can’t be. Our systems have been shaken and we really cannot handle the same things we used to. 

When I think back to this time of year in 2019, it looked drastically different. We were busy—actually too busy. Now, 2020 has forced me to slow down and it’s not entirely a bad thing. It’s just not my normal. This is something I have to remember. There have been positives from slowing down; but with all the stress looming, it’s important to recognize the role it plays on our physical and emotional health. 

What can we do about this?

With the school year starting up, an election in a few weeks, holidays right around the corner, flu season settling in, and the darkness of winter beginning to take away our daylight, there are a lot of changes surrounding us. These things that are usually just a normal part of life, may impact us more because 2020 just isn’t normal! 

We may find ourselves getting more upset about the tiniest things or the shorter days of daylight are bothering us and they never did before. Whatever it is, with how this year has gone, we need to know what we can handle. We need to be honest about where we’re at and how we are really doing. 

  • Are you struggling to wake up in the morning? 
  • Are your kids driving you crazy from at-home learning? 
  • Are you drinking four cups of coffee a day just to maintain? 
  • Are you binge-eating at night to feel better? 
  • Are you watching porn to cope?
  • Are you overspending and shopping more than ever?
  • Are you obsessing over TV shows every night? 
  • Are you on social media so much it’s unhealthy?
  • Are you isolating yourself instead of social distancing? 
  • Are you running on fear about everything happening in the world? 

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. 

I can answer “yes” to 8 out of the 10 questions in this list. How about you? 

There are so many things deterring us from living healthy lives right now. It’s coming at us from all directions and eating away at us. We have to stop this. We can’t keep living like it’s normal or trying to live like we used to live in this “new normal.” Our unhealthy habits will take over and we will feel worse than ever. 

My challenge to you is to make a list. Make a list, like I did, of all the crazy stressors personal to you during 2020. The list is probably longer than you think. Now, look at it—really look at your list and think about how it has impacted you. How many of the above questions can you say “yes” to? How are we going to survive the dreaded winter months? 

We will. We may be in “survival mode” like never before but it can be a healthy version. 

We need to be making the right choices for what we can handle right now during this time of our lives and with everything happening in the world. These are probably not the choices you would have made a year ago but for right now, October 2020, what do you need to do to be in a healthy survival mode? 

  • Get a group of friends together and make a plan.
  • What can you cut out of your schedule that causes stress? 
  • When can you find time for yourself to relax? 
  • How will you eat healthy and exercise? 
  • Who will help you commit to sleeping enough? 
  • Who can you talk to when the day is going badly? 
  • Who can keep you accountable? 

We need our friends and Pure Desire groups more than ever right now. We need to maintain our own health in the midst of this craziness. It’s not going to be easy and we will probably keep falling apart over the little things (like I’ve been doing) but I know we can do this.

Make a short list of easy goals: wake up; get out of bed; make coffee; start the day. 

Do what you can to maintain normalcy but don’t do too much. You may be like me and not able to handle as much as we used to. Things are different now so we have to live a little differently. 

Today is going to be okay. It may not be amazing. It may not even be great but it is going to be okay. Even in the midst of this crazy world, God has a plan for us and it’s a good one. We need to try really hard to remember this truth when it feels like the world is falling apart around us. 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11