Disclaimer- This article is ENTIRELY opinion based, not fact based. It is my personal feel on things and is in no way a claim that this is how others feel, manage or navigate being ill.
It’s hard to log onto to any type of internet platform without seeing recommendations for what to do with all things COVID related. In fact, I did a quick review and in under 5 minutes I found a variety of opinion and evidence-based articles sharing data, tips, or general recommendations on how to navigate through our newest viral instigator. Information on how to quarantine… how to order food online… what supplements to take… what healing remedies to implement… what OTC meds to take… which OTC meds to avoid…. how to apply for unemployment… how to talk to your kids during quarantine… how to talk to your boss during quarantine… how to tell others that you have COVID…. how to keep the household uplifted during quarantine…the list goes on. To say we have ample support for what to do if we get COVID, if others have COVID or how to manage in quarantine, is an understatement. But what happens if we have a regular run of the mill cold? What if we or our kids come down with Strep throat? What if a coworker is coughing while at work because of her asthma? What if the dry air in our homes is making us have a sore throat in the morning? What if a parent comes down with pneumonia UNRELATED to COVID? What do we do? How do we navigate these other conditions that didn’t go away when COVID came? What do we say to ourselves and others? What do we do when it isn’t COVID?
I had the opportunity to be in this space this past week and I can say I was unprepared and overwhelmed by the enormity of how to navigate. We had an outbreak of strep throat in our home. I can say I never thought I would utter the words “Oh good..” when the nurse called with the positive strep results. But here we are, in a time when we are grateful for what we know and overly cautious of what we don’t. In the past I would simply have told friends, family, and clients that my daughter was sick, and I too am not feeling well. I would have made the decision to cancel clients, call in sick or stay home based on whatever symptoms we had and whether we were contagious, as well as what my own body said it needed. I would then do what needed to be down and most likely have made the decision to lay low, stay home, and give my body time to heal. But that path didn’t feel good enough. Being sick in this COIVD era is no longer a personal experience and an opportunity to be responsible for yourself, it is now a public health matter. And depending on how much interaction you have in the community and what you do for work, it can be an absolute nightmare.
I found myself acting in such uncharacteristic ways. For example, at one point I was googling whether I needed to “quarantine for strep”… Ummmmm WHAT?!? I am more rationale than this, but I was doing it all the same. Then when I finally reached out to my clients, I shared a longer than necessary explanation either over the phone or via text about why I was cancelling classes or sessions, and I felt the need to assure them, in an annoyingly high multitude of ways, that NO we did not have COVID. I made sure to obtain documentation from the doctor to share with school, work, or anyone else that may have need of it. I was overanalyzing every symptom any of us had. I became obsessive about checking temperatures of everyone despite no one at any time having a fever. I agonized over how to call in sick to the hospital I work at once a week, I worried if I stayed home one day, they may require a 14 day quarantine no matter what (this isn’t there policy and I know this, but the irrationality was thick at this point). I even debated dosing up on meds so that no one would know I was sick, and I could continue with none the wiser (obviously not a good plan but again, please note the irrational state I had sunk to). In general, my anxiety had tripled from its usual elevated stance and it was trickling down to everyone else. My daughter started to apologize if she coughed and she began to do hourly temperature checks on herself. My husband and I even started bickering as I agonized, and beat to death, how to call in sick. He was tired of hearing how hard this was, and I was tired of saying it, and yet I couldn’t stop myself. Suddenly I had lost all skills for how to be sick and I was slipping into a very unhealthy and irrational management of it all.
Thankfully I had a breakthrough on Friday. I had finally cancelled the last remaining client commitments for the week, a private client Friday night and a private yoga class for Saturday morning, and in completing that task, I received the most incredible sense of relief I have ever felt in my life. It was like suddenly my worries melted away. Suddenly it was ok to be sick, t was ok to rest, and it was certainly ok to recover. It was alright to not have all the answers, I didn’t need them, I just needed to release my obligations to the rest of the world for a short period of time. I was so worried about how clients would react to me being sick or to my cancelling classes that I forgot that sometimes it doesn’t matter. Sometimes we must do what’s best for ourselves and allow others to do the same.
So, what do we do if it isn’t COVID?
What do we do without the step-by-step guidance that we have been groomed to look for?
In my opinion and from this limited experience, I feel that we need to get back to trusting our instincts and let go of what the world expects. Of course, we need to be responsible and mindful of others, but we also need to remember to listen to our bodies’ needs. In fact, DON’T do what I did and agonize over what people will think of you in how you handle yourself. Just do what’s best for you, your family and those around you. I can’t promise things will always be fine or that others will be ok with your decisions, but it will release you from an extra dose of stress which is not conducive to getting better.
I felt the relief that I felt because I had finally given myself permission to get better, I was no longer trying to hide being sick, or beat myself up for being sick, instead I had accepted it and allowed myself the opportunity to be well again.
Maybe this is one thing, among many, that COVID has taught us; to take a step back when our body demands it. But there are still things we need to learn. Like how we set aside our judgement and regain trust. This is not only regarding the judgement and trust of, and for others, but also how we apply these to ourselves. We must trust if someone says they have a cold that they have a cold. We must let go of judgement when we hear a cough from someone during a meeting. We must trust our own body when it says “rest”, or in many cases screams “TAKE A BREAK!!!” And finally, we must learn to take responsibility for ourselves and for our own health.
This is what we do when we don’t have COVID, but surprise, surprise, this is what we also do when we have COVID…
Moral of the story, take care of yourself, don’t worry about what everyone else is doing or thinks, manage your own health and that of your family and see how your sense of wellbeing slowly improves.
This morning, as is usual on a Sunday in our house, I was compelled to stop my work tasks to address the ever-growing pile of dishes. I often grumble about the kids not helping or my husband conveniently occupying himself with other tasks, but today I found myself unexpectedly in a mindful state of existence. The warm water on my hands, the inability to multitask, the quiet as the household vehemently avoided the kitchen in the event I would petition for help, the scent of the lavender soap, and the sense of accomplishment as I scrubbed pans that had been sitting for the entire weekend. Watching them glisten as I scoured them clean with steel wool.
According to Merriam-Webster, the Definition of mindfulness states:
1: the quality or state of being mindful
2: the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis
also: such a state of awareness
Does this definition say it is only when we are sitting in a quiet corner of our house, our legs crossed in meditation? Does it say that it only happens when we read a “mindfulness” book? Is it only when we do one of the tasks our favorite podcaster lists as acceptable mindfulness tasks? Or is it only when our app tells us it is time to be mindful? Maybe it isn’t this or that, maybe it’s all the above and then some. It is in those little moments, the in between, the time that you are waiting in the exam room for your doctor and you aren’t on your phone because you don’t want to have to put it away when he/she walks in. Or maybe it’s in your evening shower, as you feel the warm water rain over your body and the worries of the day wash down the drain. Or perhaps it’s when we are walking to get the mail and see a squirrel run out with some sort of snack in his mouth. You smile at the unexpected cuteness and welcome feeling of joy you get as your soul appreciates the life of another being. Or could it be when you are standing at the sink, looking out the window at the snow-covered yard, up to your elbows in hot soapy water, your thoughts quiet and contemplative, the world quiet around you, and you are simply washing the dishes?
Wherever and whenever you find yourself in these treasured moments, take a minute to appreciate the opportunity. Be happy your kids don’t keep up with dishes, so you GET this profound opportunity to do them. Be thankful your husband forgot to grab the mail on his way into the house the night before so you COULD make an excuse for a walk. Be filled with joy that your doctor is running a couple of minutes behind affording you the rare opportunity to sit longer in a space of healing and wellbeing.
Mindset or Mindfulness, you oversee when you get to experience either, so instead of lamenting that your life is too crazy and busy, make the most of the times when things take a pause and show a little gratitude. I promise things always go better when we have a heart full of joy. Plus, nothing makes you feel accomplished like cleaning a sink-full of dishes.