My fifth week of quarantine is now coming to a close. The past 30 days have been an emotional roller coaster for me. The ride began with intense fear and anxiety, followed by a period of “settling in” and is now evolving into a time of greater peace and acceptance. I have adapted coping mechanisms and accepted that my life is going to function differently over the next several months.
Around the middle of March things started to change quickly – too quickly. As someone who clings to a routine, my support system was taken from me. My workplace, the State Capitol, was suddenly closed to all outside visitors, followed four days later by a directive to all employees to work from home. Listening to daily updates from our governor, I began gathering cleaning supplies and going to the grocery store at 9:30 p.m. to avoid crowds. I began experiencing intense worry for the health and safety of my parents. I was just a mess.
During times of intense anxiety, I turn to God. Rereading Psalms 91 and 121 sustained me during those early weeks. I also found comfort in Psalm 94:19 which says “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” Weekly online sermons from our church also helped by reminding me to focus on the fundamentals (1) the reassurance that God loves us and (2) that we are to love Him with all our heart, soul and strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5) I wrote this down and placed it on our refrigerator.
I knew I had to get a grip, so I turned to “the sheet.” These are Living Well’s 7 Steps for balancing your mind, body and spirit. I highlighted the areas where I knew I was having the most difficulty. My mind was always racing with endless thoughts over the past and great uncertainty about the future. Stress and anxiety cloaked my body daily. I woke up each morning with a sense of dread for the coming day.
Making a conscious effort to focus my mind on the present moment is incredibly helpful. I reasoned that I cannot change the past and I cannot control the future, so living day by day is the best option. Because it serves only to heighten my stress, I try to limit the amount of news I consume each day. I find that riding my stationary bike in the evenings, while listening to upbeat music, helps relax my mind and helps me sleep. I also use this evening time to stretch, breathe and pray.
On March 18, I started a gratitude journal. Each day I record the things for which I am grateful. These have included the health of our family, the continuous testing of vaccines for the virus, uplifting calls from friends, meaningful conversations with my husband, being strengthened by God’s word, household projects getting done, God providing for all our needs, etc. etc.
A week later, Jesus blessed me by allowing my grandmother’s 60-year-old sewing machine to function to enable me to begin making masks. It was truly a miracle that a machine that had not been touched in over 30 years would work after a little rehabilitation from my husband. Sewing masks has enabled me to feel somewhat useful during the pandemic and also served as a way to redirect my mind from uncomfortable world events.
Confronting fear has also moved me further down the path toward peace and acceptance. We have made two trips to visit our parents and bring them supplies in the past 30 days. They live over two hours away from us. Seeing them, knowing they are in good health and spirits, and frankly, less fearful of this virus than I am, gives me an incredible sense of peace. I have also mustered the courage to leave my home (with my mask) and return to my workplace on a limited basis, where I hope to provide help and support as needed. This too has strengthened my confidence and sense of hope.
I have always liked the following quote, attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, but it’s never been more meaningful to me that it is today “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face…You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
I look for signs of hope each day and try to be a light to those who need it.