Preserving Mental Health in COVID-19: Learning To Be Present

Had COVID-19 never happened, I would have woken up early Monday morning, hugged my parents goodbye and taken off on a trip across the country with my cat. Since the pandemic started, I have spent a lot of time revising my plan by creating contingency after contingency for the road ahead.

But, it’s not just my tiny home plans that took a hit. My business lost 90% of its pre-COVID-19 clients. I was fortunate enough to book three new ones shortly afterward that filled the gap, but replacing several clients with three is risky. It also means less diversity for me when it comes to work.

Nevertheless, I am grateful. Of all my business owner friends, 50% of us still have a business and the other 50% have none. There is no in-between. Those who lost all their clients so far continue to check in with the rest of us to offer advice and feedback wherever they can.

Delaying Panic

Every week, I watch the work queues go down to zero and I wonder if it will refill. When this happens, I wait for the panic to come, but it never does. I have suffered enough disappointments in my life to learn to delay my emotions. I put them in a box for later and then take them out when I feel up to the challenge.

Meanwhile, the SBA has yet to get back to me regarding my loan and PayPal denied me for the Paycheck Protection Program. It said it made its decision based on my credit score, then provided a Transunion transcript that calculated my credit score at a whopping 800. When you figure out how that makes sense, feel free to let me know.

So, when the queue folders go down to zero, I finish the work I still have assigned, shut the computer down and wait to see what tomorrow will hold. So far, I have continued to make quota and that gives me some confidence in the process.

It makes me feel a little more sure when I tell myself, “Things will work out, and if they don’t, I’ve planned for that, too.”

Planning Ahead

A few days ago, someone asked how the rest of us were holding up when it came to plans. I responded with the fact that I would much rather have a changeable plan than none at all. For days afterward, however, I began to pay attention to how I handled uncertainty as it arose day after day after day.

I also paid closer attention to the many plans that other people cancelled because of the pandemic. I’m not the only one who had planned to move across the country. Some others planned to move out of the country they lived in altogether.Β  I also have friends who were about to assume new roles due to promotions just before the company they worked for shut its doors and cut their pay.

I think also of the people who planned to retire on income derived from stock-based investments. The market has been flip-flopping back and forth for months now. My Betterment-managed investment account has been in a loss since mid-March. My self-managed e-Trade account has varied from $40 of profit to just as much in loss.

Thankfully, I am a long-term investor nowhere near retirement and have the luxury of simply not checking. Imagine everyone else who doesn’t fit into this neat, convenient little box and whose heart races every time the stock market plummets.

Embracing the Present

As a teenager, I survived an abusive parent by telling myself time and time again:

If you can’t look up, look ahead.

This has been my life motto for as long as I can remember. It is also at the root of my ability to delay my emotions. When things do not go as planned, I don’t distract myself with food, drugs, movies or relationships. I plan my way out of the problem β€” and then I execute.

Yet, here comes the first challenge in my life where doing the exact opposite is what it takes to maintain sanity. I am learning to take things one day at a time and one step at a time. It is no easy task for a planner who almost always lives in the future, but there is no real growth without a real obstacle and here is mine.

As I mentioned earlier, I find this easiest to do with my business. After all, who am I to complain about having some extra free time on my hand? But, I find it is far more challenging to apply to personal plans. Learning to be more present and more appreciative of current realities is definitely the challenge I plan to take on for 2020.

What about you? What plans did you lose to COVID-19? How have you been coping with the uncertainties ahead?

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15 thoughts on “Preserving Mental Health in COVID-19: Learning To Be Present

  1. My friend, much like you, I have been compartmentalizing. Since I got my 2 week self quarantine break from work, I’m in a better headspace and can actually do that. I haven’t had to cancel any plans, I’ve just had to try and wrap my head around not making any plans. I want to go see my mom, and I can’t. I work in a grocery store, I can’t go see her without risking infecting her with any cooties I picked up at work. She has RA and a heart condition and is over 70, so I just can’t risk it. It’s hard. I didn’t get my “birthday night” celebration of my 15 years clean, so I’ve found a way to facetime her into the meeting when I finally DO get to pick up that chip. We do the best we can with what we’ve got to work with, eight?

    1. Compartmentalizing is exactly what it is. You’re so right.

      Funny enough, my parents both still work in public spaces and I still interact with them but only after they’ve thoroughly disinfected after work. I also disinfect high touch spaces in their homes myself, which annoys mom to no end lol. We have a thermometer here, so they test themselves regularly.

      Your mom’s health situation is certainly more precarious than mine though. My heart conditions are mostly under control right now.

      Happy 15th birthday by the way! I’m proud of you. I know right now is super stressful and that makes it so much harder, but hang in there. This can’t last forever!

  2. At least your personal life has regained some sanity. I have never counted on the future, but have been prudent throughout my life, especially financially. Fortunately so has my husband. We are grateful to be able to share with others at this time in our life, particularly through our church which serves many homeless.

    1. Yes, this is true! My mom and I give what we can to 2 shelters that serve abused women here. They do curbside pickups, so as soon as we have a big enough stash, we call them and they tell us when to leave it out.

      I wish I didn’t count on the future, but I never learned that lesson. πŸ˜… The future was always my sanity whenever the present proved unbearable and so far it’s served me well. Here’s to hoping it stops trying to escape me now!

      1. Haha, this is true. I also don’t know how much of it I’ll get to see with my heart problems, so I don’t have the luxury of putting things off with a high chance of doing it all later. πŸ˜…

  3. since i dont have to work, life has been pretty much the same. the changes…eating more take out instead of eating in the restaurant and wearing a mask when i go into a store. travel plans have been put on hold and phone calls and videos are not the same as being face to face. photo ops around the property are limiting and im looking forward to going away from the home front for something different. the plus…some home chores are being done, even if reluctantly.

    1. I’m not as itchy for travel as I thought I would be. I’m usually out in the desert for the spring and fall. Maybe it’s because I know I can save for bigger plans ahead. I’m not sure. Maybe I’m just tired of so many disappointments this year. πŸ˜…

      WHO is saying we might be stuck with COVID-19 the same as HIV and might just need to figure out how to live with it. That’s a scary thing to think about, but whether it’s gone or not, I’m heading out for 2021. Maybe I’ll come perch my little rig on your property and pet your neighbour’s llamas if you let me. πŸ˜‚

      Hopefully you get to head out safely soon!

      1. Really?? I thought it had just broken free and gotten into your yard.

        BUDDY!! I WANNA PET YOUR LLAMA!! 😭

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