Three Tools for The Shut Downaversary

Last year right about now, I received an email from the school district stating that school would be closed for two weeks. As someone who didn’t have a great plan for snow days, this two week shut down was most unwelcome. TWO WEEKS! How the heck were we going to do that?

The first week, my husband and I each worked part time and we took the kids to the park. One week later, the park was shut down too.

By early April, I needed to go to the grocery store, and I wanted to wear a mask (which was in the cabinet thanks to my husband’s bout with the flu the prior year). I knew masks could be effective in stopping the spread of a virus, but when I wore one to the grocery store in town I was met with stares of incredulity —oh no, she’s a mask-wearer.

Funny, right? What a year. We learned.

As we commemorate the one-year mark here in the northeastern US, later for the rest of the country, (last month if you’re in Europe and two months ago if you’re in China), here are three mental health tools I’d like to recommend:

1. Remember the people who lost their lives. According to a recent study, on average, 16 years of life have been lost, per person, due to the pandemic. As of this writing, 20.5 million years of life have been lost. That is an astounding figure.

If you know someone who has lost someone, reach out, connect and remember. I experienced loss this year and I remember those lost every day, talking about them, bringing their memory into my days as much as possible. It is hard. If you have also lost someone you loved this year, I am sorry.

If you do not know someone who has passed, read the stories of those who have. Know them, remember them. Let yourself feel. Watching Coco can help.

2. Recall your personal challenges. It is all too tempting to discount your problems during the pandemic as a less valid problem if you still have your job, health, life and home. Your challenges are your challenges, and they are valid. It is far better to recognize them than to discount them. Check out this recent podcast from Brene Brown with Dr. Susan David about the impact of toxic positivity.

3. Recognize your growth. At the beginning of the pandemic, two weeks seemed like a hard-to-manage amount of time for me. But this year, my husband, children and I have worked out a routine, navigated job loss, personal loss, selling our home, and more. My children have been engaged in online learning for an entire year, and they continue to wake up each morning full of hugs, kisses and resilience.

You too are managing…lifting out of bed, getting Zoom-ready. You may have started baking bread, making soap, playing chess, or taking art classes. Whatever you’re doing to navigate this unprecedented challenge, you have grown. And THAT is something worth recognizing.

Remember, recall, recognize. Take some time to engage in these 3 R’s as we come to the one year anniversary of the global pandemic shut down.

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