As we go into the third year of the pandemic, most families are finding a work life balance a monumental challenge, if not impossible. In fact, Covid-19 literally magnified each of our personal battles — chronic illness, ailing parents, divorce, unemployment, struggling children — and made the simplest tasks extremely difficult. Like finding toilet paper. Or getting a rapid test before seeing family for the holidays.
For example, working moms dealt with telecommuting and their children’s online schooling. Essential workers examined if their jobs endangered their lives. Parents fought to keep their families safe and many left large cities where the virus ravaged the population. In September 2021, 66% of nurses said the pandemic made them consider leaving their jobs. People a few years from retirement decided to leave the workforce permanently. And with the national news constantly reminding us of increasing Covid-19 cases, social unrest and natural disasters, mental illness increased with 4 out of 10 adults reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression.
So is work life balance even possible now?
I don’t know.
But I did find ways that helped me deal with the pandemic’s craziness.
With the enforced shut downs, I wanted authenticity. And the grace to be completely in the moment with each person I love. I treasured the impromptu dance parties with my daughter and her amazing bread baking. I loved drinking iced tea with my mom, listening to her stories or watching my brother build guitar amps while blasting heavy metal. I discovered new music with a friend who was a college DJ and helped another move from his beloved home in upstate New York.
I focused solely on them. I engaged in active listening. I refused to worry during our conversations or think of any to-do list. I wanted to savor every second of being alive with them.
Did I succeed? Not every time. But these meaningful connections helped quell my worst fears that arose from the coronavirus.
If the pandemic has taught me anything, it would be how vital the social outreach and services were that religious and non-religious groups provided to their members and non-members alike. The definition of neighbor expanded. Churches and synagogues established phone chains to check on congregants. Soup kitchens served more clients. Zoom coffee chats, online sermons, classes, choir practice and training sessions helped us connect to others and bolster our morale.
Turn off the television. Shut down your computer. Don’t check your email or Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or TikTok first thing in the morning. Take that time to breathe. Or read. Or meditate. Or pray. But whatever you do, do it unplugged. Several studies have shown heavy social media use affects mental health and can cause anxiety, depression and even loneliness. Programmers of every app work very hard to keep us checking our devices, giving us a shot of dopamine for every like or notification. It literally feeds into our need for social validation. But it is a time suck and keeps us from being with ourselves and families and can harm our mental health if we use technology unchecked.
This has been my saving grace since March 2020. With yoga, I find my stress levels decrease enormously. The breath work calms my racing mind. There are tons of free classes online for beginners and advanced practitioners. But choose the movement that works best for your body and that you’ll stick to.
Why is moving so important during crises?
Exercise diverts your mind from what is worrying you. It lowers tension and increases important anti-anxiety neurochemicals, including serotonin, gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). And if possible, exercise outside in nature which further decreases anxiety.
Although this phenomenon took me by surprise, I found that my daughter’s foster kittens helped her process her fears. She didn’t have time to worry about the pandemic while caring for these adorable fur balls. She spent less time on Netflix and more time playing with Coco and Powder, who were wonderful additions to the family. She loved them so much that she even decided to adopt Coco!!!
Find your joy
Or revisit a former hobby. For my friend Sara, it has been taking up martial arts. For Lisa, it has been playing piano again. For me, it has been the return to singing. All of us made a promise to create joy in our lives, no matter where that would take us. And these past few months we did it, becoming much happier.