7 Rules for Surviving COVID-Land

7 Rules for Surviving COVID-Land

Reposted from SHIELD MAIDEN INSTITUTE ™ with Permission

I’m not going to mince worlds.  Lately it has felt like we are living through the apocalypse and it is exhausting.  I scarcely have time to recover from the latest bad news when more bad news comes sneaking up.  For example, this year I have lost both real and imagined family to COVID related and non-COVID related deaths.  COVID-19 claimed an aunt, my surrogate mom, and a beloved friend.  Cancer claimed one of our oldest friends.  Those losses were compounded by the loss of my imagined family.  You know those people, usually celebrities, that you aren’t related to, probably never met, but feel like they resonate with your soul.  Maybe somewhere deep down you may even belief that if by some magical happenstance you do cross paths you would hit it off.  For me that was Kobe Bryant, Chadwick Boseman, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg aka RBG. 

I’m not a baller but as a fatherless daughter, Kobe’s love for his daughters brought  me comfort and joy.  His love was a beauty to behold and was filled with the promise of healthy father-daughter relationships.  It hurt when that promise was cut short.  As for Chadwick Boseman’s death, I can’t even begin to describe the heartbreak that followed the news of his sudden death.  He was so much more than an actor.  He was a dream realized.  Boseman’s portrayal of King T’Challa was a representation of the strength of our culture, a rarity in an industry that is much more comfortable chronicling our pain.  His death was staggering, it was painful, and it resonated throughout my community and many others.  The death of RBG hit me different from the others.  RBG was a  fellow Brooklynite with a fighting spirit.  She wielded womanhood with a fierceness and rejected any notion of women as the “weaker sex.”  Her life was a testament to a woman who refused to be diminished and was intent on leading others even as she cleared her own way.

To say 2020 has been rough is an understatement.  COVID-19, racism, environmental disasters, including fires, flood, and hurricanes have me feeling like 2020 and its crew mugged me and left me in an alley.  Every time I manage to hit reset something else happens.  And I know I am not alone.  For some folks the COVID 19 crew is akin to the 40 thieves from the Ali Baba tale.  For them the beatdown came in the form of unemployment, housing instability, distance learning, being trapped in abusive situations, and difficulty managing life responsibilities including basic self-care.  It has been ROUGH trying to keep pressing on when most of it feels uphill and against the wind.

I’d like to offer some support and resources.  First things first, I am not an expert on surviving the apocalypse.  Though my own history was less than rosy at times, this is my FIRST APOCALYPSE.  That being said while there is no guidebook for surviving the apocalypse, I’m learning to adapt and overcome when possible. If Zombieland has rules for survival, surely those of us trying to survive COVID-Land could also benefit from some guidance on how to survive this new reality.   I have managed to come up with some rules I believe may help others survive COVID-Land.  Below are my 7 Rules for Surviving COVID-Land and yes they spell trapped.

7 Rules for Surviving COVID-Land (T.R.A.P.P.E.D.)
  1. T – Take care of your body (Yep, you guessed it…cardio)
  2. R – Reach out (loved ones, friends, mental health) 
  3. A – Attend to your needs (physical, emotional, psychological)
  4. P – Protect your mental health 
  5. P – Practice self-care (including social distancing ) 
  6. E – Educate yourself
  7. D – Don’t compare yourself to others

RULE #1 – Take care of your body (Yep, you guessed it…cardio)

This was the number one rule for surviving Zombieland so it seemed to make sense that it be the #1 rule for surviving COVID-Land.  Granted we are not being chased by literal Zombies, but we definitely have emotional zombies trying to run us down.  Our Zombies are depression, anxiety, unhealthy weight gain, and poor sleep.  Luckily for us cardio can help with ALL of that.

I know cardio conjures up different images for different people, so let me clarify what is considered cardio.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines cardio as “any type of exercise that causes the heart to beat faster and harder for a period of time.”  Basically if it increases your heart rate it counts.  That includes a  brisk walk, running, cycling, swimming, rowing, cross-country skiing, and dancing.     Cardio is defined by your effort not just the type of activity you choose. That means that Tic-Tok dance you have been practicing counts as cardio.

RULE #2 – Reach out (loved ones, friends, mental health)

I realize between social distancing, quarantine, and distance learning reaching out seems like a difficult proposition.  Let she who has not experienced Zoom fatigue cast the first stone.  That being said you need a team to survive COVID-Land.  The makeup of that team will be different from person to person.  Some folks may be light on family connections or healthy friendships.  It’s okay of your team is only two members deep.  What matters is you have someone on your team who can reach out to if the Zombies start to overpower you.  If you don’t have someone, it may be time to call in the professional support team members.  The people I am referring to are mental health counselors, faith leaders/clergy, peer support resources, and crisis hotline workers.   These individuals are trained in the art of emotional Zombie warfare and can provide support and help you identify additional team members.   It may be difficult to reach out to a stranger, but enlisting support from professional support team members helps you survive long enough to build your own team.

Rule #3 – Attend to your needs (physical, emotional, psychological)

I cannot stress how important this rule is.  This is how the emotional zombies get you.  As I mentioned before dealing with the sum total of all that is going on in COVID-Land can be exhausting.  The constant barrage of negative news can also be overwhelming.  In those moments it’s not uncommon to let the little things like healthy habits and self-care slip.  It’s starts small enough, a missed meal here, a late night there, my teeth look fine (even though I haven’t brushed them in a bit), no one will notice I’ve worn the exact same outfit every day this week.  Pretty soon the emotional zombies are at the door and we are too malnourished, sleep deprived, and emotional undone to notice.  Believe it or not, just as a bunch of little things can cause problems, a bunch of little things can also solve them.  

Things like 

·      Carving out time for yourself.  It could be minutes or hours, whatever is necessary to gather your strength, communicate with your survival team members, or take care of you mind, body and soul

·      Shutting down the Zombie communication network by unhooking from toxic spaces, virtual and otherwise.

·      Try to do at least one thing to take care of your body for daily.  That includes working out, going for a walk, eating a healthy meal, taking a shower, brushing your teeth

Rule #4 – Protect your mental health 

Although this sounds simple enough, depending on your circumstances this could be somewhat challenging.  I know we have been talking about Zombies and Zombieland but allow me to dip into Harry Potter for a moment and introduce the concept of Dementors.  A dementor is a creature that makes frequent appearances in the Harry Potter books.  Wiki describes Dementors as “dark creatures that consume human happiness, creating an ambiance of coldness, darkness, misery and despair.”  As if Zombies weren’t enough, we also have to be alert to Dementors.  For some, Dementors existed even before the apocalypse.  However, COVID-Land Dementor may be even more hazardous.    A key characteristic of a Dementor is “the power to drain happiness and hope from humans.”  Both of which may already have been depleted.  The key to dealing with COVID-Land dementors is the same as it is in the Potter books.  Identify them and banish them with light.  In the case of Potter the light source was something called a Patronus. For us non-wizard folks the solution involves connecting to sources of light in our life.  

Tips for Connecting with the Light

·      Try to do at least one thing to feed your soul daily –  That could mean watching your favorite movie, seeking out joy bringers (people, virtual spaces that focus on humor, connecting with other or mental wellness).  

·      Seek out sources of light – Connect with people who nourish your soul or consider disconnecting from people who don’t.

Rule #5 – Practice self-care (including social distancing )

The best definition I have heard for self-care to date described self-care as “building a life you don’t need to escape from.”  Growing up I understood self-care to be doing stuff I could not afford.  This including things like spa trips, lavish vacations, fancy restaurants, basically Eat, Pray, Love stuff.  As I became a wife and mom and could afford what I considered to be low level self-care stuff like take-out, expensive chocolate (trust me there is a difference in taste), mani-pedis, and professional waxing, I considered taking time to do those things selfish and indulgent.  It was not until I started to study mental health that I realized I’d gotten it all wrong.  Self-care wasn’t selfish or self-indulgence, as Andre Lourde so aptly put it self-care was “self-preservation.” The American Psychological Association (APA) defined self-care as “a multidimensional, multifaceted process of purposeful engagement in strategies that promote healthy functioning and enhance well-being.” 

As I began to understand what self-care wasn’t, I started to understand what it was.  Self-care starts with good boundaries around your time, energy, and resources.  Self-care is not risking burnout by pushing myself past fatigue to get one more thing done.  Self-care is saying no to commitments, obligations, or people that regularly deplete me.  Self-care is devoting as much time to my health and wellbeing as I do for the people I love.  Self-care is limiting my exposure to toxic people when possible and finding ways to feed my soul.  

In the era of COVID self-care could mean limiting social contact for the sake of me and my family’s health.   COVID-19 self-care can look like choosing to decline invitations, taking time off when needed, or rethinking your life trajectory.  COVID-19 means getting comfortable with the B word, boundaries.  As so well stated by Dr. Brene Brown, “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.”

Rule 6 – Educate yourself

This rule was intended to be a “no brainer,” corny pun intended.  In a nutshell you can’t defend against what you don’t understand.  Educating ourselves is not limited to understanding the COVID-Land landscape, it includes becoming educated about ourselves.  Yes the world in on fire, literally and figuratively, but once we are educated we can better defend ourselves.  As we seek to become educated some questions that may help guide us in understanding our struggle may include:

·      How am I coping?

·      What strategies have been helpful and what strategies have been detrimental?

·      What are my resources?

·      How do I get the help I need?

Some of these questions may be easier to answer than other.  That’s where RULE #2  (Reach out) comes in handy.  Educating ourselves starts with identifying sources of knowledge.

Rule #7 – Don’t compare yourself to others

We have come to the last rule for surviving Covid-Land and it is a super important one.  In the early days of COVID, when I was still battling the Dementors on social media, I would frequently see posts saying things like if you don’t use this time to build your business, reinvent your life, become a unicorn (or some other random foolishness), you aren’t doing it right.  Basically the message was if I didn’t use my COVID-19 time to transform myself into Beyonce I was a failure at life.  Telling folks who are grieving, suffering, struggling to survive that they are failing if they aren’t able to level up during a freaking pandemic is utter ridiculousness.   Let me remind those folks we are in the middle of the freaking APOCALYPSE.   2020 has been HORRIFIC.  As far as I’m concerned if you make it through the year with your mental faculties, relationship, and most of your hair you are WINNING.  Don’t let anyone tell you different.  Fighting emotional zombies is hard, and like World War Z those jokers keep coming.  Fight, rest, repeat and don’t forget to double tap.