There’s a lot I’m going to miss about quarantine, but let me start off by saying… 

Yes, I’m an introvert.

No, I do not have kids.

Yes, I have been able to work from home.

And yes, I am incredibly grateful for all of the above right now.

But before you roll your eyes and exit out of this blog, hear this: Even if we’re all in a similar situation, remember that everyone faces their own set of challenges. 

Maybe you have young kids that are driving you crazy. 

Maybe you’re single and are feeling extremely lonely. 

Perhaps you and your spouse can’t seem to get on the same page. 

Maybe you’re a medical professional and the responsibility on your shoulders overwhelms you. 

Maybe you’ve lost your job and you fear the future.

Or maybe your environment is great, but you’re struggling to process all of the emotion, fear and transition.

All of us have been going through changes, whether good or bad. And no matter who you are, there have been a whole lot of obstacles in the past two months. I’m not here to ignore that fact! But all of us have also had the opportunity to reflect on our lives, make needed changes, and grow closer to our family and friends. And that’s just one thing I’m going to miss about quarantine.

I am going to miss the empty calendar. I love keeping busy, and I used to add unnecessary tasks on my calendar just to have something to fill it. So I’ll be the first to admit, all these slow-paced evenings stressed me out at first. But over time, it’s forced me to use my imagination, be intentional about connecting with others, and learn how to lean into boredom and use it to my advantage.

I am going to miss the days of soaking in some sunshine while I work. There’s no rushing from meeting to meeting. There’s not a pile of tasks that I can’t seem to focus on. But there is something about the birds chirping, the neighbors mowing their lawn, and cars driving by that provides a better stress-free soundtrack than I could ever make on Spotify. 

I am going to miss connecting with loved ones. The Zoom dinner parties. The family game nights. The quiet evenings to cuddle on the couch with my spouse and a good book… All of these have provided a sense of normalcy in a time of chaos.

I am going to miss the forced self-reflection. I am not one to enjoy self-reflection. It can be uncomfortable to feel so vulnerable and open. And don’t get me started about implementing change for self-growth… But over the past two months, I’ve learned to enjoy pushing myself to grow in ways I never would have seen without this time to reflect.

I am going to miss the creativity needed to figure out what to do next. Hear me out. Yes, it is stressful in the unknown. That will never change. But coming up with creative solutions to difficult problems is something to be proud of. It’s given me confidence in myself and my family to withstand hard things. I know that we will be okay as long as we’re willing to come together.

Now, you may be thinking, “Okay, but I am NOT going to miss having everyone cooped up day after day; I am NOT going to miss trying to figure out how to work; I’m NOT going to miss only being able to see people digitally; I am NOT going to miss all of these extreme emotions, and I am NOT going to miss having to sit in the unknown.”

And I hear you. It’s so easy to get stuck in this mindset of all the hard things, all the painful things, all the things we wish were different. But my challenge is this: Today, choose to find one thing that you will miss about quarantine and then choose to never let it stop.

None of these things have to end once the quarantine is over. There are 24 hours in every day, and we choose how to spend those hours.

We might have more things on the calendar, but we can say “no” when it’s getting too full.

Work might resume as normal, but that doesn’t mean we can’t spend the evenings off our phones, listening to the birds chirping, enjoying the company of the people around us.

When we’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, we can prioritize self-care.

And when we’re facing hard times, we will get through them together. 

Remember: Just because we may get back to some sort of “normal” does not mean that things have to go back to how they used to be.

Bringing hostess gifts, preparing a side dish, pulling up a makeshift chair to a coffee table for dinner are all things I love to do. I’m all about surrounding myself with friends and family, hugging each other’s necks, and seeing each other whenever we want. The pre-quarantine life seemed perfect for my extroverted self.

Unexpectedly, however, as we seem to be moving back toward “business as usual,” I’ve noticed I’ve changed. I’ve found myself already grieving the loss of what some people may call too much time with their spouse, too much time to think, and too much time to spare. I don’t want to downplay the lives COVID-19 has claimed too early and the hardship it’s caused for many families. However, I do want to reflect on the silver linings I discovered in quarantine.

Just like some of you are surprised by people who are dying to return to normalcy, I’m just as surprised reading that someone isn’t looking forward to it. But, my life during COVID has been simplified, which has been exactly the change of pace I didn’t know I needed. My life has always danced on the fine line between chaotic and the perfect storm. 

The majority of the almost 7 years we dated, my husband Tyler and I were on different schedules. If I was in class, he was out. If he wanted to have a date night, I had other responsibilities to the high schoolers I was mentoring. I would go into work as he was getting off. Goodness, even during our engagement we only saw each other once a week. (Which let’s be honest, was probably spent on wedding planning.)

Once we married and moved in together, I started a new job. He had one year of teaching under his belt when all of the standards changed, which by the way, only change once every six years. So as I was navigating my new normal, he was redoing all of his lesson plans from the year prior. As a result, our time together wasn’t exactly quality. My dad died unexpectedly. Someone wrecked into Tyler’s car. Both of our cars needed repairs. We went to small groups on different nights of the week. I had work events on the weekend… our life was nonstop

We felt like we couldn’t catch a break. And if we got a break, it didn’t feel like we had the time to take it. We spent our evenings preparing for the next day. 

Now vs. Then

Fast forward to now. I’ve spent more quality time, not just time, with my sweetheart. It’s been more intentional, romantic, purpose-driven time than we’ve known what to do with. We kiss leaving the room, catch up on how we are doing during meals, cuddle more and nag less. 

We’re like two best friends who are co-workers for different jobs but under the same roof. We have worked so well together and kept each other motivated. The thought of returning to work and “business as usual” under different roofs just makes me want to… be a little dramatic and shed a tear. (Notice, I did only say a little dramatic.) 

I don’t want to give up any of this unprecedented, long cravedfor quality time. 

I feel like I’m in a period of transition and growth, and I never thought my social-butterfly self would be sad about giving up alone time. Prior to this quarantine, the thought of not having someone to see or someplace to go on my schedule made me feel like I was doing something wrong. 

Now, I’ve redefined “busyness” as exhausting instead of a measure of my importance. (I have used my busyness to measure how valuable I am as a person since high school.)

I’ve been learning to love Tyler better and how my extroverted-self needed permission to be “selfish.” Now I use the energy I normally over-poured into others for myself and for Tyler.

As I sit here typing on my couch in practically pajamas, I know with a slight turn of my head, I can catch a smile from Tyler and that I’m a few steps in my pink fuzzy slippers away from a kiss.

I’m treasuring this. I want to hold onto what I’ve learned about myself and how my life has changed for the positive because of this standstill.

I think the question we will all ask ourselves as our country pulls up its bootstraps and heads back to work is, “Will I change the way I live my life, or will I snap back into the place I was?” 

We are all wading in unknown waters, but one thing is for certain: We have the choice to sink or swim. To choose what gives us life or choose what drains it. I want to choose what gives me life.

A crisis can teach us a lot about ourselves. It can magnify our shortcomings and challenge our beliefs. It can shine a light onto our priorities—from how we spend our time, to what we spend our energy talking about, to where we spend our money. This is as good a time as any to reset and be intentional about how we, as a family, open back up for business. 

Let’s not leave anything to chance. You must be intentional. Intentional about time together, building relationships within the home, connecting with those you care about, not over-scheduling and self-care. Make a family plan to live on purpose post-COVID-19

THE EXERCISE

Step 1: Gather with your spouse and/or children.

Call together a family meeting. A family meeting shows that this is important. It also shows that you want everyone’s input. 

Step 2: Play a game, have a dance-off, start a pillow fight! Get the blood flowing!

Doing something fun first helps create a positive atmosphere where ideas can flow. It can set the stage for amazing creativity.

Step 3: Things to discuss that can help you develop your family plan.

Note: Pick and choose the questions that are most appropriate for your family. Older children may appreciate the opportunity to write answers to some of these questions ahead of time.

  1. What did you like most about being quarantined?
  2. What was the toughest part about being quarantined?
  3. Did you learn anything about yourself? If so, what?
  4. How do you think the quarantine affected our family in a positive way?
  5. Did we do anything during quarantine that we want to keep doing?
  6. What parts of pre-quarantine family life do you not want to go back to?
  7. What are our family’s biggest strengths? Biggest weaknesses?
  8. What does success as a family look like? How can we work together as a family to achieve that success?
  9. Who are the people outside of this family (extended family, friends, neighbors) that we care about?
  10. How could we be intentional to care for them and stay connected?

Step 4: PLAN

Work together to develop a family plan that reflects the thoughts and conclusions from your discussion in Step 3. Be sure that your plan includes how you will:

  • Spend time together as a family. (Number of meals you’ll eat together each week. How often you’ll do a family activity. Schedule one-on-one time.)
  • Choose a family-friendly number of extracurricular activities to participate in. (Consider how much time it will take. Pros and cons. Is this just a good thing or is it the best thing for me and our family? Are we over-scheduling? The cost to the entire family.)
  • Regulate screen time. (Check out our technology in the home resources.) 
  • Connect with those outside of your family that you care about. (Visits, phone calls, video-chats, gifts, etc.)

When crafting your plan, aim to be realistic. Be willing to adjust your plan if you overshoot your expectations. The goal isn’t to be perfect, it’s to have stronger relationships. Your plan may start with 5 meals per week. After a few weeks, you may realize that 5 meals per week are not realistic for your family. You may end up adjusting your plan to 1 or 2 meals per week. 

What’s important is that you prioritize your time as a family. Hard decisions may have to be made by everyone– often, starting with the parents’ choice of activities that they are involved in. This must be done if you’re going to purposefully bring the lessons your family has learned during the quarantine into your post-quarantine life. 

Dr. Gary Oliver, Executive Director of the Center for Healthy Relationships, wrote: “When 1,500 school children were asked the question, ‘What do you think makes a happy family?’ the most frequent answer was ‘doing things together.’”

The happiness and the belonging that comes with doing things together helps children have the confidence, security, and identity they need to leave their home and face the world.

Mother’s Day is just a few days away and if you’re anything like me, the thought of how to celebrate your mom when you can’t be together during a pandemic has been a little bit of a challenge. This year is going to look different. Travel plans have changed. Restaurants aren’t functioning at full capacity and her favorite stores are still in the middle of trying to open. Having the whole family come into town to celebrate is unlikely, so we must be creative.

Maybe you’re like me, and you’re miles away from your mom this Mother’s Day. If so, let’s find a way to make the special woman who always goes out of her way for you to feel celebrated.

Instead of guessing what my mom would like or settling for something an ad told me would be perfect for her, I got personal

I went to the source and had a conversation with my sweet momma, Suzette.

Earlier this week I asked her if I could interview her for a blog. She was excited to help from the get-go. What better way to show your mom you love her than by showing her you need her, value her words of wisdom and opinions? So, we hopped on FaceTime.

Me: What is your favorite way to be celebrated?

Suzette: There’s nothing I love more than family gatherings. Spending time together, having real conversations and talking just to get to know each other.

Me: With this pandemic keeping us from all getting together, what do you think we could do instead?

Suzette: Well, technology has made it easy to be all under one roof despite the circumstances. All I have to do is set my laptop on the kitchen table and you all will be sitting here with me. I think it’d be nice to share a meal at the same time together in different cities and change up what we talk about. Have fun conversations like, “Where do you want to travel to when this is over?” and “Is there anything you’ve discovered recently that keeps you up way later than you anticipated?”

(I think it’d be nice to go around the Zoom screen and say one thing we are grateful for or admire about our mom.)

Me: What do we do to make you feel loved when my sisters and I all live in different cities?

Suzette: Honestly, responding to my silly texts and watching the videos I send you all. Having longer conversationswhich quarantine has blessed me with you all having more time to talk because you all aren’t running around as much! Is there a way I can keep that? When you all were growing up [starts to laugh] I could just trap you all in the car and say we are going on an adventure and we’d have all the time to talk I wanted, and you all loved it!

Me: [Laughing and nodding] I mean this is true.

Suzette: I also love it when you all ask about my interests and want to get to know me as who I am now. Because it’s really different not having you three girls around and being a single mom. There’s no one here to encourage me with just a smile or by spending time together. I’ve always been my own woman, but nothing can beat the pride of being your mom.

Me: I know we can get busy and have a bad tendency to put off responding to a text or calling back or only talking when we have to. I’d love to encourage you in what you’re doing, you’ve always been very supportive of me!

Suzette: I would love that! You girls’ opinions mean more to me than anyone’s. I think I would feel celebrated and loved just by hearing you all interested in the things I love, like Scotland! It doesn’t take anything but effort. If I know you’ve spent time picking out and then writing me a letter or crafted something or set aside time to Facetime and see each other’s faces and see into each other’s daily lives, I feel loved. It’s pretty simple really.

Just from taking the time to interview my mom, she felt like a more valuable part of my life. She reminded me that kids are a mom’s most prized relationship and that there’s nothing she’s more proud of.

The bottom line is to talk to your mom before Mother’s Day. Ask her some of the questions I asked my mom. Enjoy learning about her (and getting the answer of what she wants for Mother’s Day) all in one call! It’s a win-win.

If you want to physically thank your mom for all she’s done, here are some gift ideas my mom gave me!

  1. Send a card. Take the time to write why you appreciate your mom.
  2. Make her something! She will love that you thought about her and took the time to follow through. Yes, go back to the artwork on the refrigerator days! I must confess, my drawings would not look much different now, so I would opt for making her a pair of earrings because that is something I’m good at.
  3. Send a bouquet of flowers. Ask what her favorites are. Add a note and tell her she’s been a big part of helping you bloom (everyone loves a good pun).
  4. Choose a book to read together. Not only would you be sending her a book, but you’d be inviting her into more time together. How’s that? By sharing thoughts on the book during and/or after you both finish it!
  5. Order a takeout delivery from her favorite restaurant. You all can plan to eat dinner together virtually if you usually take her out!

This Mother’s Day, let’s be intentional about how we celebrate our mothers despite the circumstances that may keep us apart. She always found a way to do the same for you—whether there were a million things on the schedule, money was tight, you were sick or plans were canceled. 

It is your turn to do the same.

Someone once said that the quality of your life depends on the quality of the questions you ask. So, first of all, asking, “Why am I so mad at my spouse during this pandemic?” is such a quality question!

You could have asked: Why is my spouse such a jerk these days? What’s their problem? Why are they so annoying, unhelpful, boring, and not the person I married? Instead, you placed the focus squarely on yourself (Why am I so mad…) and you put the problem in its appropriate context (…during this pandemic). HIGH-FIVE! You’re on the right track!

Someone else once said that the answer is often right in the question. Let’s break the question down and see if we can find a reasonable answer.

Why Am I So Mad…

Anger is a normal emotion. It’s okay to feel angry. But, try to understand how it works and how it can affect you and your family. In that moment of anger, (his dirty clothes on the floor AGAIN, she had THAT tone, we’re BOTH supposed to help put the kids down for bed) your brain is flooded with stress hormones that override your pre-frontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that controls higher-order thinking skills such as decision-making, impulse control, focusing your attention, planning for the future and predicting the consequences of your actions. It also controls your ability to use logic and process feelings of empathy, shame, compassion and guilt. In that moment of anger, if you react, instead of pausing and responding, this is like handing over the keys to the part of your brain that is deciding between “fight, flight, or freeze.” 

If your spouse has done something that triggers “flooding” in you, it is physically and mentally impossible for you to have a reasonable conversation. You are literally incapable of rational thought. Your heart might be racing. You might be sweating or even crying at this point. Mentally, you won’t interpret and process the words and actions of your spouse accurately. 

This is definitely NOT when you want to address issues or problems in your relationship. 

This is why we say and do things when we are angry that, later, after the pre-frontal cortex gets the keys back, we totally cannot believe we said or did. It is also why the way we handle that 90 seconds or so of our brain “flooding” is so important. It’s why you’ve never heard of “Happiness Management” classes, either.

Marriage researcher and relationship expert, Dr. John Gottman, found that it takes about 20 minutes for the “floodwaters” to recede and explains this process and how “self-soothing” like taking a walk or calling a “timeout” can help. (More on that later.)

Even though anger is a normal emotion, it is not one to take lightly or ignore. We don’t want to camp out with our anger. In a very real sense, anger is a “Gateway Emotion.” Anger that isn’t dealt with often leads to bitterness, contempt, resentment and apathy. These feelings can wreak havoc even when we’re done being mad. People often take these feelings out on their spouses, their children, and even on themselves. Plus, dwelling on your anger sends a signal to your brain to start flooding all over again. This is not where you need to be. This is not your “best self.”

What do you do with your anger? What do you let your anger do to you? How do you handle your brain being “flooded?” Have you considered that anger is often a “secondary emotion” that masks the real issue? Have you reflected on what the real issue could be—not feeling appreciated, not feeling heard, not feeling respected? Are you really jealous, lonely or hurting?

Are you taking proper care of yourself?

At My Spouse…

Your spouse might, in fact, be acting very differently right now. But why? They might process stress, fear, conflict and communicate it differently than you do. That’s okay. Opposites attract, right? But you might be seeing some real opposite-opposite behavior at the moment. Your spouse might really be struggling. They might be flooded or they might be withdrawn because stress makes them shut down. They might be irritable because of what their employer is expecting from them or they feel like they are failing you and the family.

Dr. Gottman found that 69% of conflict in marriages is about “unresolvable, perpetual problems.” That is NOT a discouraging statistic. That is what we call marriage—two unique individuals with their own unique needs, personalities, ways of communicating, handling conflict, and let’s say… quirks—spending their lives together, trying to fail better tomorrow. That’s love. It’s beautiful. 

Get real honest with yourself—is this a tension to be managed or a problem to be solved? Is your spouse a convenient outlet for your anger? Are you leaving room for them to be them? Are you spending too much time together cooped up? Not enough quality time together? 

This is a time for patience, grace, and empathy. 

During This Pandemic?

The stress and fear that comes with quarantine and a global pandemic can keep us in a perpetual state of “brain flooding.” Think about that a second. We may be trying to be employees, tutors, parents and spouses while we are worrying about the future, finances and getting COVID-19. Add to this that we might be stuck in the house and cut off from our normal routines and the usual ways we “blow off steam” and have fun.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, (including you and your spouse) are their best selves right now—no matter how your friends appear on social media. We are all in Survival Mode. Everything is magnified right now. Everything is intensified. An off-hand comment that wouldn’t have phased you before now is a personal attack. Don’t let this “thing” we are all going through drive you away from your spouse. Be determined to handle your anger in a way and deal with conflict in a way that drives you toward your spouse

Make it a goal to come out of this better and closer on the other side.

Understanding Is Important, But Here Are Some Practical Tips.

  • Learn to recognize when your body is telling you that you’re flooding and have a plan. Find a healthy outlet for your anger. Journaling. Going for a walk. Calling a timeout. Take the reins of your brain and remind yourself of why you got married and your spouse’s awesome qualities and traits. Control your thoughts and emotions, don’t let them control you.
  • If there is a problem or issue that you and your spouse need to work out, remember that is a normal part of marriage. Don’t attempt to resolve it when you are angry. Pick a time when you can have a productive, constructive conversation about it. Use “I” statements, not “you” statements. Listen to your body—don’t escalate and don’t be afraid to call “timeout.”
  • Are you and your spouse connecting creatively with each other or crossing paths chaotically? Is it time for a special in-house dinner date? A movie night? Some yard work together? A walk around the block? Just enjoy each other’s company.
  • This is not the time for any harsh conclusions or permanent judgments, and definitely no big decisions—specially when you throw anger into the mix. Take responsibility for yourself and for what you can control. 

Why am I so mad at my spouse during this pandemic? Remember, the quality of your life depends on the quality of the questions you ask—and what you do about the answers.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

“So first let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself… nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” —Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inaugural address

So there I was… hanging off the edge, behind-first, staring down into a hole in the ground about as wide as my house. My heels dug into the earthen ledge as I felt the tension of the rope pulling at my waist and holding me in place. We were on a spelunking (caving) adventure. Ropes were strategically fastened to trees, harnesses fastened to ropes, and my body strapped in a harness. I had been rappelling since my high school years, but never into a 150-foot vertical cave in the middle of the Tennessee wilderness. 

All facts pointed to the assurance of safety, security and success: the friends I was with were trained to do this in the military; all knots, harnesses and other gear were checked and rechecked; and my buddy was at the bottom of the cave below me hanging on to my rope, ready to cinch it down and “catch” me should I slip. (And besides—he made it down safely; certainly I would, too… right?)

And yet, there were still the nagging what ifs in my mind. What if that rope snaps? What if a knot comes undone? And even, what if a squirrel leapt from out of nowhere, landed on my harness and chewed the straps away, causing me to fall into nothingness? 

And it was the what ifs that kept me stuck, paralyzed, on the edge of that cave for what seemed like hours (really, it was a few minutes), petrified to take that first step to descend into the cave. 

Fear has a funny way of making a person think the most irrational thoughts. And as the COVID-19 pandemic has caused life to slam on its brakes, fear has certainly done a real number for many people. What happens when the pandemic has you so afraid that you can’t seem to leave the house? 

Good Fear and Bad Fear

Fear isn’t always bad. There is a good kind of fear. Good fear protects us; it’s rational, valuable, and tells us how to accurately assess a risk. Good fear says, “Hey, that’s a deep hole in the ground. Better be sure your rope is tied correctly, your gear is checked, and your buddy down there has your back (er… rather, your rope).” 

Bad fear does not help us. It jumps straight to the worse-case scenario based on irrational conclusions. Bad fear says, “Hey, that’s a deep hole in the ground. Your rope will probably snap and your buddy below has probably taken off to grab a burger. It’s best if you go home, lock the door, hide in your room and never ever think about caves again…

Bad fear started out as good fear, but quickly turned irrational, dysfunctional, petrifying and therefore valueless. It’s junk fear—good fear gone bad, like a mild-mannered comic book scientist turned supervillain. 

And just like any true villain, bad fear doesn’t help us at all. It hinders us from a more fulfilling life. And at its worst, fear can be so irrational that it can cause us to react in ways that are actually harmful to us. 

Irrational Is the Key Word

★ The difference between good fear and bad fear is the weight of the information each is based on. ★

Good fear is based on good, solid facts from credible sources. It seeks the right amount of precautions to take while still being able to function. And so you have to know who you’re listening to. Health and safety precautions taken from the CDC are much weightier than from fake-news outlets or crazy Uncle Joe who’s stockpiled ammo and canned beans in his backyard bunker. 

Bad fear is based on the irrational, the sensational and the worst-case scenario (refer to Uncle Joe above). Bad fear makes us believe we have all the information we need in order to anticipate a future full of dread and terror. 

What Bad Fear Does to Us

Fear works in a way that, when we sense a threat, our body releases hormones that shut down the functions not needed for survival. It sharpens the functions that might help us survive, such as increased heart rate and more blood flow to the muscles (so that we can, for example, heighten our awareness or run faster). 

This is great for single, isolated incidents of threat, such as seeing a snake or standing on a high ledge. However, prolonged, chronic fear wreaks havoc on our body and brain.  

Research has shown us that it weakens our immune system, leaving us more susceptible to sickness. (Think about the irony here: Irrational anxiety and fear of the COVID-19 virus could actually increase our chances of catching it.) Bad fear can cause cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal problems, and can lead to accelerated aging and even premature death. 

Bad fear also hijacks our brain processes that help us regulate our emotions, read non-verbal cues and think before we act. Therefore, it can have a very negative impact on our relationships. 

When fear is based on irrational assumptions, it tends to keep churning out the dread. It can also have some nasty consequences for our health. 

Fear Gone Bad Back to Good 

Knowing the dangers of bad fear is a good start to turning bad fear around. Here are some other tips: 

  • Listen to credible sources for information. Be picky about who you listen to. There is a lot of sensationalism, and armchair COVID-19 experts abound out there. Ignore these voices and pay attention to the advice of experts such as the CDC, physicians and scientists. Be careful how much time you spend immersing yourself in information-digging. An unhealthy preoccupation in fact-finding can feed fear rather than alleviate it. 
  • Carefully assess what you see, experience and feel. Irrational fear can make us question every little sniffle, sneeze or cough we notice in ourselves and others, sending us down a spiral of unneeded worry. Pay attention to the symptoms and warning signs given by the experts, as well as the level of risk for your age group. And if you have a logical concern, refer to your physician
  • Practice self-care. Be sure you are doing intentional things to keep your mind and body healthy. Being physically active, practicing mindfulness and getting enough rest helps alleviate anxiety and boost the feel-good hormones in our brains. This helps us to think more clearly when weighing reason against irrationality. 
  • Know that this is a process. Overcoming any kind of fear takes time, and it’s often done in small steps. Give yourself patience and grace. Over time, reason will trump the irrational.
  • If you find that your fear is causing you to move toward harmful behaviors such as drinking or using drugs, or that it’s moving you away from basic necessary functions such as eating, personal hygiene or getting basic work done, consider seeking help. There are many professionals who are offering remote counseling services. 

By the way… I made it down into the cave safe and sound. Knots stayed tied and no strap-gnawing squirrels appeared. Why? Because that was just unreasonable. Bad fear does not have to prevent you from diving into a fulfilling life, even in the midst of a pandemic. 

Trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. And when it comes to COVID-19 and quarantine, most of us have experienced some sort of trauma around the situation. Actually acknowledging that is part of our healing process as people seek to get on with their lives.

As we all mentally prepare for life after quarantine, it will be helpful to consider what we have been through. It will also help us if we are intentional about creating a path forward. Many have said they don’t want to go back to the way things were.

Consider these things as you prepare for life after quarantine.

When we entered into quarantine, quite a few adults and children were exhausted from the chaotic pace we kept. Now, it is totally possible that you are dealing with exhaustion because of the intensity of what you’ve been through. Being mentally and physically tired can cause us to not think clearly. It can also cause us to make irrational decisions that we normally wouldn’t make and behave in ways that are unlike our typical selves.

Perhaps the first order of business is to take a few minutes and assess how you are feeling. Many of us, out of necessity, have had to keep our guard up throughout these last 40-plus days. Unfortunately, that may have kept us from actually ever acknowledging how we were really doing. As we prepare to come out on the other side of quarantine, now is a good time to consider that.

What are you physically and emotionally ready to jump back into? Although many say they would never have stopped all their family activities, the break has been nice for some. As things ramp back up, do you have the bandwidth or even the desire to go back to that level of busyness? Or do you want to use this as an opportunity to eliminate some things from the schedule? This could be a great exercise for the whole family.

What if we’re not feeling okay?

Some of us might feel like we are not okay—whether due to job loss, money tension, intense anxiety about getting COVID-19 or dealing with family members. There are many who may need the help of a third party to help us process everything, acknowledge emotions around the experience and create a game plan for being able to move forward. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you don’t know a good counselor, you probably have friends who do. Keep in mind that selecting a counselor is a lot like choosing a doctor. Having good chemistry with your counselor can help you accomplish the work you need to do to feel better.

Don’t underestimate the importance of good self-care as you move into life after quarantine. I know we’ve all been hearing it throughout the time we have been sequestered. However, it really does make a difference in our ability to think straight, make healthy decisions, problem solve and interact with difficult people. Exercise, get good rest, eat well and be intentional about having conversations with people who make your heart happy.

Keep in mind that while your children may not have been under the same types of stress that you have, they have still experienced something traumatic. As you develop your plan for re-entry, talk with them about what you have in mind. Seeking their input will help ease anxiety and give them a level of comfort about adjusting to a new routine.

And, let’s just not forget the power of unspoken expectations. You may have ideas about how things will go for you and your family when it comes to re-entry. For example, you may say you are for sure not going to be involved in so many activities. You might even say you are going to take it very slow when it comes to putting yourselves back out there. However, if everybody is not clear about your expectations and what moving forward looks like, it could lead to some unnecessary drama… and can we all agree that we’ve had enough of that?

Before we wrap up, just want to put this out there: It is possible and probable that you will have friends or family members who don’t agree with your plan. They may think you’re not being cautious enough or you are being too cautious. In the words of a 4-year-old to her father as she was trying to buckle herself in her carseat: “You worry about yourself!” There is no one right way to navigate through life after quarantine. Figure out what works for your family and encourage others to worry about themselves. Respect and kindness toward everybody, even those we don’t agree with, goes a long way. 

So, it is important to make a plan for life after quarantine, but it may be best to hold the plan loosely because we have no idea what lies ahead. Being willing to adapt and adjust over time will probably serve all of us well as we move forward. 

Businesses are opening. Restaurants, gyms, retail, places of worship—all opening or communicating plans to open. You can feel the shift in the air. Are you ready for life after quarantine?

Family and friends are politely gauging my interest in social gatherings. 

Updates from little league coaches are hitting my notifications. 

People are having discussions about going back to the office. 

Lots of people are tentatively planning birthday parties. 

The kid’s scout troop is considering one last event.

My small group is toying with the idea of moving from virtual meetings to in-person.

It’s not official yet, but just realizing “life” is looking to restart is making my head spin. 

This quarantine has some advantages. We’re not eating out so much since we’re not going from work to whatever activity is on the schedule next. My wife and I are not having to “divide and conquer” to get everyone to their respective destinations. Instead of saying, “Everybody out of the car, get a snack, brush your teeth, put on your pajamas and go to bed!after we get home from another late night engagement, our evening and bedtime routines are more peaceful. I actually know my kids better now, and I’ve taken the time to connect more deeply with my wife. 

I am genuinely afraid of losing all that positive momentum we’ve gained. I’m afraid that we’ll become too busy again. Is not entering the rat race an option? Why do we do it year after year? Do we have to?

We do this for noble reasons:

  • Wanting to make significant contributions to our community.
  • Wanting our children to be well-rounded and wanting to expose them to individuals who were set up to succeed in anything they chose. 
  • Sitting at home is not as fun or engaging as going to event after event. 
  • It seems to be the right thing to do for ourselves, our marriage and our kids.

But, I like the nighttime pillow talk with my wife that I’m not too tired to have anymore, the spontaneous fun with my kids, and the extended conversations with my mom who lives by herself. I’ve had more meaningful conversations with some of my closest friends than I’ve had in years. I’m afraid of losing all that.

As you prepare for your world to open back up, intentionally reflect on how the quarantine affected your life. Instead of busting out of your home as soon as you can, consider any lessons you’ve learned about yourself, your spouse, and your family. What did you learn during quarantine? Bring the growth you’ve experienced into your post-quarantined life. As afraid as we may be of becoming too busy again, we should be more afraid of wasting this moment in time. 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

It’s May and you know what that means… Mother’s Day! For the last few years, it has been our tradition to travel to my in-laws for the weekend. My mother-in-law’s birthday is also in May so we celebrate the two together. A normal Mother’s Day for us consists of breakfast as a family, church, and then out to a restaurant for lunch. My wife’s brother and sister join as well. The entire weekend consists of exquisite homemade food, family games and lots of laughs.

Celebrating this year will look very different than ever before, though. Because of COVID-19 and quarantine, we won’t be gathering as a larger family and doing what we normally do. Gifts will look a little different as well. With two small children, we have had the luxury of their respective school and childcare center teachers helping them make cards for Mom. Don’t get me wrong, we have done cards at home as well over the past couple of years, but they are never quite as awesome as what our amazing teachers have been able to produce. 

So as we plan to celebrate a little differently this year, what will that look like?

Here are some ideas to help you make sure that your wife feels all the love this Mother’s Day:

  • Make a video asking your kids what Mom means to them. Here are some questions to kick you off. What does Mom say the most? What is Mom’s favorite thing to do? Of all the things you love about Mom, what do you love the most?
  • Have the kids create a song about Mom and perform it for her on Mother’s Day. Want to live on the wild side? Make a song up about Quarantine Mom.
  • Help the kids make her breakfast or lunch. It doesn’t have to be extravagant… just from the heart. Let the kids lead out and choose what they want to make.
  • Let her sleep in on Mother’s Day. This is a big win. We all know moms need rest.
  • In-Home Spa Day anyone? My 4-year-old likes to paint nails and give foot rubs. You can all pamper Mom as a family.
  • Homemade cards are always a win. You may have to be a little sneakier this year though if you are all at home.
  • Does Mom love to travel? Take virtual tours of her favorite places or somewhere she has always wanted to visit. Let Mom decide and take a trip as a family.
  • Is Mom crafty? What is her favorite craft? Whether she likes to paint, knit, or anything else, get some supplies together and create as a family. 
  • Does Mom love movies? Watch her favorite movie as a family. Create a movie theater experience for her complete with popcorn and her favorite snacks.

Most importantly, let’s show Mom that she is loved and appreciated. From what I’ve learned over the years (from both my mom and my wife), celebrating Mom is a lot less about the cost and a lot more about the thought and heart put into the gift. That’s what matters most. 

Don’t let the quarantine stop you. Make this the best Mother’s Day ever!

Despite our lives feeling like they’re at a standstill in quarantine, the hand on the clock is steadfast with its ticking! So, I continued my tradition of decorating for the new season. (Plus a change in scenery, even if it’s just on our walls, lifted my morale.) I stuck in the last thumbtack and stood a few feet from the wall to see my spring banner is almost centered if you squint your eyes just enough. Each season has its own set of decorations and its list of family traditions to complement them in my family. 

It’s not that I didn’t want to be creative or find new ways to do weekly rituals or enjoy special occasions, it’s just that I was getting comfortable in quarantine and didn’t feel the need to. The sentimental value of doing traditions the same way before COVID-19 has outweighed the notion of getting creative and starting new ones since this quarantine happened. So, it can be easy to default to a place where there are NO traditions anymore.

While waiting and hoping for the dust to settle, we have gone out of our way to keep the peace in a constantly full house. We stir up laughter to distract from the stress. We try to be intentional about keeping in touch with friends and family we’ve been separated from.

Things that initially felt like coping mechanisms transitioned into traditions. 

Maybe without even meaning to, you’ve started new traditions with your family during the quarantine. 

Without warning, and surprisingly with a natural stride, we have stepped into a season of firsts and starting new traditions. We have all adapted out of necessity and some good is coming from it.

Traditions aren’t limited to the holidays. They can be a continuation of the intentional time you’ve spent with your family. There are daily, weekly and monthly activities you can continue (or start) after you answer the questions below. 

The questions are meant to help you reflect on your time in quarantine and make purposeful decisions on what you want your time to look like after.

  • What have you learned about your family during this time? 
  • What has inspired them to change out of pajamas into dressier clothes?
  • Have you noticed times where your kids have held on to you a little longer? 
  • Has your spouse passionately kissed you? Was it after a long-overdue conversation you finally had time to have? 
  • When have you felt loved? 
  • What have you and your family enjoyed filling your time with? Game night, pizza on Wednesdays, stories before bed, or movie marathons?
  • When have you seen your kids’ faces light up? Did they try something new or did you teach them a new skill? Did they help make dinner one night of the week?
  • When have you and your family wanted to do something again? 

If you want a few more ideas for some family traditions, here you go! 

  • Have a designated day each week for game night.
  • Make a secret handshake with each of your kids.
  • If you don’t eat together as a family every night, choose a night to do this. If you already do, choose a night where someone else helps cook.
  • Start a thankfulness journal and each week share with each other what you are grateful for and read it at the end of the year.
  • Have a family dance party on the weekends.
  • Start a monthly talent show or show and tell. If you have older kids, have them present something they’re interested in or a place they want to travel to and why.
  • Evening walks.
  • Movie night.
  • Special breakfast on Saturdays.
  • Full moon adventure! Every 29 days there’s a full moon. Going to a spot where you can see it well makes for a fun mini-adventure.

This has been a difficult time. Maybe you’ve found new ways to do old things, caught up on some lost time, or learned something new about your family. Despite the uncertainty and challenges COVID-19 brought into your lives, you made the most of it. (It’s never too late to start, either!) 

I hope the new traditions that have come from quarantine continue on for much longer.