It is fair to say that we are all thinking about money at the moment. Let’s be honest – most of us do not have 6 months, 6 weeks, heck, not even 6 days saved up in our emergency fund.  

These are unprecedented times that we are facing and there is not a great road map out there for how to deal with all these pressures hitting at once. To help you get through this with some financial peace of mind, make sure you and your significant other are on the same page (no hidden accounts or, oops, forgot to tell you about that credit card), everything needs to literally be out on the table.

Start by figuring out what you have coming in and what you have going out. Once you have this down, then start looking at where you might need help.  

I am going to start making some generalizations the rest of the way, but please reach out and communicate your individual situation with all of your financial life connections.

On the banking front, think mortgage, car loans, personal loans, credit cards (yep, all of them) and student loans. Definitely call them before you miss a payment if you can. They also might be able to defer payments – you will still have to make them, but not today. Think about bills that might be auto-drafting and decide if you want to cancel the payment. Your bank is there to help you. Call each and every credit card you have and ask them about how they are helping people during this time.  

A lot of utilities (think about your water, electric, cell phone, internet) want to help but you have to reach out to them. Ask about assistance programs, ask if they will defer a payment or two. Will they provide a wifi hotspot so you can get online access to work from home? Most utilities have suspended cutoffs for the next 30 – 60 days, but still, call them if you are having a hard time making the payment.  

Also please be aware of scams during this time. Please avoid any pay-day or cash advance loans. Call your bank first – they are there to help you. Be careful with “offers” that come in the mail. If it sounds too good to be true, it is!  If YOU can’t figure out a so-called debt relief “program” on a napkin then run for the hills.

If you get laid off or have already lost your job during this time, go file for unemployment. It won’t replace all of your income but it may be just enough to help you stay afloat.  

During these uncertain financial times, please know you are not alone. Reach out to your bank, credit card issuers and utilities early and let them know your concerns. Make sure they know your financial situation so they can help you. Reach out to your friends so they can help and hook you up with other resources. You will get through this – you just might need a little help.

Conditions are perfect for a Silent Killer to attack our minds, bodies, and most specifically, the emotions within our new culture of social-distancing. That Silent Killer – Loneliness. Let’s understand what loneliness is. Social scientists, as reported by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), define loneliness as “the pain one feels as a result of a discrepancy between one’s social needs and one’s ability to satisfy those needs.” 

Said another way, when our need for connection, interaction, and belonging are unmet and we feel unable to fulfill those needs, that pain we feel is loneliness. Why are the current conditions right for loneliness? 

Edicts such as “social distancing,” “work from home,” “shelter-in-place,” can all set the stage for increased loneliness. Regular activities such as after-work trips to the bar, small group studies, birthday parties, Saturday/Sunday worship are halted. Our places of employment, schools, and civic communities that we are part of, are all places where we often connect and interact with people. These places, where we connect with people who help us feel as though we belong, have closed their doors. 

It’s important that we do not allow ourselves to feel helpless during this time of forced isolation. This is one area where technology can truly help. My son and I have been part of a small group that meets every other week. Last night was the first time we did the meeting online because of COVID-19. It was quite uplifting. 

We interacted with people that we have deep connections with within a community that we belonged to. We were able to laugh, talk and just be known by people who care about us. We decided to increase our meeting frequency from every other week to every week because we realized how encouraging it was for our psyche. Part of the purpose of forming social communities is to help us push through difficult times.

How do we use technology to help us ward off the attack of loneliness? Don’t cancel the coffee dates you have with your friends or the post-work drink you have with your co-workers. Continue with your small group meetings and your marriage double dates with your favorite couple. JUST DO IT ONLINE. Schedule a Virtual Date using Google Meet, FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, Houseparty or any of the other apps available. 

Phone calls are nice and text messages can be helpful. However, there is nothing that compares to actual face-to-face interaction and what it does for our emotional connectivity. The ability to see the empathy, shared joy, or the heavy anxiety on your friend’s face enhances the connection in ways that emojis and tone of voice can’t quite match. 

Fighting loneliness is not about the number of people you interact with. Shasta Nelson, a healthy relationship expert and author of Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness and Friendships Don’t Just Happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Girlfriends doesn’t believe that the answer to loneliness is to go out and make more friends, but to deepen current relationships. It’s being intentional to create opportunities for meaningful interaction within the communities you belong to. And within those meaningful interactions, we must take advantage of the opportunities to connect at a deeper level, to be vulnerable, to be known.

Think about the people in your social community – whether it is family, friends, civic, church, etc. Who do you already have deep connections with? Who do you want to develop deeper connections with? Who are the people that you feel the safest with? We need to feel loved and supported during difficult times. Not only do we need to feel loved and supported, but we must also remember others that are most vulnerable to loneliness as well. Reaching out to those in need is a way to attack our own loneliness.

Nelson suggests that when someone is feeling a deficiency of love and support, “[they should] consider who in their life they would want to build a more meaningful or closer relationship with and then make a list. Start prioritizing those relationships.” There are times when loneliness is at a place where we need to call and get help from the professionals. Don’t feel like you have to win this by yourself. Many professionals are meeting via phone or video conferencing during this period of social distancing.


As we are being intentional about prioritizing relationships, don’t hesitate to meet online for coffee. Schedule a tea using Google Meet. Create a calendar invite for your book club on Zoom. Use Skype for you and your buddies to work out together. Set up a video chat with an elderly neighbor. Create virtual dates within your social community to lessen and hopefully minimize the discrepancy between your social needs and your ability to meet those needs. And while you’re interacting, connect – really connect. Your emotional wellbeing needs it.

If anyone is gonna catch COVID-19, I will…” This is a thought that I have had to do mental-battle with in the last couple of weeks. Even though rationally, I know my chances of not catching COVID-19 are really, really good, I still find a sinking feeling creep into me day after day. Even the people that know me have hinted at it, heavily implied it, or come right out and said it. 

I check the CDC website daily. I check to see if there are any more cases in my county and the surrounding counties. (And the surrounding states… and countries.) I catch myself wondering if “they” are reporting the numbers accurately. My paranoia doesn’t feel entirely unwarranted. The concern of my family, friends, and co-workers is justified.

My health has been a bit of a dumpster fire. Chronic pain and catching everything going around is just a way of life for me. What follows is far from exhaustive. Consider it my body’s “Greatest Hits.” In no particular order…

  • Severe case of mononucleosis in college that went undiagnosed for months, made me miss almost an entire semester and did significant liver damage. 
  • Spent a week in the hospital with pneumonia. (To answer your question- the worst kind.)
  • Contracted a staph infection during knee surgery. Spent two weeks in the hospital being operated on every other day. (Beat sepsis and avoided septic shock! Yay!)
  • Diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disorder. (Of course!)
  • Spent a week in the Infectious Disease ward of the hospital because of more staph infections. (Nurses in biohazard suits – scary, not cute!)
  • Total of 32 surgeries in the last 25 years on my face, head, both shoulders, elbow, hip, both knees, and I guess you could say, innards. (Not counting numerous other procedures. It only counts if I was completely anesthetized.)
  • Totally forgot! Traumatic Brain Injury from a car accident. (Wasn’t trying to be funny.)

It’s a respectable list, but I’m always mindful that there are people out there dealing with far worse health issues. So you can see why I might get a little anxious about COVID-19, right? You can see why people would put all their money on me if there was some kinda morbid betting pool?

Let’s talk about anxiety a second. You don’t rack up a “body count” like mine without having all the exhausting mental health problems that inevitably come with a broken body. Been there, doing that. Here’s the kicker – I was voted “Class Clown” my senior year of high school and THAT is a distinction I have always been determined to live up to! Laughter is the best medicine! How do you beat anxiety and stay fun-lovin’ when you have legitimate health concerns?

  1. I focus on what is right with me and remember there are people dealing with so much worse. There are people that would trade problems with me any day.
  2. I’ve been through some hard things. Miserable things I don’t want to do again. I’m certainly not happy about COVID-19 and our present situation. On good days, I try to lean into hard situations and even try to be thankful for them and be open to the lessons they are trying to teach me and the character they are trying to develop in me. (And I stay thankful for the people around me that love me and help me through all of this stuff.)
  3. I try to be wise. (I try.) There are things I just can’t do, even if I think I can. Frequently, I have to swallow my pride and let other people do things for me. (This is one of the hardest parts. I’d rather help someone than be helped.)
  4. Specifically related to COVID-19, I do what the professionals say to do. Period. Full stop. I’ve been conscientious about eating healthier, staying hydrated, and getting sleep. I practice social-distancing, wash my hands a ton, make sure surfaces in my house are sanitized. We had a family meeting and continue to work together to be smart and stay healthy.
  5. I deliberately stay away from people, conversations, and information that is generally negative or will make me feel anxious. That has involved putting some distance between myself and some people. That has involved controlling the flow of information into my brain from television and social media. 
  6. I’ve been using apps like FaceTime and Google Meet instead of simply making phone calls or texting friends and family. Seeing another face is so important for helping me feel better and to really check on how they are doing. Face-to-face communication helps me connect to “my people” who encourage me. 
  7. I’m a big believer in the real power of positive thinking. I decide how I’m going to think about my body and my life. (That’s why I don’t even like writing stuff like this, honestly.) I try not to live in worry and fear or self-pity. I find strength in what I’ve already overcome and will draw on that strength for the next “thing.” But only if there is a “next thing.” I don’t deal with “what ifs,” I just take it as it comes. (When I feel like I am losing the mental battle, I don’t hesitate to call on “my people” and even call on the mental health pros when necessary.)

I’m not going to say that anxiety or fear about COVID-19 is justified. I will say that concern is justified. There is a huge difference. I’m concerned about my health and respond to that concern appropriately by doing what medical professionals recommend. That’s it. That’s what I can control. I’m not going to worry about things I can’t control.

Maybe the biggest lesson I’ve learned about anxiety is that actively looking for ways to help and encourage other people, is like, magical. It’s hard to worry about yourself and someone else at the same time. It’s hard to worry about things you have no control over while helping to meet the needs of someone else. Nothing feels better than helping other people. 


This is the perfect time to think about how other people are doing and reach out to them. What if you could relieve someone else’s anxiety while relieving your own?

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, I headed out early one morning to walk. About 20 minutes into my journey, I looked up and WOW! The stars were bright and the sky was clear, something I had not seen in days due to lots of rain. It made me smile.

Let’s be honest. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by all the hard, hard stuff going on. COVID-19 is for sure wreaking its havoc on our nation and the world. It’s like we are at war. News about our economy, job loss, financial devastation, exhausted healthcare workers, not enough supplies, friends and family members testing positive for the virus – sometimes it feels like more than any of us can bear and we wonder, when will it go away? 

When I looked up though, I was reminded that even in the midst of what truly is a terrible moment in time where we all have experienced loss, it might be super helpful for me to actually consider all the things I can be grateful for. 

It probably sounds crazy, but just seeing the stars and knowing a sunny day was in store lifted my spirits. Here are a few more things I can think of: 

  • Being able to see a beautiful sunrise
  • Working with a team of people who are willing to charge forward even in the midst of challenges
  • My health
  • Family that checks in
  • Laughter
  • Being able to get my thoughts out of my head and on paper
  • Friendships
  • Utilizing my skills to help people navigate through this storm
  • A roof over my head and food to eat
  • The opportunity to help those who are on the frontlines of this battle
  • Feeling all the feelings as I watch businesses donate much-needed personal protective equipment, restaurants providing food to those in need, cafeteria workers working long hours to prepare food that school bus drivers will deliver to families on their route, people stepping up to care for the children of healthcare workers so they can go to work, families willing to live apart in order for one of their members to be on the frontlines, amazing artists sharing their talents either through teaching or providing an hour of entertainment.
  • No scheduled activities to keep families from eating meals together
  • The signs of new life outside which give me hope for the future
  • People all over the nation sitting down at sewing machines to make masks
  • It’s not winter so we can at least get outside or at the very least open windows and breathe fresh air
  • The symphony of birds singing
  • Neighborhoods figuring out creative things to do to help parents and children hold it together – bear hunts, crazy family pictures, scavenger hunts, and I Spy to name a few 
  • My dog, who has been my companion on all my walks

After making this list and shedding a few tears, it was very clear to me that even in the midst of these heartbreaking moments, I have a lot I can be thankful for. 

Getting in and staying in a mindset of gratitude is not always easy during the difficult moments in our lives, but shifting our focus to the things we can be grateful for is good for our mental health and good for the soul.

What do you have to be thankful for today?

My wife Kristin reminded me last night that we have our wedding anniversary coming up next week! Let me be real with you – it would have snuck up on me anyway. However, with everything happening with working remotely, the kids being home, and the pressure to practice healthy social distancing, it honestly slipped my mind. Really – that’s my excuse! But not my wife, obviously. Nothing gets past her.

After nonchalantly acknowledging her reminder as if I knew it all along, she joked that we may be celebrating by eating fancy steak dinners in our car served from the curbside delivery that area restaurants are starting to offer – especially since they are closing their dining areas and only offering to-go orders. And then it hit me – we can’t celebrate like we really want to.

There are so many occasions, celebrations, and events that people have planned – that you have probably planned – that now we can’t go through with or do the way we originally wanted. Birthday parties, special trips, anniversaries, graduations, religious services, kids’ sports events – even enjoying the professional and college basketball seasons – all put on hold, canceled, changed.

I get it. In addition to our wedding anniversary, we’ve canceled our original plans for one daughter’s birthday party, a special trip to New York for me and our other daughter, a trip to Denver for my wife, and most of my daughter’s track meets for the season. It stinks. And it makes us sad, and maybe angry. Not to mention all the other emotions stirred up by the current circumstances. Maybe you’re feeling like you’re beginning to lose things – a sense of normalcy, the thrill of celebration, the expectancy of fun and new experiences. And all that time and energy (and possibly money) you’ve spent making plans. It’s disorienting. And it’s unfair.

When you lose something, you grieve. We need to acknowledge that and call it what it is. Among many other things, we are in a time of grief for plans that have gone down the drain. Let’s think about that for a moment. You’re grieving the loss of expectations and dreams of things you would be doing just like you’d grieve the death of a family member, or a pet, or the loss of a job.

Try not to think of grief as a single emotion like sadness or sorrow. Yes, it’s perfectly normal to have some strong feels when you know you can’t celebrate your child’s birthday like you were hoping. But it’s helpful to think of grief itself as a process that involves complex emotions. And contrary to what some may believe, grief is valuable and healthy. It reminds us of what we care about. Grief helps us come to terms with the loss we feel and the emotions that follow. Which is why it’s so important to talk – and give our family members the chance to talk – about what it is you’re grieving. Giving words to what you’re feeling about losing that trip or that party or that graduation ceremony is healing.

That being said – grief is not a place where we want to camp out. The grieving process should help us to move forward at a healthy pace. So what does moving forward look like for you as you grieve plans made and lost for these next few weeks? Here are some ideas:

1) Don’t not celebrate. (Ok, I know that was a double-negative.) On the contrary, replace the plans you had with something. Can’t go to the jump-park for your son’s birthday party with friends? Celebrate at home with the family and a Nerf gun war and serve some ice cream. Graduation ruined? Conduct your own graduation ceremony, complete with a “Pomp and Circumstance” processional, a commencement speech by a family member, the throwing of the cap and lots of pictures. Baseball games canceled? Two words: backyard kickball! Make the best of alternate plans with creativity and a shift in your attitude.

2) Be sure to take pictures and selfies of whatever you do. Although the memories you expected to make aren’t happening, there will be a day you look back and remember this crazy time. Having the visuals of how your family persevered through this will provide strength for challenging times in the future. It’s a way of reinforcing the idea that “we came through that – and by golly, we even had some fun.”

3) Shift your focus from the plans you weren’t able to do and onto the people you are now with. So you’re eating anniversary lobster from the front seat of your sedan rather than a candlelit restaurant table. Switch your attention to the person eating lobster in the passenger seat next to you, enjoy the moment and just have some great conversation. Don’t forget to wear your lobster bib.

4) Finally, have hope. We know that times are uncertain, but I think it’s important to keep in the forefront of our minds that there is an “other side” to all this. Birthdays and anniversaries come around about once a year (from what I understand). The beach will be there after COVID-19 has run its course (I’m no doctor, but I do think it will run its course if we all do what we need to do and stay home). And let’s face it – we won’t have to watch professional bowling or darts on ESPN forever.

Share this hope with your family. You’re all grieving to some degree. Allow the grief process to move you forward, make memories, and focus on the ones you love rather than the plans that were lost.

Feel like you’re on the verge of going crazy? Have you eaten all your COVID-19 snacks? Do you stare out the window longingly looking at the cars driving by? If so, you might be working from home by yourself!

A little backstory here… My husband and I have only been married one year, but I’ve already gotten used to having him around, like, all the time. Last week, however, he had to go into work while I worked from home. And let me tell you… It was rough. I had SUCH a hard time finding the motivation to get things done and stay focused. If you’re like me and are working from home all by your lonesome (whether you’re married, have roommates, or live by yourself), here are some tips you can use to keep from going absolutely nuts!

  1. Where You’re Working Matters. Whatever you do, DO NOT work from your bed or your couch, no matter how tempting it is! If you have a desk, use it. If not, work from your kitchen table! Sitting up in a chair and using a tabletop will help you stay focused and prevent you from sneaking that Netflix tab open. (PRO TIP: Try to find a spot that has natural light and isn’t in your main living area. This will keep your body’s natural rhythms in check while also keeping the temptation of the laundry, dishes, or other distractions at bay.)
  2. Stick to your norm. Obviously, this can’t be done in every way. But, with what you can control, do your best to stick with what you normally would! Do you shower every morning? Do that before you start working! Pack your lunch the night before? Make that a priority (and see more on that in the next tip!). Go on a walk during your lunch break? Keep that up, even if the location has changed!
  3. Give Your Body Nutrition (But Don’t Overload). Okay, I have to be honest here. Last week, it was a struggle when it came to snacking and meals. Since I had easy access to the yogurt, chips & dip, and cinnamon rolls my husband made, it was nearly impossible for me not to snack on it all constantly. Every time my mind wandered, it landed on snacks. And by the end of day three, I was feeling the consequences of it. By the end of the week, I learned some tricks:
    • Pack your lunch the night before. I usually pack my lunch every day for work, so why not do it when working from home? This way, it’s easier to limit my snacking only to what’s in the bag for the day.
    • Stick to your normal routine. If you usually have breakfast at 7, a snack at 10, lunch at 1, and a snack at 3, (or is it just me?) stick to that! Your body will react if you change schedules, so sticking to your norm will help your mind stay focused.
    • Give yourself smaller portions more often. This is something I live by most of the time, but it is especially helpful when working from home! When you’re able to have more (but smaller) snacks throughout the day, it easily provides variety to your day.
  4. Get. Moving… A lot. Whether you’re a regular gym-goer or not, your body needs to get some movement in! I won’t lie, I did not follow this tip at all in the first couple of days. (Was anyone else in a total daze the first few days of last week??) But the more I prioritized getting moving, the more I realized its impact! The key here is finding what works best for you.  Are you a morning person? Look up some at home no-equipment workouts to do before the sun’s up! Hate working out in general? Go for walks around your neighborhood!  Some people work best on a timer (30 minutes of work = 5-minute break/movement session), but I just can’t get into it. I don’t like leaving anything unfinished, so instead I work by task. Once I’ve crossed something off, I do one round of a quick HIIT workout by my favorite trainers. Find what works best for you and stick with it! 
  5. Make a schedule. The above two tips play into this, but creating a schedule for yourself is the biggest key to staying motivated. Motivation comes from completing tasks, so the more things you cross off your list, the more motivated you’ll be to finish it! And when you create a step-by-step outline of your day, you can build in those 5-minute workouts or 10-minute breaks. Not only will this help you stay focused and motivated, but it is actually proven that you’ll get more done!
  6. Get human interaction where you can. While I am lucky enough to have another person who lives in my house (thank you, husband), I know that not everyone reading this is married or has roommates. If you live by yourself, this tip might be more difficult to put into practice, but it’s not impossible! Rally up a few friends to have a daily lunch video call together. Talk about your days. Take turns asking silly questions. Enjoy the interactions! If you do live with other people that are still going to work during the day, use your time in the mornings and evenings to stockpile your personal interactions! It’s so important now more than ever to put the phones down, turn the TV off, and just enjoy the friendships around you. Virtually, of course.

Although working from home has its perks, working alone can be really challenging. But don’t give up! There are so many great things you can do to keep your focus. Finding what works best for YOU is the most important one. Have patience in the process. Working through change always takes time, but we’ll all come out stronger in the end if we keep trying. I’ll be wishing you all the greatest music, the best snacks, and the most human interaction possible from my quiet, quiet home!

The past few days have been filled with change and upheaval for me and my family. In two days’ time, my husband and I drove 1600 miles in order to clean out our son’s dorm room prior to his campus shutting down. 

I remember when I first drove to campus to drop him off for orientation. It was so exciting and I was greeted with a beautiful banner that said, “Welcome to Columbia.” But as we drove up Amsterdam Avenue for what may be the last time, I was hit with a stark contrast- no smiling people saying, “So glad to see you, Can we help get your things out of the car?” 

Instead, it was dark, isolated, and almost midnight, similar to how I was feeling on the inside. If I was honest, that was not how I imagined my final visit to Columbia would go. In my mind, our whole family would have traveled together to watch while my son’s name was called as he crossed the stage to receive his degree and a handshake from the dean of his college. 

I realize I am not alone in feeling this way. Many other graduates from all levels have had their graduation/commencement ceremonies postponed or even canceled. As family members who have supported them through the past 4 years, you, too, may be hoping for another outcome. 

The question for us now is, “How do we deal with the disappointment that we feel while also celebrating the accomplishments they have achieved?

Acknowledge your feelings. 

You may be angry, but if you look deeper what you may really be experiencing is disappointment, sadness, or grieving the loss of a dream. Whatever you are feeling, let it come.  Bottling it up and/or acting like everything is normal (which it obviously isn’t) may only make things worse. It’s ok to talk about how you feel. Make sure to listen to how other family members and friends are feeling, too.

Celebrate anyway.

Because in today’s society, we have so few ceremonies that mark life’s transitions, find a way to commemorate the accomplishment – both now and later. If the school is providing some type of ceremony, think about participating even if it’s online. We are living in a different time now, so we have to be willing to change and adapt accordingly. But by all means, CELEBRATE!

Embrace the journey of the past and look forward to the future.

Whether you are graduating from high school, college, graduate school or technical school, you worked hard by studying. You made sacrifices of your time to be a successful student. Whether you are the parent, guardian, friend or family member of a graduating student, you also sacrificed money and time to support them. No matter how exciting the graduations, formals, and other senior celebrations are, I am reminded that they mark the end of one phase of life while simultaneously signaling the beginning of another. It’s important to look back, learn from the past, and move toward the future, knowing that everything has led you to this point in your life. 

I’m still hopeful that my son’s university will hold commencement exercises, and if they do, you can bet I will be there. (I mean, we earned it, you know!) In all seriousness, I’ve been in my feelings since I found out that what I expected to happen was not going to happen the way I thought it would happen. Some things are out of my control, but I’m trying to accept the things I can’t control, have the courage to change the things that I can, and have the wisdom to know the difference. I’m hopeful we can all find ways to make the most of a situation we never dreamed we would face.

We are fighting an unconventional war against an unconventional enemy. Time to up our psychological warfare game. I give you Sun Tzu from the Art of War:
However desperate the situation and circumstances-

Don’t despair.

When there is everything to fear-

Be unafraid.

When surrounded by dangers-

Fear none of them.

When without resources-

Depend on resourcefulness.

When surprised-

Take the enemy by surprise.

Sun Tzu probably never had to work from home and take care of his kids while quarantined.

We’ve definitely been surprised. Is it possible to take the enemy by surprise and regain some lost ground?

Many of us that are working from home and caring for our children feel trapped in a Catch-22. If we attend to our work, we feel like bad parents. If we attend to our kids, we feel like bad workers. (God forbid we attend to ourselves.) We feel like failures on all fronts.

This expresses itself in guilt and compounds our stress and anxiety, so our bodies continue to release stress hormones like cortisol and we function perpetually in “fight or flight” mode. This compounds our struggles.

Tasks feel like they take so much longer. Easy things feel harder. Hard things feel completely impossible. Our brains really aren’t wired to multitask effectively and we are asking them to multitask while under a great deal of stress. That stress is chemical, it is hormones in our bodies. They take their toll and we give up even more ground. Eventually, you are not even you.

You don’t feel overwhelmed; your brain is overwhelmed. It is like overloading a circuit-breaker. It is going to trip and you’ll shut down. Some of us are already there.

Even our sense of time and our internal body-clock get out of whack. For some of us, the days feel unbearably long. For others, the days seem impossibly fast. The rhythms and routines that defined our days have been upended. Things that gave our lives meaning and significance have been taken from us.

Research indicates that child abuse and domestic violence rates are going up. Divorce lawyers are gearing up. These are our families. Our children. Our spouses. The people we love the most that can become both the catalyst and the object of our anger and stress. Make no mistake, we are in a war. The enemy is NOT our family. The enemy is the mercenary Covid-19 and the disruption it has brought to our lives.

We can wage this war with hand sanitizer, disinfectants, hand washing, and social distancing, but the real frontline is our mind. This is psychological warfare. So what are the rules of engagement?

An expert in psychological warfare says, “When people are stressed, there is a temptation to lose touch with reality and to blur the boundary between reality and fantasy, If you blur that line and start making decisions on false data, that’s going to lead to bad decision making.” 

Your mind is a Prediction Making Machine. Don’t rely on its guesses based on “false data” about the future and create false narratives like:

  • I’m botching my child’s future because I can’t really help them with school.
  • My boss probably thinks I’m a bad worker and is gonna fire me.
  • My spouse and I can’t get along and my marriage isn’t going to survive this. 
  • I’m going to be financially ruined.

You don’t have to believe everything your brain tells you. Tell your brain they’re Covid-19 psych ops. Tell your brain that other outcomes can be more likely. Tell your brain you will take things as they actually happen and not react because they might happen. 

What are your weapons? Directing your attention to the truth. Adjusting expectations. Practicing gratitude. Exercising stillness. (You don’t have to fill 100% of your day with activity.) Breathing. Releasing tension in healthy ways. Sharing love. Practicing grace and forgiveness. Creatively helping others. Putting off important decisions. All these weapons are right between your ears.

Just knowing you are engaged in psychological warfare is a good start. Hold your ground. Fight the good fight for yourself and for the people you love. Take Sun Tzu’s advice and surprise the enemy by using your best weapon- your mind. Don’t let yourself, family or marriage be a casualty. Don’t settle for being a survivor. Focus your mind on being victorious.

Some questions have their answer firmly embedded in them. It’s kinda like, Well, if you even have to ask… This can be super convenient if we don’t stumble over the simplicity of it, but sometimes the most obvious things in life are the ones we miss.

Am I happy? Well, if I even have to ask… When I’ve been happy, I don’t ask myself if I’m happy- I’m busy just enjoying being happy. If I’ve had to pause and ask myself if I’m happy, if that question has somehow bubbled up to the surface, if it continually pops up in my quieter moments, well, if you even have to ask…

I don’t even know how to define “happy.” You’ve never wondered if you were happy and reached for a dictionary. You’ve got your own lived definition. I think the best I can do is that, for me, it typically is the absence of other negative feelings- it’s when I don’t feel anxious, stressed, sad, angry, lonely, bitter, or jealous.

That’s actually a huge disservice to happiness. (Sorry, but as I said, when I’m happy, I don’t think about being happy.) How do you define it? Like most people, I kinda know it when I feel it. But I really know it when I don’t.

Oddly enough, we’ve formally studied depression, anger, loneliness – basically, the absence of happiness – for centuries. Plot twist! It has been relatively recently, only in the past couple of decades, that we have turned a scientific eye toward studying happiness itself. Turns out that happiness isn’t just the absence of other, negative feelings, but happiness actually is a thing in and of itself! Best of all – happiness is a HABIT!

If you’ve ever tried to break a bad habit, you know the power that habits can have over us. But that power can also be used for GOOD! Below are some research-tested ways to make a habit out of happiness.

Cultivate the habits of…

  • Sleeping Well. Most adults need between 7-8 hours. (I know, I laughed, too.) We are so busy, we believe we can’t afford to get 7-8 hours of sleep. The reality is that sleeping is when our brain does important stuff and we can’t afford to NOT get good sleep.
  • Eating Right. This can be a tough one because eating is one of many people’s Unhappy Coping Mechanisms. Remember, we are a walking chemistry set. Our brains need GOOD food to help it make Happy Chemicals. Junk food makes us feel good for a bit but then we crash. Go with complex carbs like veggies, beans, and whole grains. Foods high in protein boost our dopamine and norepinephrine levels and give us energy, help us concentrate, and help us feel happy. Highly-processed foods, deep-fried foods, and especially skipping meals, make us feel blue.
  • Being Grateful. A two-part study showed that taking time to quiet yourself each day and rehearse just five things you are grateful for will boost the Happy Chemicals in your brain.
  • Helping Others. Another study of happiness showed that helping someone else feels good! More Happy Chemicals! (And it helps us from fixating on our own problems for a bit.)
  • Exercising. Don’t let this one intimidate you! According to research, it can be as simple as a walk around the block during your lunch break or after dinner. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and many symptoms of depression.
  • Getting Outside. You can combine this with exercise or literally just sit outside a while. Fresh air, sunlight, and getting into nature have all been shown to boost our Happy Chemicals.
  • Acknowledging Unhappiness. Nobody expects you to plaster a big fake stupid grin on your face when you find out that you didn’t get the promotion you wanted. There is a big difference between acknowledging an unhappy feeling and choosing to camp out thereChoose to lean into Life’s setbacks and turn them into motivation for something positive.
  • Calling in the Professionals. You’ve just read a lot about Happy Chemicals in your brain. One happiness researcher claims that happiness can be up to 50% genetic. If you are cultivating happy habits but still not feeling it, that might be a signal to call in the pros. Talk to your doctor about your overall health and don’t be afraid to set up a counseling appointment to explore other approaches.

Happiness isn’t just something that happens to some people and it is way more than just the absence of negative feelings. Happiness is a habit, one you can start TODAY! Am I happy? Glad you asked!

“Every day that passes, I have more respect for you working mamas. I mean, I already had respect… but lawdy. Doing this and then waking up to go work a job for 8 hours and then come home to take care of baby and do it all over again… you guys are heroes. And with more than one kid, Tam! I love you and am in awe of how you do it all.”

I received this text on a random Thursday from my best friend Steph, a new mom on an extended maternity leave. Over the past couple months the texts between us have shifted to a flurry of questions about all things baby. But this text wasn’t unusual or out of the ordinary, in fact, it is pretty normal for us. Because, as cheesy as it sounds, our friendship is rooted in a mutual love and respect for one another, and we openly encourage and appreciate each other as often as we can. 

Steph and I have been best friends for 19 years. (The average friendship only lasts 7 years, according to a 2009 Dutch study.) We’ve been through the angsty high school days, the “wild” college parties, toxic boyfriends, first jobs, devastating funerals, marrying the loves of our lives, unexpected job losses and the great transition into motherhood. In other words, we’ve had our share of ups and downs. Throughout it all, our friendship has been to the brink of extinction and back. So what’s made it last this long and allowed us both to thrive as individuals?

In high school, before texting was really even a thing, we used to keep a notebook that we’d trade between each other, writing our deepest thoughts and secrets, spilling our hopes and fears and questions about life and love. We’d reply to each other with encouragement or advice, and then proceed to talk about our own problems again and again. It’s no wonder that the sentiment continued for years and years. Our friendship started off with honest and open vulnerability from the second we met.

One summer in college, we were both experiencing heart-wrenching breakups. Together, we channeled our despair into hope by creating a collage of encouragement. We scribbled quotes, phrases and advice we wished we could tell ourselves before things went so wrong. Like, “Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.” We worked together piecing scraps of magazines photos and letters onto a black mounting board that I had leftover from an art project. When it was all done, the closeness we felt experiencing mutual heartbreak but also mutual empowerment that we would be okay bonded us together even more.  

As life threatened to get in the way of our friendship by bringing jobs, husbands and kids, we made a decision to be intentional about keeping our communication alive. In fact, we text each other almost every day. Sometimes we need an outlet to vent our frustrations, sometimes we need advice and sometimes we need to share the embarrassing thing that just happened to us. The level of trust between us is off the charts. We have and will always allow each other to be our true, authentic selves with no judgment. 

The strong foundation we built in the beginning has allowed us to grow and change as individuals while still maintaining our relationship. Over the years, we’ve actually brought out the best in one another. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not perfect. We’ve had arguments and said or done hurtful things to each other, but really, what relationship doesn’t go through rough patches? We’ve apologized, forgiven and grown from those obstacles. We’ve become each other’s biggest fan, confident and “person.”  

“When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.” This Japanese proverb rings so true. Your friends shape who you are. They have tremendous influence over the person you are becoming. So, want to thrive in life? Build up your friendships that are positive, authentic and inspiring. Surround yourself with people who pour love, time, energy, and acceptance into you. And do the same for them.