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First, the world shut down. It was inevitable as COVID-19 was spreading. But you weren’t sure how you’d handle it. Work, school, health, friends, jobs, money. There was so much uncertainty.

Then, at some point, you settled. You recognized what you could control. You started making the best of it and even realized that it wasn’t so bad. Who are we kidding? You were surprised at how much you were enjoying it. Slower pace. Family time has been fun time. Meaningful conversations with friends. You found your routine

You noticed the anxiety level in your home decrease. Not because of the absence of issues. Jobs aren’t all steady. Health concerns are everywhere. There’s lots of unrest in America right now. But the slower pace, the presence of the people you care most about, the ability to connect with family and friends, even if they are virtual connections, has helped you to live and process life in real time. 

During pre-quarantine days, many of us were moving so fast that we were simply going through the motions of life, but weren’t processing all that we were experiencing.  We had become accustomed to our way of doing life and never considered alternatives. And now the world is ready to open up and you’re not sure you’re ready to give up the benefits of this new lifestyle. So what do you do?

If You Aren’t Ready, Try These Things

  1. Accept: Just like we accepted the shelter-in-place orders and the fact that COVID-19 was spreading. We must accept that the world can’t stay shut down forever.
  2. Identify your fears: This could be anything from COVID-19 to busyness. You may be scared of losing the deep connections you’ve formed. The return of stress, anxiety, perpetual activity. Loneliness
  3. Name what you don’t want to lose: Family time, slower pace, meaningful conversations, quiet time, game/movie nights, time for mindfulness, and self-care.
  4. Be intentional: Just because the world is opening up doesn’t mean you have to dive in headfirst and resume everything you were doing before. Identify the things you have to do. Think through the things that are optional.
  5. Practice Using One of the Most Powerful Words in the English Dictionary: NO. Be willing to say “no” to those things that compromise the very things you’ve said you don’t want to lose. You WILL say NO to a lot of good things. Good will often keep you from BEST.

You may not be ready for the world to reopen for many reasons. Taking control of what you CAN will help you to re-enter the world with purpose.

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  1. On a video call… “Hey Dad, I’m hungry!” “But you just ate.” “I’m still hungry.”
  2. The dream of sleeping later every day since I am working from home… then remembering my 7 and 4-year-old don’t know what sleeping late means.
  3. Countless hours of Nerf battles and Lego builds.
  4. Using the parent face when your kid walks in the room while recording a video for work.
  5. Getting on to your child for walking into the room while on a video call but forgetting to mute yourself. Sorry team!
  6. Explaining to your child that show-and-tell is not part of your video meetings while you’re working from home.
  7. Family walks all times of the day—just because we are home and we can.
  8. Eating lunch and dinner daily as a family and having great conversations.
  9. 4 weeks into quarantine and my 4-year-old was making her own lunch. Success!!
  10. Dodging Nerf bullets while on a work call.
  11. Apologizing to a work vendor for the loudness of your kids in the background of a call… only to hear “Oh, I get it” in response.
  12. When a one-hour webinar takes three cause you know… kids gotta have snacks.
  13. Your child answers a business call… oops!
  14. My 7-year-old constantly reminds me of his video call schedule.
  15. I might have used bribery just to make it through a meeting.
  16. Watched Frozen 2 so many times you’ve begun to wake up singing “Show Yourself.”
  17. Fully aware that Elsa singing “Into the Unknown” is the song of 2020.
  18. Muted by co-workers during a video call because you ran off to referee a sibling quarrel.
  19. Showed up to at least one video meeting in PJs and bedhead.
  20. Get overly excited to drive somewhere, anywhere… alone.
  21. Stayed up way too late, too often while working from home after the kids go to bed.
  22. When your 7-year-old says, “Dad, you remember when we used to go to school?”
  23. Grocery shopping (alone) is something you get really excited about.
  24. Hiding my stash of cookies so my kids (and maybe my wife) didn’t find them.
  25. When all is quiet, not worrying about why it’s quiet, just accepting it, and taking a nap.
  26. All that saved gas money is not enough to keep up with the increase in grocery spending.
  27. Covid-wear is a real thing… business (or at least presentable on the top), PJs on the bottom.
  28. Having a 3-foot-tall shadow on every call.
  29. Surrendering your living room to be a site for fort building.
  30. Abruptly ended a group video meeting when my oldest ran in and said he got sick in the living room.
  31. Dropped $300 at the grocery store and realized I only bought snacks.
  32. Found all the creative ways to eat Nutella.
  33. The kids declare, “I need to do my work” while playing pretend.
  34. My sweet 4-year-old decided to draw a picture of what she thinks dad loves most during this time… running and Zoom calls. She might be half-right.
  35. Gave into otherwise ridiculous demands from your children in an effort to maintain your sanity and peace.
  36. PJs are acceptable attire for small kids… all hours of the day. Look, we’re ready for bed!
  37. Diligently trying to work on a project and your little one crawls up in your lap and asks, “Can you just come lay with me?” And the project is on pause.
  38. Best investment of the summer… inflatable pool. I can finally get some work done and they are entertained for hours.
  39. Having to constantly remind my kids that it is not okay to sit and talk outside the bathroom while someone is in there. Whatever it is can wait… and I want some peace and quiet.
  40. Realizing that no matter the chaos and stress, these moments will be treasured for the rest of my life and theirs.

Parents, these last few months may not have been what we expected—it definitely wasn’t something we were prepared for, but this time should be cherished. You are doing a great job and your kids see it. Have fun, be crazy, and enjoy the slower pace that still lies ahead for many of us this summer. You’ve got this!! Go make some memories and treasure every moment!

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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.

Image from Unsplash.com

“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

Too afraid to leave the house because of COVID-19? I understand that. Fear can be debilitating. Let me start with a little story about that…

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. 

Image from Pexels.com

Perhaps you’ve seen the pictures on social media. Brother and sister have been fighting all day. Mom has had enough. Mom gets one of dad’s t-shirts and makes brother and sister wear it—at the same time. 

Brother and sister look thrilled.

Some have called this a “Get-Along Shirt.” The funny thing is, while this may be a great deterrent for kids to stop fighting (“If you two don’t stop it, I’m getting out THE SHIRT!”), I’m not sure it does much to help brother and sister get along while they’re in the shirt. In my opinion, quite the reverse: It just makes them want to fight more. 

This is how I picture being in quarantine with a spouse that you don’t particularly like. You feel glued at the hip, but you can’t get away. 

THE SITUATION

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused us all to change our way of life. And if there has already been tension in your marriage before this whole mess began, then right now you might be wondering, how the heck do I get out of this giant shirt? 

Let’s think about this situation. Chances are, back in the “old days” (pre-pandemic) one or both of you spent at least some of your day apart, possibly at work. Point is, your regular routine gave you time apart so that when you came back together, your relationship was more manageable. Life provided some ways to cope with the tension.

Not so at the moment in quarantine. There is no coming back together because there’s no time apart. Together is your reality right now. If there was tension in the marriage before, the coping mechanisms you used back then aren’t there anymore. 

And whatever differences were coming between you back then, now they are magnified. You see the differences more. You are in difference-overload. And so the tension builds.

THE CHOICE

Your situation gives you a couple of choices: 

  • You can choose to avoid the issue, be miserable in your Get-Along shirt, and live in increasing conflict, tension, stress, and anxiety. Sounds fun. (See picture above.)
  • Or, you can dig in your heels, be intentional, and decide to do what you can to lessen the tension and improve the situation with your spouse 

Disclaimer★ What I’m about to share with you is helpful, but it’s going to take intentionality and humility. When two people don’t get along, things only get better when pride is put aside. And yes, both people in the marriage need to make the effort, but it takes one person to begin to lead the dance. In other words, choose to be the first person to take up the mantle of humility; more often than not, the other will follow. 

So you first have to ask some questions: 

  • What is it specifically you don’t like about the person you’re in quarantine with? 
  • Do you not like your spouse, or do you not like the situation you’re in? 
  • Does everything about your spouse get on your nerves? Or are there one or two qualities that are magnified by the circumstances of the quarantine? 
  • Could… this… possibly… be…you? Are you stressed, and that affects how you see your spouse? What are you dealing with inside of you that makes you see your spouse in certain ways?

These questions are humbling—they can bring you down a notch or two. But considering sincere answers help you to stop and put the right perspective on the situation. Then you are freed up to make a healthy response rather than a knee-jerk reaction

PRO-TIPS

Having said that, let’s consider some pro-tips: 

  • Choose to see your spouse as a whole rather than one or two negative qualities. When there is something bugging me about my spouse, I have to stop and consider all the things that make up who she is, and I find the positives far outweigh the negatives. I consider all the ways she contributes to the family, what she’s done for me in the past, her background and history, how good of a mother she is. And it minimizes in my mind whatever it was that was getting on my nerves. 
  • Think of five things you’re thankful for your spouse. The next time you find yourself frustrated at your spouse, try this. It’s a way to train your brain—to condition yourself —to see your spouse as a whole. When I’ve done this, I’ve found more often than not that I was frustrated at a molehill rather than a mountain. And even if you are facing a mountain, thinking of why you are thankful for your spouse clears your headspace to approach the issues in calm, effective ways rather than being reactive. Take a few minutes, write down five reasons you’re thankful for your spouse, and read them over. 
  • Take time to decompress and do things to lower the tension. Lots of times conflict with your spouse is exacerbated by the stress of everything else going on around you. Take the opportunity to detach from life for a little while and do some self-care—both as a family and on your own. Go on a walk, meditate, read something inspirational, do some push-ups, cuddle with your cat or dog. Your self-care should be productive and healthy rather than merely an escape. This helps ease the tension and set a healthier atmosphere for communication. (Here and here are some great ideas on self-care.) 
  • Try not to make big decisions during this time. The idea is to lower the potential for stress, not the reverse. If you can help it, avoid making big, life-altering decisions like major purchases or having children (although you need to keep the ones you already have). 
  • Adopt an attitude of gratitude. Prolonged traumatic situations like the pandemic can cause a person to focus all their attention on the negative. This is extremely stressful and adds to the tension in your marriage. Reverse this pattern by thinking of the things you are thankful for at this time. And no matter the situation, there are always things to be thankful for. Make a list. Add to it daily. Gratitude helps lower the tension in the atmosphere and put the issue at hand in a proper perspective. 
  • Put grace into place. Consider that our circumstances are affecting not only your emotional health but also that of your spouse. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand what they may be feeling. Keep in mind that you probably have magnified qualities that get on their nerves right now as well. 

Quarantine has put a strain on all kinds of relationships, especially marriages already under strain. But by being intentional and putting pride aside, the tension can lessen. Putting these practices into place will help you and your spouse get along during this time of quarantine. 

(Get-Along Shirt not required.)

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By nature, I believe we as humans are caring and kind. We like to help and be there for others when they celebrate and when they go through tragedy. For example, we buy gifts when people have babies, get married, retire and reach other various milestones. And we bring food when others suffer the loss of a loved one or lose everything in a natural disaster. We sit close to those who are suffering from a terrible disease like cancer, in the midst of grief or going through a divorce. That’s how we love, comfort, support, and uplift

Loving and caring for others who continue to face many of life’s celebrations and trials has become difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our hearts begin to hurt because of the weddings we miss and the families we can’t mourn alongside. We grieve over the showers we can’t attend and the relief efforts we are limited in assisting after natural disasters. 

The core of our humanity seems to be stripped away from us because of the need to quarantine and stay safe and healthy. Sometimes, if you’re like me, you begin to wonder, is it worth it? Is what I’m giving up to “stay healthy” worth it? What’s the point of being a friend when you can’t do all those things that friends do? I don’t want to miss the birth of my cousin’s baby or the funeral of my neighbor’s son. What do I do?

How to Check-In

That’s where we have to be creative. Here are some ideas to support, encourage and love those that are facing life-altering events during this time of quarantine.

  • Arrange for meal delivery and share virtual meals—We love to take food to those who are experiencing life-changing events. Instead, have the food delivered to them. Then, use a video app to eat together while you share in their grief or their excitement.
  • Virtual Photo Albums—Simply going through digital photos to walk down memory lane and using the “share screen” function that many video apps have promotes the bonding and connectedness we desire.
  • Drive-By Parade—Gather some of your friends safely. In your own cars, parade in front of their home with signs of celebration. 
  • Gift-Giving Through Online Registry—Help loved ones set up online gift registries and purchase the gifts electronically. (Don’t assume everyone, such as your soon to be 70-year-old grandmother, knows how to set up an online registry.)
  • Electronic Greeting Cards—Find a ready-made one or design your own. You can send these directly to their smartphone. A sympathy card or one of celebration can offer timely words of encouragement. 
  • Prepare A Virtual Trivia Game Night—Create trivia facts centered around the person being celebrated (TriviaMaker is a good app).
  • Mail a Handwritten Letter or Card—There’s still something that makes me feel special when I receive a letter. Knowing that someone took the time to handwrite something themselves—everything about that says that I am important. Emails or texts can’t match the feeling of a handwritten letter.
  • Attend Events Virtually—Knowing that you took the time to attend an event, whether it’s a wedding, funeral, or party, tells your loved one that you won’t let social distancing stop you from sharing in their moment. 
    • Leave comments on their social media feed when appropriate. We know what it feels like to read our social media comments and feel the love and support of those who couldn’t be with us physically. It uplifts the spirit.
  • Call. But Use Video Calls As Often As Possible—Be available to listen. Allow those you love to vent, blow off steam and complain. You may not be needed to fix anything. Just being a listening ear goes a long way.
    • Note: When someone crosses your mind, call them then. Don’t waitI can’t tell you how many times someone has called me at the perfect time when I was dealing with something. And they often started with, “I was just thinking about you and thought I’d call to see how you were.”
  • Record And Electronically Deliver A Special Video Message—You may be providing a keepsake that your loved ones will treasure forever.

Encouraging, loving and supporting others does make us feel good. It uplifts us and helps us feel meaningful and full of purpose. Ultimately, we have to remember that it’s not about you—it’s about the person on the receiving end

A virtual meal or handwritten letter may not feel as satisfying to give during this quarantine. However, not allowing a social distancing order to stop you from sharing in your loved one’s big life moments can bring them the joy and peace they may need. That’s one of the special perks of having you in their life.

Looking for relationship resources during the COVID-19 Pandemic? Click here!

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It feels like there are so many rules and none at the same time. You can’t go anywhere, but you still want to be doing everything. It feels like a vacation, but there are still expectations and responsibilities. Nothing is stopping you from talking to anyone in any way. No one telling you to put your phone up during class. No dress code and no set start or end times to your day. Just a lot of talk about COVID-19 and quarantine. So now what? What can you do when COVID-19 disrupts everything?

Ask yourself these questions before you do something you’re not sure about: 

  • Is this something I would normally do or say?
  • Am I letting the circumstances influence a change in my morals?
  • Will I regret this in a month or feel guilty about it?
  • Is this me being my best self?
  • Will this show my parents I am trustworthy?

If you’re only doing “this” because you’re bored, your parents aren’t home, you’re spending more time behind your closed bedroom door, or whatever… then I think it’s fair to recognize that some choices can be really tempting during this time.

  • You’re waiting on your friend to reply and it’s been a while so you text your ex. If it’s over, then why go back to them now?
  • You know your parents won’t be home for a while so you sneak something to drink or invite someone over. Don’t give your parents the satisfaction of being right.
  • What’s sending a nude picture to one person going to hurt? Unfortunately, it doesn’t usually stay with that one person. 🙁
  • I won’t see them for a while, so I can comment/text this snark, and they’ll get over it. But what if they don’t? What if they did the same, would you get over it?

However, even though everything around you may feel out of your control and uncertain, how you carry yourself and your morals can stay consistent

You can be the one constant in your own life. 

During this strange time, you have to remember you are responsible for the things you can control. Your actions, choices, outlook, mindset, how you treat others, (parents/siblings included) and how you respond to your emotions—that’s all you

You also have the opportunity to rise above the expectations that often come with being a teenager. I’ll be honest, some adults are quick to assume the worst—that you’re not responsible, you’re already going to break the rules, or that you’ll slack off

You’ve got the chance to be better than others expect, to prove the haters wrong. 

  • You can be a more intentional friend.
  • Be a more thoughtful daughter or son.
  • You can be a productive student.
  • Be your best self during the worst times.

I want to encourage you to not change who you are because it feels like no one is watching. You are watching you. At the end of all of this, my hope for you is that you would be proud of yourself for the hard decisions you made, the things you learned about yourself, the time you took to do something you’ve not had time for, and the ways you helped others. 

We will all get through this together and have the opportunity to come out better than we went into it if we own our actions and make wise decisions. Enjoy this time away from the normal fast-paced weeks and stay well.

You all are going through something really challenging. The whole world is. I know going from seeing your friends or having an escape from home five days a week to nothing is a lot to take in.

Stay Safe

Here are some helpful tips to keep you safe and make wise decisions!

  1. With all of this downtime, it’s easy to spend time on social media and post more than usual. What you have to be careful of is not sharing your location publicly or saying that you are home alone. Accounts are easy to hack and predators know that everyone is stuck quarantined. Make sure your social accounts are set to “private,” especially at a time like this.
  2. If you are playing video games, only letting people you know in your Chat is so important. If someone starts asking how old you are, what city you live in, what grade and what school you go to, what your real name is, DO NOT ANSWER. You need to kick them out of the party and tell an adult. This is how predators can catfish young people into giving them enough personal information to find where you live.
  3. Try your best not to spend all day on your phone. “Cell phone usage has been associated with sleep deficit, depression, anxiety, and stress” according to the US National Library of Medicine/National Institute of Health. There is already a big sense of anxiety around COVID-19 and we don’t want to make it harder on ourselves!
  4. If your parents didn’t tell you someone was coming over or about a grocery delivery, don’t answer the door if you’re alone or it’s just you and your siblings.
  5. Don’t send it if you wouldn’t normally send it. If you’re under the impression it disappears when deleted, it doesn’t. The internet is forever. 

According to Business Insider’s interview with Richard Hickman, a digital forensics examiner, “There are many ways to save snaps that you receive—the easiest way is to take a screenshot or take a photo with another camera. Snaps are deleted from our servers after they have been viewed by the recipient.

Note that while it says photos are deleted from Snapchat’s servers, it doesn’t say photos are deleted from the devices.” What this means is that the image can be found on the phone. In fact, there are numerous free apps in the app store.

When COVID-19 Disrupts Everything, Here’s How to Spend All That Time

If you are struggling with filling your time in a way you won’t regret, here are some ideas!

  1. Learn new dances on Tik Tok.
  2. Practice your language skills on Babbel or Duo Lingo.
  3. Workout alongside celebrities and athletes on FitOn (variety for everyone)!
  4. Build a fort.
  5. Group Video Chat.
  6. Learn something new on Youtube.
  7. Watch movies.
  8. Craft with things you have.
  9. Draw.
  10. Work out! Here are some free apps that have home workouts! FitOn, Peloton (for 90 days), Nike Training Club—to name a few! Not to mention YouTube has so many and even some Zumba classes, too.
  11. Go on a walk or a hike.
  12. Write a song, rap, play, poems, short story, etc.
  13. Go outside and find a 4-leaf clover; make it a competition of who can find it the fastest.
  14. If you have siblings, play hide and seek For real, tap in to your inner kid!
  15. There are tons of free games in the app store and some you can invite your friends to play with you, like virtual Uno or cards. If you have an iPhone, Game Pigeon in the text message thread can allow you to play games with your friends!

Image from Unsplash.com

I remember the first few weeks after 9/11. There was this unifying vibration that seemed to reverberate inside of everyone. It was palpable. You could feel that people were more friendly, more neighborly. Like the shock of that sucker punch and all of its ramifications had us collectively drinking the same “milk of human kindness.” It was comforting for a little while.

Then eventually, the unplanned, unspoken solidarity gave way to business as usual. Everybody moved on. That’s why I’m nervous about COVID-19

I felt a little of that, We-Are-All-In-This-Together humanity again in the first weeks that we’ve faced a Global Pandemic. But this is different. And it is important to understand the difference

Now that solidarity is in quarantine. 

Worse, there is no back to “business as usual” anywhere in sight. Couples are cooped up together. Families are cooped up together. Some people are in quarantine alone. Day after day, after day… 

The Little Things & The Big Things

The early research and statistics are already indicating that child abuse and domestic violence are on the rise. The torment of financial instability is “sheltering in place” with families, along with Stress, Anxiety, Boredom, and Anger among others. For many people, sadly, visiting a divorce attorney will be the first order of business when the quarantine is lifted. 

I have this theory—feel free to disagree—that there are very few, Big Things in our lives. There are just a whole lot of Little Things. Even what we consider Big Things are usually just Little Things compressed and aggregated over time. 

I’m not trying to imply that a Global Pandemic is not a Big Thing. I’m not saying that COVID-19 isn’t a Big Thing. But they are big like Texas is big—Not much I can do about it. 

In our current situation, my task isn’t to find a cure or a vaccine. I’ll leave all that to the courageous experts at the CDC and WHO. However, I make a thousand little decisions a day that affect those in quarantine with me. How am I doing with these Little Things?

We often envision ourselves heroically rising to the occasion for the Big Things in life. But we usually end up overlooking the Little Things. We stumble over the simplicity. I’m no different. Man, I’ve neglected so many Little Things while I thought I was on top of the Big Things. Then suddenly, one day—my failures as a husband, father, and friend are right there before me. Blow the Little Things and I’ve blown the Big Things of Marriage, Parenting, and Family.

What does it even mean to “get through” a Big Thing like a Global Pandemic? 

I sure don’t know. I’m not even sure if that’s the right question. 

What are my Little Things?

I do know that:

  • My tone of voice sometimes hurts my wife.
  • A harsh word can dispirit my son.
  • I can choose to forgive a perceived slight.
  • Listening is often better than speaking.

And, I know the difference between choosing to escalate a situation and choosing to de-escalate it. (Usually, both are Little Things.) I know I can choose to make grace tangible in any given moment in quarantine.

Surviving these times—not hurting ourselves, our spouses, our children—will depend on working hard at the Little Things.

Getting through this and maybe even being better on the other side, as an individual, as a couple, as a family, absolutely depends on the little choices we make in all the little moments. Little choices in the little moments. Working at not doing the Little Things that hurt the people we love. They end up a Big Thing.

Image from Unsplash.com

Your boss said you would work from home now due to the COVID-19 crisis, but it’s business as usual.

Of course, your children are home. Your spouse is still going into work because they are an essential employee. At this moment, the baby is crying and won’t settle. Your first grader is asking for help with a math problem and the dog needs to go out. You have a Zoom call in 15 minutes and you still need a shower. The pangs of exhaustion creep over you as you sit at the kitchen table wondering, “How will I survive this quarantine?”

Welcome to week four of social distancing and working remotely that seems like anything but business as usual.

If it’s any comfort at all, you are for sure not alone. As employers track employees’ computer time and productivity, some people are carrying the additional anxiety of worrying about losing their job while they try to juggle so much during a very unique and complicated time. 

Truth be told, I don’t have children at home at this moment in time. Yet, sometimes I find it difficult to concentrate due to the level of intensity of this crisis and all the thoughts rolling around in my head. I can easily remember the times I needed to work from home because our daughter was sick and the pressure I felt being out for just one day. This situation is that on steroids. So, what can you do?

First, consider all that you currently feel like you have on your plate as things that have to be done. Obviously, you need to feed your children which means groceries have to find their way into your home. Laundry is waiting. You need to wash hands and surfaces to keep people safe. And, you need to complete your work so you don’t lose your job. Beyond that, what else is on your list?

Is there anything you are pressuring yourself to do that you can let go of? 

Can you have a conversation with your supervisor to explore options for doing your work, just not necessarily from 8-5? Is it possible to work early in the morning or later in the evening so you can give your children more undivided attention during the day? Would taking some paid time off be an option to help alleviate some of the stress? 

Talking with your boss about how you really are trying to accomplish your work from home and asking if they are willing to flex some with you conveys that you want to do the right thing for the company and for your family. Even if you think they won’t be willing to flex, you don’t know until you ask.

  • Is it possible for you to get up earlier or stay up later and work?
  • Can someone grocery shop for you or pick up your online order? 
  • Would you be willing to ask others to help out by making meals for you?
  • Is your spouse or child able to help with household chores?
  • Is it possible to make your workspace flexible? If so, you can easily move to accommodate whatever is happening in the moment in your home.
  • If your spouse is also working from home, can you agree on the needs of each of your schedules in the morning? Or maybe tag team with the children throughout the day?

The bottom line is, there is no cookie-cutter approach that will work for everyone. People are having to be super creative so if things are crazy at the moment, show yourself some grace and remind yourself you haven’t figured out what works yet, but you will. 

If you happen to be the boss, it’s helpful to know about and empathize with what your employees have going on. I’ve spoken to a lot of conscientious employees who are extremely stressed out and anxious, feeling like they are a bad employee because they can’t seem to figure their schedule out.

Let’s be honest, there is absolutely nothing normal about what all of us are experiencing. Having no support system to call on with children at home who either need help with school work or need your attention is exhausting all by itself, never mind the weight of knowing you have work that needs to be done. If one spouse is still working outside the home, it can make things even more difficult.

Instead of waiting for your team members to contact you, call them and check in. It is helpful for you as their leader to acknowledge that you know this is difficult. If you’re willing to try and work with them, your employee knows you appreciate them and you value their family. That makes a huge difference.

Image from Unsplash.com

It’s week three (or more) for most of us in quarantine, and life is starting to get (dare I say) a little boring. Even if you’re still up to your eyeballs in things to do and little ones to care for, after three weeks of staying inside, it’s easy to just go through the motions day after day. But one great way to get out of that rut is to make it a priority for yourself and your family to learn something new!

There are so many companies and organizations that are teaming up right now to provide some great, free classes and tutorials for anyone and everyone to try! And what better time to learn something new than when you can’t go anywhere?

If you’re a parent, challenge your whole family to pick one thing to learn in the next couple of weeks! Have older kids with their own interests? Have every person pick one new thing to dive into. There are many great ways to stimulate your mind, push yourself to grow, and challenge yourself and your loved ones right now. Here are just a few ideas to get you started!

Free Online Classes

Other Ideas

  • Dust off that old guitar (or another musical instrument) and teach yourself via YouTube videos!
  • Ask your spouse, your child, or a friend (over FaceTime of course) to show you all about their favorite hobby, then give it a try yourself!
  • Make a plan for learning a new skill or hobby. Even if you don’t quite have all the tools or equipment necessary to start a hobby, you can still learn about it! Spend time creating a list of all the things you’ll need to start your hobby and then dive into some research, books, and/or tutorials about that hobby.

Learning something new is not a necessity, but it could give you that boost of energy you’ve been craving. When life becomes mundane and you’re getting antsy about staying inside, you can try one of these ideas to connect with yourself, your family, and the world around you. Don’t let this quarantine keep you from living and learning! Try something new today.

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