In a series called My Hot Mess, inspired by the Wall Street Journal, we’ll speak to communicators around the globe about the things they’re doing right now to get through this hot mess we call life.
Today we talk to Katie Robbert about how she’s coping during a pandemic. Check back every Friday to learn about a new
victim communicator and how they’re coping during this crazy time.
I Think We’re Alone Now
I don’t have children.
But that doesn’t mean that I’m finding quarantine any less challenging—it’s just challenging in different ways.
I spend the majority of my time alone because my husband is an essential employee.
When we got word that he would be working six days a week, 14-16 hours a day I thought, “But he’s a butcher. Surely this can’t be right?”
But it was.
Apparently, people need to eat.
He has always worked long hours and the joke is that I’m a Whole Foods widow.
Right now, every week is like Thanksgiving, but without the reward of a turkey dinner at the end.
I’m an introvert so being alone isn’t usually a big deal.
I don’t enjoy large crowds and being around people for extended periods of time.
However, just because I’m introverted doesn’t mean that I enjoy isolation.
I’m used to the long hours of solitude.
The difference now is that when I get lonely I can’t just schedule a lunch with my friends or go out to be around other people.
It’s just me and my dogs.
When my husband does get home, he’s exhausted and just needs some sleep before getting up at 3 a.m. (yes, you read that right) to start all over again.
For me, reaching out to people is tough.
I feel like I’m bothering them even if I just want to say hello.
So I don’t feel so isolated, I’ve had to put on my big girl pants and get over myself.
I’ve started text chains with extended family, set up Zoom calls with friends, and interacted more on social media.
These are things that I don’t normally do, but the alternative is to only ever talk to myself.
Which I do, often.
But it’s easier to carry on a conversation when someone else is on the line.
I’ve also tried to manage my expectations.
If I message someone and they don’t respond right away that doesn’t mean that I’m bothering them or intruding on their life—they are probably just busy dealing with their own chaos.
I’ve made the effort to reach out and sometimes that’s all I need.
Once More With Feeling
In addition to being an introvert, I’m also highly sensitive.
I’m very much in tune with my own emotions and those of others.
This is a blessing and a curse.
It means that I’m very good at reading people, which is a useful skill when running a virtual company.
I can more easily connect with people and put myself into their shoes, understanding what they are going through so as to provide more thoughtful support.
It also means that I tend to feel things really, really deeply and it gets to be overwhelming at times.
Right now, with so many people feeling scared, anxious, confused, and hurting, my emotional real estate is tapped out on a daily basis.
When I get overwhelmed with emotion, I give in.
This doesn’t mean that I just wallow on the couch for days at a time, though tempting as that may sound.
It means that I don’t fight it. I embrace the feeling, dig around in it to understand it, sometimes (not always) talk about it, and ride it out.
I’ve found that by not pushing it down and ignoring the feelings of sadness and anxiety they tend to move on pretty quickly.
These emotions just want your attention for a little while—and once you’re paying attention you’ve sucked all the fun out of it and they’ll move on.
For example, when I woke up this morning I was feeling kind of down.
I got my coffee and put on a Pixar movie.
Those jerks are known for playing with your emotions so I knew I could have a good cry, let it all out, and get on with my day.
The bottom line is that it’s OK to feel your feelings.
Now, later, whenever—good or bad.
But don’t outright ignore them.
Let’s Get Physical
Before the quarantine, I had a daily routine that involved rolling out of bed around 5:30 a.m. and going to the gym before I woke up enough to realize what I was doing.
Now when I wake up, I have no place to go but my kitchen, my living room, or my office.
It took a couple of weeks but I have found that if I act like I’m still going to the gym, even if I’m just going to make coffee, my brain does a mental shift into being more awake, wanting to be more active, and willing to be more productive.
Essentially, I put on my sneakers.
It’s such a small thing but it’s made a huge difference.
When I have my sneakers on, my brain and body know that it’s time to do something.
When I don’t have shoes on, it’s lazy time.
I don’t keep my sneakers on 24/7—that would defeat the purpose of the mental shift—but I put them on as soon as I get up and see what I can accomplish in the first few hours of the day.
This might mean an earlier walk for my dog, doing my scheduled workout, or just puttering around that house and cleaning—as opposed to melting into a Netflix-induced coma on the couch.
Believe it or not, I’ve taken up running.
I can’t exactly call it running at the moment—it’s more like a quick shuffle with lots of gasping for air.
Prior to this, I was working on cycling goals, but because I could only do my cycling at the gym those have put those goals on hold and sought out new ones.
In case you’re wondering, I hate running.
I hate it.
But I need a goal to work toward, I need to challenge myself, and I need to exercise.
It’s slow going but hey, maybe it’ll turn into something—someday. Or not.
I also said I have dogs, remember?
I have (combined) 300lbs of needy fur babies.
They need to go out all the time.
All. The. Time.
While it can get frustrating, it’s actually been great for my physical and mental health.
I’m up and moving every 20 minutes or so to take them out, find out where they are or investigate what they might be getting into.
I’m forced to take breaks and get fresh air multiple times a day, whether I want to or not.
Always Look On the Bright Side of Life
Because my husband and I are used to having little time together, we really try to make the most of the time we do have.
He usually gets one day off a week and I’m fortunate enough to have a flexible schedule.
Whenever he’s off (usually a weekday), I’m off too.
I let my business partners know that I’ll check, in but I’m otherwise unavailable.
At the start of 2020, we created a to-do list of adventures we wanted to have this year.
Because we’re both introverts, we were challenging ourselves to get out of our comfort zones a little at a time.
With a lot of things closed or canceled, we’ve been rethinking what that list looks like and we’re still trying to have adventures even if they look a little different.
We’ll try to get some fresh air or play board games, or he’ll pretend to teach me how to cook (I’m a menace in the kitchen).
There is a strong emphasis on being in the present moment on the days that we can be together.
Let’s be honest, nobody should be watching hours of news coverage these days.
What I have been paying attention to are the positive things going on.
I’ve seen a lot of good come out of this and that’s what I hold onto.
For instance, you can catch Some Good News on YouTube, which is exactly what it sounds like.
In the rare occasion that I do venture out to the store, I’ve seen flyers that offer grocery shopping and delivery for those that cannot do it themselves.
I’ve seen people post online that they have extra supplies and are willing to give it all away to those that need it more than they do.
Knowing that people are banding together, being more empathetic to each other, and looking out for each other is what’s going to give us the strength to get through this.
I can’t wait for all of this to be over.
But in the meantime I’ll be here, alone, getting through it one day at a time.