As cliché as it sounds, we truly live in an entirely different world. It’s pretty safe to say none of us thought this is how the year 2020 would go when we were celebrating on the first of January. With everything going on in our ever changing world, it is easy to feel like you are drowning in a dark murky pond. Sometimes it feels as though you are gasping for air at the surface but you are weighed down with stress and anxiety chained to each foot. With all the negativity surrounding us, there is one word that continues to shine some light through the dark clouds of despair. The word shining through is resilience.
It’s difficult to avoid the whirlwind of negativity when it seems to relentlessly pound on the front door day and night. For Simple Life, we had to close our Day Habilitation doors which left members feeling completely lost and isolated. We did our best to provide support through other means, but I believe face to face human connection is irreplaceable. Most of our members’ mental health hangs in the balance of the structure Simple Life provides for them. It was devastating for both members and staff when that stability was ripped out from under our feet.
I believe this was one of the biggest ways COVID-19 affected our members’ mental health. I would find myself feeling frustrated that members would constantly ask me what staff would be working with them that day. For staff, our schedule changed every day (sometimes every hour) due to staffing issues and potential virus exposures. I struggled to understand why members were pushing so hard to know every specific detail of their schedule when I could not plan farther than one day at a time (if that). But that’s when it hit me.
As a general rule, humans are creatures of habit. We like stability and routine. It may seem unimportant to wake up at the same time every morning, pour the same cup of coffee, and drive the same route to work, but it can throw off our entire day when even one step of our routine is off. Now imagine how upsetting it is when the routine is flipped upside down altogether. This is the moment when I was able to empathize and truly understand how members were feeling. The stability of their set schedule had been ripped away without warning. Although it did not seem like a priority to tell members which staff would be working with them, it was the only stability they had left to cling to. I think we can all relate to the desire to obtain some level of stability.
Even with all the ups and downs, Sheri (Simple Life CEO) has continued to amaze me with her resilience. When members and staff were encouraged to practice social distancing, we began telehealth calls to continue to check in on members’ mental health. When elderly members felt uncomfortable going out to buy groceries, members sent us their grocery lists and we dropped food off at their front door. When volunteering at a nursing home, we adjusted to new rules by participating in window chats and decorating their parking lot with chalk art. From financial barriers to maintaining staffs emotional health, we have worked together to overcome every obstacle that has come our way.
Once you realize that you cannot control everything in life, coping with every day stress becomes significantly easier. One of my absolute favorite positive affirmations is, “I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got.” No one asks to be pushed to their limit, but like many other situations in life, it is completely out of our control. The biggest positive I would encourage you all to take out of this is your resilience. Are the waves crashing over you while you’re lying on the ground? Or are you digging your heels in the sand and fighting back? Think outside the box to overcome the new obstacles that have been introduced into your life. Don’t give up. Blind the world with the light of your resilience.