Living in Minnesota, our shelter in place order was issued on Friday, March 27th. As I am writing this, I had to double check my math, has it really, only been 5 weeks? My concept of time has shifted. I feel as though I have been at home for months on end, not 5 weeks. While 5 weeks is a long time, I think we can all agree, it feels much longer than that.
My position at Walden University as a Writing Assessment Specialist was already fully remote before the COVID-19 pandemic, so the move to work from home was not new to me. What was new however were most of my family and friends starting to work from home as well.
The week following the Minnesota shelter in place, with similar orders issued in other states where friends and family live, had me waking up in the mornings to often 40+ text messages, emails, phone calls, etc. because any non-essential worker was now transitioning to a work from home lifestyle. I was inundated with questions about working from home full-time, updates on the ever changing COVID-19 landscape, and unsolicited medical advice… from non-health care professionals. It was, to say the least, completely exhausting and overwhelming.
As someone who works from home full-time already and enjoys a healthy level of solitude the constant barrage of contact, albeit virtually, was causing my anxiety to rise and my ability to cope plummet. I felt I had to respond, to check in, and present a strong image, but it was draining me. This is all on top of my regular full-time job and responsibilities. I had to set new boundaries with family and friends that previously were not an issue. Letting them all know I cared about them, their health, and would be here as we all went through this unprecedented time; but also, that I needed space and eventually they might too.
I also decided to limit my news and social media intake. Constantly reading articles, watching press conferences, and hitting refresh for breaking news was becoming too much. Social media as many of us know can also be detrimental to our mental health and I was falling into the trap of constant scrolling, liking, and reacting to others. For my own mental health, I had to step back.
My household also had to discuss the what-ifs of my roommates now being unemployed and applying for unemployment. But what if like many others they were unable to get through or submit their applications? Could we cover our monthly rent and bills? Would my own paycheck be enough to cover all house expenses, what is our back-up plan? Fortunately, they have been able to collect unemployment each week and we had one less what-if to worry about.
This was all within 1 week of Minnesota enforcing the shelter in place order.
Over the last 4 weeks, my feelings have naturally ebbed and flowed as we settle into a “new normal”. I am sad I do not get to see my family or friends in person; that my nephew has learned who I am and how to say my name over facetime and weekly videos; that we have had to cancel birthdays, trips, parties, events, and weddings. I try to balance that sad, frustrated, upset feeling with the knowledge that myself, family, and friends are healthy and safe. Knowing it is the right thing to do. But sometimes I am just sad and fed-up, and that is okay. I refuse to feel ashamed about my feelings.
It is important to remember whether you are on the frontlines as an essential worker (thank you to all the essential works out there), at home due to the shelter in place orders, feeling raw with the often devastating and frankly uninspiring news in the media, or any other thoughts and feelings you may be having, your feelings are valid. You need to do what is best for you.
I heard this the other day during one of my many YouTube video spirals and wish I could remember who said it, but it went something along the lines of, “you cannot process trauma if you are still experiencing the trauma.” I am by no means an expert, but I hope you all provide yourself grace during this time and remember you are not alone.
Stay safe, stay well, and know we, humanity, are going through this together.
Stephanie Kramer is a Writing Assessment Specialist for the Doctoral Writing Assessment within the Academic Skills Center (ASC). She joined Walden in 2015 as a Student Success Advisor and moved to the ASC in 2017. Stephanie focuses on developing resources and providing the necessary tools to help students succeed in their educational goals.