It’s not really an exaggeration to say that we’re all living through a nightmare. This is one of the most trying times that almost any of us have experienced in our lifetimes. The stress of living through a global pandemic, quarantining ourselves for basic safety, the economic collapse and social upheaval that so many countries are enduring… these are quite literally the times that try men and women’s souls.
And frankly, none of us are ok. Even if you’re in a fairly good place — you’re not in danger of being evicted or losing your house, your job is secure, you’re financially stable — the existential fear and stress of life right now is affecting all of us, often in ways we aren’t aware of.
We all have limited mental and emotional bandwidth under the best of circumstances, and the very real stress and fears caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is taking up most of it. Our thoughts and emotions are so much louder right now and so much closer to the surface that it can feel like we’re hanging on by a thread. We all feel trapped, isolated and helpless. It’s like a nightmare that we can’t wake up from, no matter how much we try.
I’m no exception. The pandemic threw gasoline on fires in my own life, ignited the walls I’d built up to keep emotional issues at bay and burned to cinders the remaining shreds of my ability to cope. My anxiety and depression — things I frequently struggled to keep under control — shot through the roof. Similarly, my sleep schedule, something I already struggled with, became a distant memory. I would get less than an hour of sleep at a time, only to be woken up at random intervals as my brain would start to scream: “There is a THING and it is BAD and you need to DO SOMETHING about it because it is BAD but you CAN’T because IT IS BAD and you don’t know WHAT to do…”
Since I was exhausted and more sleep-deprived than normal, my focus was gone. Concentration was a thing of the past. I was the emotional equivalent of The Goliath or some other roller-coaster: alternately miserable, angry or depressed without warning. Something was going to snap, if I didn’t do something about it first.
So I did.
I decided to pull the trigger on all the self-work I’d been putting off. First, I got in contact with a therapist and got tested for ADHD — something I’d always suspected I suffered from. Next, I began working on a program about recognizing and breaking patterns. And I decided to try meditation. To help ensure I stuck with it, I gave myself a challenge: I would meditate every day for 30 days. With discipline, patience and dedication, I would see if I could learn to simply quiet my brain. I would see if I could wrestle control back from the chaos of my own thoughts. Maybe I would discover some new level of awareness I never had before.
Now here I am, a little over 30 days later.
Here’s what I learned.