Let me first say, the appreciation and gratitude I have for our front line workers is insurmountable. They are putting each of our needs first in order to protect those that are sick and for that I am so thankful.
I am the Executive Director of the Nick Finnegan Counseling Center and have been for 5 years. I am also a mom to a 5 year old daughter and almost 3 year old son. I have learned these last 6 weeks working from home is HARD. Working from home with kids feels a little bit like juggling gallons of water daily. I am sure we can all agree that there have been good days in quarantine and some days we hope never repeat themselves. All of our lives have been turned upside down from this pandemic and for kids especially who cannot connect with their peers and teachers right now in person, this is an extreme struggle.
One thing that I try hard to remember is to be intentional about focusing on the mental health of my family, my two kids specifically and my staff at NFCC. I have to reassure myself that my kids will get back on track when school resumes and not to put so much pressure on myself to teach like their brilliant teachers would have! I need to enjoy this time and soak in watching my kids learn while also being realistic that toddlers would rather play outside when they are at home then do school work with their mom! It is important that our kids feel safe and reassured that they will see their friends and resume their routine again! As an adult, I want that reassurance too! For the counseling center team that I lead, I send weekly staff emails and check in texts and calls to make sure that our team feels supported while we are separated. Not having personal interaction with our coworkers, family and friends is a struggle for people of all ages and something that our entire nation has in common right now. We were not meant to live in isolation!
Quarantine has taught me a new pace of life. Social distancing has caused us to incorporate creative connection with one another and new ways to manage our time. Ironically, the creative connections through letter writing, phone calls, Zoom meetings, texts, emails, and walks have connected us in such a way that reassures me that when we are able to be together again, my relationships will be stronger.
I have learned a lot about how to be flexible and give grace. Grace for myself and for every relationship I have; both personally and professionally. Each day looks different for all of us but one thing remains constant- we are all focused on our well-being. Focused on our health, physical distancing regulations, income, meeting the needs of our families, the economy and most importantly: when life will feel “normal” again. We are reminded daily of the losses and the worries. Our community is struggling and we need to be there to support one another.
That’s why self-care is imperative right now. In order to take care of those around you, first give yourself permission to take a break and make a point to do something for yourself, daily. Think of that time as a restart button for your soul. My daughter and I recently did a lesson at home on the life cycle of a butterfly: a caterpillar goes through a chemical metamorphosis when it is in the cocoon before it transforms into a beautiful butterfly. My hope is that during this quarantine we will all transform into a stronger and more beautiful community.
I know that life outside of COVID is still happening. There are still unrelated coronavirus illnesses and diagnoses, relationship struggles, job setbacks, and other stress inducing experiences that are being magnified by this pandemic. However, there are also now drive by virtual birthdays, more expressions of gratitude, acknowledgement for our essential workers and quality time with our families and pets. For the good and the bad, NFCC will be here. Reach out for help if you need it, even if it is just a one-time check-in with a counselor to ensure that you are on the right track. We want anyone who needs the support to know we are here!
Mary Elizabeth Hand
Nick Finnegan Counseling Center