Staying present and productive can be especially difficult in the face of uncertainty. At the time of my writing this article, many of us in the United States are hunkering down at home to help slow the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019).
We each have different ways of coping with challenges and when conditions are largely outside our control. We could feel confident and sure-footed one moment, and then unsure and shaken the next. We might have mixed feelings and conflicting thoughts about the restrictions being imposed by our national government and local authorities to address the COVID-19 situation.
Self-isolation is meant to protect our personal wellness, flatten the curve for the coronavirus transmission, and reduce the impact on the health care system. On the other hand, it has serious, long-lasting repercussions on schools as well as businesses, such as restaurants, coffee shops, bars, theaters, museums, gyms, and recreational centers that rely on in-person attendance and patronage.
For the last 5+ years, I have worked remotely or virtually as a solo lawyer and productivity coach. I communicate with clients and prospects, all around the world, mostly by telephone calls, video conferencing and emails. In-person meetings are rare and usually non-essential. I did not have to adjust to a new setup like others who shifted to remote work in response to COVID-19. In that respect, I am fortunate.
Keeping grounded, sticking with healthy habits, practicing daily routines, getting high-quality sleep and maintaining real connections are just as important, if not more so, in times of uncertainty.
As a person who consciously limits news consumption and social media use, I initially took a head-in-the-sand approach to COVID-19. But as the travel restrictions increased, events got cancelled, schools closed, and certain businesses were ordered to shut down, I began to stay informed.
The trick is to refrain from constantly checking for updates. Once a day in a limited time block is more than enough, and certainly not first thing in the morning or around bedtime. Consuming information is not the same as taking real action.
Just a week ago, I was at the USCIS Field Office in Minneapolis representing clients at their green card interview as a U.S. immigration attorney. My client offered a handshake to the adjudications officer to thank him for approving his case. The officer politely refused and explained the staff was instructed to avoid such contact due to the coronavirus.
After I said goodbye to my clients, I took a walk through Downtown Minneapolis and noticed hand sanitizer dispensers at front desks and elevator doors in office buildings.
Then later that day, I learned that President Trump issued a proclamation restricting entry into the U.S. by most travelers who had been in the Schengen area of Europe for the last 14 days.
Then on Friday, I went to my local Target store and saw many empty shelves, with no toilet paper, facial tissues, hand sanitizers or canned soups available for purchase. (Luckily, these items were not on my shopping list.) People seem to be stockpiling much larger quantities than what the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends, i.e. a 14-day supply of food, water and other necessities for every person in the household in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.
That same day, President Trump proclaimed a national emergency and the Governor of my state, Minnesota, declared a state of emergency to combat the novel coronavirus. It was around this time I started to hear more and more about “social distancing,” which the CDC and other experts say is a key step to preventing the virus spread.
By Monday, March 16, Minnesota schools were closed and I had not only my toddler at home, but also my 1st grader who is now being “homeschooled” and my husband who switched to remote work. Later that day, the Governor ordered all restaurants, food courts, coffeehouses, bars and other places of public accommodation to close, except to offer delivery, take-out, or drive-through service.
We need to acknowledge the current reality, evaluate risks and strengths, and respond effectively to ongoing developments. My productivity is not at its peak. My focus is not as sharp. This is normal in the midst of a global pandemic that touches on daily life.
Still, I am staying present with client matters and keeping track of next steps, targeted completion dates, and deadlines. Although USCIS offices have closed temporarily to the public and some U.S. Consulates have suspended or canceled visa interviews, due to COVID-19, I continue to make steady progress, with the awareness that no crisis is permanent or affects everything.
Many businesses are functioning well and using online technology and other alternatives to fully provide services while limiting in-person contact. As a remote worker, I am operating on the virtual office platform I have held since I started my firm in October 2014. Drop-offs and delivery of mail and packages continue to be accepted and processed at my Downtown Minneapolis office location.
Most people recover from the illness through self-care at home, many with the virus have relatively minor symptoms and a few are asymptomatic, and children are not particularly vulnerable to it. Nevertheless, this global pandemic is expected to be here for a while and brings health risks, emotional angst, and financial challenges.
In the midst of uncertainty, there is unique opportunity to appreciate the privileges we often take for granted, build necessary resilience for setbacks, reassess our priorities, deepen or expand valuable skills, and live more intentionally.
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