If like me you’ve found yourself drawn to chaos, perhaps consider it’s because that’s all you’ve ever known. 

When I was a child, most of the adults in my life were dysregulated people who constantly lived in a state of chaos and hardship. Despite their best efforts, I suffered a lot of unnecessary neglect and abuse. I never knew when I was about to be hit with my father’s explosive anger, and constantly yearned for my mother to listen to me, and show up for me. Now that I’m an adult, it’s been my job to parent and comfort myself, so that I can have a calm and joyous life. 

Living through Covid has been a huge test of my skills and ability to self-regulate. There have been many days during quarantine where boredom and stress have conspired and urged me to binge on my previous addictions. It’s tempting to fall back into old habits but there is nothing there for me anymore, so I keep moving forward. 

We are collectively experiencing a time where we have no idea what tomorrow will look like and that is leaving most of us in some state of hypervigilance, or complete shut down. I want to share some tips that have been helpful to me, especially during Covid, for staying grounded and having better outcomes. 

Routines help.

Sticking to a routine whenever possible will do wonders for your mental health. Humans find repetition comforting, so lean into that as much as possible. Try to plan your day with some combination of work and self care. If, like me, work hasn’t been abundant for you throughout the pandemic, it can feel really hard to stay productive without a job. It’s been helpful for me to create new jobs for myself like deep cleaning the apartment, taking my dog on extra long walks, making playlists and cooking. Some days might not be productive at all and that is not only okay but necessary too! Be gentle with yourself. 

Connect (even when it feels like a chore).

Reaching out to our friends right now can feel a bit empty because what is there to say? We’re all sick of saying “I’m fine, surviving, getting by! How about you?” In those moments try to remember that life won’t be this way forever and you will see your friends again. You’ll have dinner parties and go to concerts and kiss your friends on the face. 

Even when it feels like an insurmountable and annoying task, try to maintain connections with the people who make you feel good. Now is also an excellent time to branch out and make new friends online. Find a community with shared interests—take a writing class, join a free event through the Toronto Public Library, or find your people on Meetup (you’ll be shocked at how many different clubs and groups there are).

Practice empathy instead of judging. 

Give everyone the benefit of the doubt if you can. I think that too much time cooped up with no reprieve will bring out the worst in us. No one is giving their best right now because we are all so fatigued from living this way. Try to move with grace through the bad times and not show up to every argument you’re invited to. We are discovering that our friends and family all have different levels of comfort when it comes to Covid and that can feel scary and upsetting.

Try practicing empathy, even when you don’t understand someone’s motives or behaviour. The worst that will happen is you’ll have a little less drama in your life. If you do find yourself in conflict during this time, don’t go for blood. It can be easy to burn bridges when you’re running on empty. You can only take back so much after it’s been said and when you’re feeling less defeated by the world you might conduct yourself differently. 

Create a space for comfort.

While we are living on top of each other with no release it’s crucial to carve out some time for just you. Find your own retreat space whenever possible and create a nest. If you’re able to invest in your space, do that! It doesn’t need to be blowing a bunch of money. You could do something as simple as washing your sheets, lighting some candles and listening to a podcast in bed.  Don’t be ashamed to ask for alone time, you deserve it. If someone gets upset at that ask, that is a ‘them’ problem. Not everyone has the luxury of living alone or getting alone time when we want it but there are some ways to get around that. A bath is an excellent time to be alone and most bathroom doors lock, thankfully! If you have roommates, make your room your oasis. Get an electric kettle for days when you don’t want to rush out of bed. Having a comforting space that you can be alone in, even for brief periods of time, can make a huge difference in your mood and allow you time to recenter yourself. 

Find the lesson.

My therapist is constantly encouraging me to ‘find the lesson’. Although things feel sad, senseless and even avoidable, don’t get caught up in your anger. Working through my trauma has been a lot of finding my agency and learning how to take responsibility for myself. What have you learned about yourself during this incredibly challenging time? What needs to change? If you can make some personal meaning out of this crisis, you’ll come out the other side better for it. 

Jesse is a writer and storyteller, in recovery from addiction and a survivor of C-PTSD. Since being diagnosed in 2016, Jesse has written a lot about dialectical behaviour therapy, addiction, recovery, abuse and the power of showing up for yourself.