Many of us entered into 2020, not just coming into a new year, but a new decade with plans to accomplishing great things. A new year is always a great time to reflect, refresh and start moving towards new goals. And when we starting hearing about this “corona virus” somewhere in a province far away in China, many of us kept moving forward. We lived through the SARS outbreak in the past and thought things were under control as they always were. Personally, maybe I might have bought an extra can of soup or box of pasta while grocery shopping. Yet we all went to VMX and WVC without much of a concern of the pending global pandemic.

Entering into March things started to shift and the ocean of anxiety started to brew. First it was the cruise ships and how they went into quarantine. Then watching the cases spread across Europe leading to Italy literally shutting down. It was moving closer and closer to home. Washington state, then California, then New York City. OMG New York City! It felt like in a matter of a week the world went from everything moving along to a complete stand still.

The ocean of anxiety now turned to having enough toilet paper, I know we only had 2 rolls left and the shelves were bare. Do we have enough food for the dog? Then came the work cancellations and my income literally disappeared. All the while we were watching our retirement accounts and other investments tank. The ocean of anxiety at this point became such an angry ocean with so many emotions. How do I protect my family? How will I provide for my family? What if I get sick? When will this end? My brain couldn’t stop the panic and anxiety as it took over all my thoughts.

When we feel powerless, anxiety is always waiting for us. I learned this important life lesson as a veterinarian. I also learned that sucking it up and moving forward without addressing the anxiety and emotions doesn’t work. Recently one day I found myself frozen, eating yet another chocolate chip cookie and staring out the kitchen window at absolutely nothing. My wandering mind started to judge me and all my laziness.

Then I paused, took a deep breath, and gave myself permission to take as long as I needed to feel what I was feeling. I took a moment to recognize my sinkers pulling me under into this ocean of anxiety and then asked myself what I needed to do to embrace them. I also thought about how to reconnect with balloons that will help to pull me up out of the ocean of anxiety. Here was my game plan…

First, I put a limit on social media and news coverage because I recognized that those boundaries helped to decrease the weight of the sinkers. I still gathered information, but I made a conscious effort not to let it own every part of my day.

Next, I embraced the fact that living through a global novel virus pandemic sucks and I have permission to work through all the emotions that will come with it. To give me space as I navigate them and allow myself to grieve this new world we are being forced into.

Finally, I found a way to stay connected. I recreated my lecture events as virtual events. I found time to reach out to friends and family and connect with them. I picked up my running shoes, dusted them off and took to the pavement – of course at a social distance. I snuggled more with my dog and laughed at funny memes of the current experience we are all living.

Though I have to accept the path of this pandemic I don’t have to like it. My ocean of anxiety still exists, but I am no longer drowning. I am working to navigate this new world by recognizing, embracing, and connecting to both my sinkers and balloons which will help me through this challenging time, however long it lasts.