There seems to be a great deal of focus on what we are each accomplishing during this pandemic. That somehow, if you don’t clean the spare bedroom out, finish a novel, up your exercise routine, or discover a hidden talent then you’re… (insert meaning about yourself). This is a very slippery slope, mind you, because who is determining what counts as an accomplishment? Who is determining how it is measured? Who says that who we are is based on our accomplishments? What if we could allow what is true for us, individually, to be the key?

It can be challenging in the best of times to understand our inner world and continually live in a way that encourages our best life. So, if we base our self-worth on how we compare to others, especially during a global pandemic, it’s highly likely we will always be missing the mark. When we label ourselves, judge ourselves, or make meanings about ourselves, based on another person’s life, we are excluding the unique aspects of our own. What we are all experiencing on this planet right now is unprecedented for our time and there is no roadmap for doing it “correctly.” We did not all enter this pandemic quarantine from the same starting line, so how could we possibly all expect to see the same landmarks along our journey or even finish at the same time? Each one of us will experience this pandemic differently.

If someone loses a family member, friend, neighbor or colleague to the Coronavirus their journey will be different than someone who doesn’t. If someone had panic disorders before the pandemic they may welcome or fear social distancing. If someone was dealing with substance abuse their concerns about quarantine will be different than someone who lost their job, or is a health care worker, or has children to homeschool… you see, your journey through this quarantine is your own and it’s not comparable. It’s important to also hear in that how vital it is that we not judge others and how they are processing this. We have no way of knowing what others are dealing with or where their start line was or finish line will be. When I say finish line, I mean that while the quarantine will end, for some their stress will remain high, their grief will carry on, their financial concerns may endure – we will each come out of this experience with our own set of long-term responses and thus, there is no measurable end date either.

What seems important is how we are listening to our needs and the choices we are making with regard to them. If you are feeling lonely, how will you take action to honor that feeling? For some, that may be allowing the emotion to fill us and bring us to tears as we acknowledge how challenging this situation is. For others, in experiencing loneliness, it could mean setting up a FaceTime call with a friend, family member, or counselor. The key is to hear what you need and advocate for yourself. Self-advocacy requires us to set aside self-judgment, the perceived or real judgment of others, and acknowledge what it is we need for ourselves. Each person’s needs will be different and, if we can remember that, it can help us to maintain greater compassion for others and for ourselves.

Of course, there are responses that may serve as warning signs and we do not want to ignore them. If you find that your emotions have become too difficult to process on your own; if you are feeling a desire for self-harm, risky behavior, or addictive behaviors; if your reactions to external stimuli (be it family member, a customer service agent, an article you read, a doorknob you’ve touched) are having a negative impact on your mindset; if your known coping skills (such as taking a time-out, going for a walk, cooking, reading, calling a friend) begin to feel impossible… these might mean it’s time to get help. This does not mean you are failing in any way, I mean, seriously, when was the last time you were quarantined to your home due to a deadly global virus?

It’s fair to say that we all, to some extent, are on an emotional rollercoaster, so listening to what is true for you is the most valuable thing you can do to help get yourself through this experience. This is not about others and how they are processing or what they are or aren’t accomplishing, this is about recognizing and fulfilling our own needs so that we can honor our emotions and fuel our thoughts with what serves our own individual lives in the most positive way possible.