Mika: How I'm dealing with the stress of these extraordinary times

Know Your Value founder and "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski writes about the stress she's experiencing during the pandemic and what's helping her get through this difficult period.
Mika Brzezinski and her mom, Emilie, spending time together on the porch during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mika Brzezinski and her mom, Emilie, spending time together on the porch during the coronavirus pandemic.Courtesy of Mika Brzezinski.

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By Mika Brzezinski

The newness of the coronavirus pandemic is over. What was once extraordinary about our new normal has become all too ordinary, even as it continues to roil and ruin so many lives.

Some have found their stride and are somehow making this once-inconceivable situation work. But I think it’s safe to say, even among the strictest social distancers, that we are all at our breaking point.

I know I am.

The past few weeks have been exceedingly difficult, and the stress is piling higher than the tallest peaks. In Florida, where Joe and I are currently under lockdown and hosting “Morning Joe,” we’re seeing new cases of COVID-19 on the rise in the state, alongside much of the rest of the country, and all of it against the backdrop of massive social movements for racial justice. We’re personally dealing with the fallout of the baseless and wildly offensive conspiracy theory President Trump shamelessly continues to peddle about Joe. I’m also taking care of my 88-year-old mom, who has Parkinson’s, and managing the needs of the seven kids Joe and I have between us.

Mika Brzezinski with husband and fellow "Morning Joe" co-host Joe Scarborough.Courtesy of Mika Brzezinski.

Still, I’m very lucky, and I know it. My family is healthy. I have a job that I love amidst a catastrophic recession that has thrown tens of millions of Americans out of work. As hard as this is, I know I am one of the lucky ones.

In some ways, I'm grateful for the time I've had to reflect on this and other aspects of life. It has helped me to stop, look inward, think and just be. Here are some of the things I'm focusing on, and resolving to do better:

I’m doubling down on mindfulness

As I've written about before, I’ve come to realize just how much mindfulness helps me recalibrate and regulate my emotions. Under lockdown, these feelings of stress and fear can be intensified. When things feel like they’re just too much, I simply lie down on the floor for 10 to 20 minutes in complete silence. I close my eyes and breathe deeply, which anchors me to the present and untethers me from any negativity I may be feeling.

I’m spending time with my new cat

Animals have always been a big part of my life and have helped my family get through difficult times. During the pandemic, I adopted a Maine Coon kitten named Spaghetti (who is now best friends with our other Maine Coon, aptly named Meatball). He’s really playful and funny. Even stopping for a few minutes in the day to play and kiss Spaghetti feels like a real break. Spaghetti has helped bring my family together. We may not all agree on how to get through this pandemic – but we all agree on Spaghetti.

Mika's cats, Spaghetti and Meatball.Courtesy of Mika Brzezinski.

I’m not judging myself when it comes to food and exercise

Running after “Morning Joe” really helped me deal with my stress during the first few months of the pandemic. Now, however, running doesn’t feel fun or enjoyable. I’m still doing it, but I really dread it (partly because we are under a lot more stress and because it’s just so hot).

Mika Brzezinski has been running during the coronavirus pandemic. She says she has been struggling to enjoy exercise, like she typically does, during this uncertain time, but is hopeful she will find the joy in running again.Courtesy of Mika Brzezinski.

I’m also eating a lot more sugar, which is something I’ve battled in the past and even previously gave up completely. But now? I’ve been eating Lucky Charms. I’ll have cake. We’ve also been baking a lot of brownies in the house, turning it somewhat into a competition and grading each other on whose are the best (mine are).

Mika Brzezinski says she isn't judging herself for having more sugar than normal during the pandemic.Courtesy of Mika Brzezinski.

My relationship with food and exercise isn't exactly at its zenith these days. But I’m not judging myself if I have an extra dessert or two, or if I skip a run, like I would have done in the past. I know that this is not a normal time, and I’m going to have to be patient. I will get back to where I once was. But more importantly, I will be okay with who I am.

I’m trying to help others and spending time with my family

As I said, I know how lucky I am. So I’m working hard to help those who don’t have work right now.

I’m also enjoying the family time, with Joe, the kids, and my mom. My mom and I go biking together and spend time in her art studio, which has been a real saving grace for her. She’d like to travel and see more of our family, and she feels frustrated that she can’t right now. But watching her do what she loves — creating her signature, massive sculptures — has been a real bright spot.

Mika Brzezinski's mom, Emilie, working on her art sculptures during the coronavirus pandemic.Courtesy of Mika Brzezinski.

These days, it can often feel like there are so few bright spots. Life in these extraordinary times is exceptionally hard for far too many of us, even those like me with particular privilege and security. But I truly believe things will get better—and in the meantime, I'm trying to find peace with where I am — and who I am — today.

Know Your Value wants to know what your biggest challenges are — and what you are doing to cope — during this difficult time. Send your stories to knowyourvalue@nbcuni.com.