Just a few thoughts about coping with the impact of the challenges we are facing due to the stress of the coronavirus. I think it’s safe to say that we are all feeling overwhelmed and stressed with the sudden changes to our every day lives. Our daily routines came to a screeching halt, forcing immediate transformation, without sufficient time to allow ourselves to emotionally adapt. Change itself is often challenging. Adapting to sudden, imposed upon changes, in a climate of uncertainty and fear, is beyond challenging. Add in social distancing, isolation, and quarantines and we’re attempting to function without the very resources that traditionally support us. For those already facing current or past history of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, abusive relationships, significant life stressors, and more, calling it “challenging” is an understatement. It’s exhausting, scary, triggering, incomprehensible, and at times, paralyzing. It is so important that we find a way to talk about what we are feeling.
Let’s talk about loss. We may fear the loss of health and the loss of loved ones, while experiencing the loss of a sense of safety when we leave our own homes. We are grieving the loss of connection, as our daily school, work, activities, and ability to connect with others in person changed almost overnight. Many are facing extreme economic losses and fears of their financial future. We are experiencing loss of routine, loss of security, loss of independence. Loss of plans, activities, vacations, school/league sports, senior years, graduations, weddings, special events, and so much more. The list goes on and on and on. The reality is that we are grieving the “normal” we were living just moments ago, without any certain answers of when things will return to “normal,” or what that “normal” will even look like. We may be scared, anxious, worried, sad, disappointed, hurt, frustrated, angry, lonely, or disconnected.
It is important to talk about these feelings and grieve our current losses, not just focus on constant news updates. Often times, we push away uncomfortable feelings or we try to help others by only focusing on the positive or something we should be grateful for. We hear, “things will get better”, “it could be worse,” “other people have it harder,” “don’t complain,” “this isn’t that bad,” “there’s always next time,” etc. But not talking about our feelings does not make them go away. At this moment in time, we can not satisfy the void of what we are missing with something else.
For many people, there may be a valuable benefit of extra time with families and pets, time to slow down, time for self-care, time to do things you’ve wanted to do and haven’t had time for. Time to try new recipes, read a book, write, create art, watch movies/TV, go for long walks, play games. These are all wonderful, healthy ways to cope with the current times.
Others may not feel these benefits, due to overwhelming stress, uncertainty, feeling stuck in a toxic environment, absence of healthy relationships, past loss or trauma, or feeling scared or alone. Losses of safety, security, and connection can lead to increased feelings of anxiety and depression.
Let’s talk about it. Let’s not shy away from uncomfortable feelings or keep the focus on just finding the positive in all of this. Ask your children (even young kids), your loved ones, friends, neighbors, and colleagues what they have lost out on or what they are missing the most. Ask them how it makes them feel. Instead of offering a solution, just listen. Tell them you are sorry they are missing something important to them. Tell them you hear how they feel and show them that you care. We all have a need to simply feel whatever we are feeling, without judgment. People benefit greatly from simply feeling heard and feeling validated. We have an opportunity to learn valuable skills in recognizing and expressing feelings and managing adversity.
Please keep in mind that sharing feelings should never be a competition. No need for a game of one-upmanship, comparing whose loss is more significant. Nor minimizing your own feelings because you think others’ feelings should be more important. Again, this is not a competition of who has it worse or who has more to manage. EVERYONE is entitled to their own feelings about losing out on what is important to them! From preschool kids to seniors, we are all missing something right now. Let’s talk about it.
While I’m not advocating that we stay stuck in these feelings and dismiss meaningful experiences we might now have time to enjoy, I think it is imperative to provide space for both. We do not have to choose. We can talk about our feelings AND figure out what we can do to best take care of ourselves. Think about what remains in your control, including creating some type of structure or routine, ensuring healthy self-care, and staying connected (in my next blog, let’s talk about tips for coping with coronavirus stress).
Talking about our feelings is healing, whether with loved ones, a trusted confidant, or support group. Professional therapists are available to help you navigate these challenging times or any other concerns you are facing. Many therapists are now offering telehealth services, with phone and video sessions from the safety of your own homes. Writing about feelings in a journal is also very healing. We can learn to tolerate uncomfortable feelings, whether its our own feelings, or listening to others. We can learn to accept things that are out of our control, but we do not have to like it and we do not have to put a positive twist on it. Loss hurts. There is no way around it. There is no way to fix it or replace what is missing. We can only accept it, learn, heal, grow, and move forward. We are in this together.
Kerri I. Weiss, PhD
Ocean Waves Wellness Center
1300 Highway 35, Plaza III
Ocean, NJ 07712
For further assistance:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273- TALK (8255).
If you are feeling distressed or in crisis and need someone to talk to, the Lifeline provides 24/7 free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention, and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.
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