Updated: Dec 29, 2020
Well, I don't think any of us saw this coming. Cancelled trips, postponed weddings, virtual graduations, high unemployment rates, large numbers of Americans passing away, and home isolation. It is safe to say that Covid-19 has changed life as we have known it for so long. It seems that since the start of 2020, we have been saturated with news regarding this pandemic. When we first entered home-isolation back in March, I initially thought the longest this would last would be 2 months. We are now approaching 6 months of this. For the time being, we are unable to gather with our friends, sit indoors at our favorite cafe, enjoy a movie at the local theater, or even sit inside a classroom with our peers. As if dealing with this global pandemic isn't enough, racial tension and political unrest has also been at the forefront. It seems that whenever we turn on the news or unlock our iPhones, we are notified of yet another daunting news headline. These times are so challenging and it is no wonder that coronavirus has caused a historic rise in mental health problems. This time period has created a mental health crisis in the US. Even our former First Lady, Michelle Obama has been suffering from a "low-grade depression."
Many of us are in grieving right now. We are grieving life as we had once known it for so long. We are grieving the idea of life that we had planned for 2020. We are grieving plans that have been postponed or cancelled. I wanted to tell all of you that it is ok to be grieving right now. How could everything that is going on NOT affect us to a certain level? The idea that everyone should just be ok and in acceptance, baking banana bread, completing home workout programs, working from home in yoga pants, and thinking that "it is what it is," is unrealistic. This is a really shitty time for all of us, and there is no one size fits all approach to coping right now. We are living in a time where there is not much we have control over these days. When human beings feel like they have no control, this is when we see a spike in mental health problems. So what are some ways that we can ease some of the anxiety and depression that we all may be experiencing right now?
Focus on the things you can control. This can look like maintaining some type of structure in your day, whether it may be going for a bike ride in the morning, grabbing a coffee before your Zoom meeting, or doing something to ground yourself like meditating mid-afternoon. When we are anxious it can feel like things are out of our control. To combat this focus on things that you have control over, like your schedule.
Gather your news from a trusted news source. Honestly, there's a lot of "fake news" out there. It seems like things are changing day by day and it can be hard to differentiate what is real and what isn't. Make sure that if you are checking the news, that it is from a source that you trust.
Limit your consumption of the news. It is important to stay informed of the current affairs of our nation and this virus. However, try limiting the amount of time you spend reading or watching the news. Too much news isn't good for our mental health. There is only so much we can consume before it really takes a toll on us.
Get outside. Getting sunshine and fresh air is so important and it is good for our immune system and mental health! Even if it is just going for a 15 minute walk.
Be mindful of the emotions that come up for you. A colleague of mine shared with me that the people who may appear to be doing really well during this quarantine might also be really good at avoiding their feelings. While it is ok to compartmentalize your emotions to get you through the work day, it might not be a good thing to suppress your feelings. They will eventually spill out. If any uncomfortable or difficult emotions arise for you, try not dismissing them. Instead try leaning in with curiosity, allowing yourself to feel them, but also coming back up for air. Just like our bodies, our emotions need detoxing too. Rather than waiting for your emotions to overflow and spill out, try doing things to release them a little bit at a time (i.e. journaling, listening to a song that matches your mood, stretching, yoga).
Connect with others. This one is so important. Humans need connection to others, so it can be harmful to our mental health while in isolation. While it not be as safe to meet up with friends at their houses or hang out up close in person, make sure you are being proactive about reaching out to friends, family, and loved ones during this time. And if you feel safe to do so, it might be nice to meet up with a friend outdoors with masks on and maintaining some sort of social distance.
Implement self-care in your routine. Since we all are home most of the time, it can actually be really easy to neglect this. Some of our old forms of self-care might not be accessible during this time, so try exploring new ways! Prior to coronavirus, my weekend self-care would consist of going to the gym, getting my nails done, putting on a pair of heels, and going out for drinks with my partner or girlfriends. Now, it looks like intentionally leaving a couple hours to myself on Sunday nights and melting into a non-therapy related book.
My thoughts are with all of you during this time. This will not last forever and we will all get through this. We human beings are very resilient. Please reach out if you need support during this time.
All my love,