The entire world is collectively experiencing trauma. We are all being affected by the coronavirus pandemic, either directly or indirectly, so it’s important to not dwell on what we can’t control, and try our best to see the positives that come along with this tragedy.
The Silver Linings of the COVID-19 Pandemic
In order to emotionally and mentally survive this pandemic, we need to look at the silver linings. Be mindful that your anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns could be heightened during this time. That’s why it’s so important to try to look at the positives and not dwell on the negativity and chaos.
For some of us, the world is slowing down around us, so we can use this opportunity to create a mindshift on slowing down. I know it’s easier said than done, but there are things you can do to practice this that will help shift your frame of mind.
A New Global Sense of Community
Everyone in the entire world is impacted by this. We’re all in this together, so everyone is making this a priority to get to the other side of all this. In some ways, this pandemic has connected all of us in ways we didn’t expect. It has created a global sense of community that we never previously experienced. Not only are we all struggling together, we can all contribute to ending it.
Your contribution to this is socially or physically distancing yourself from others. The more you stay home, the more you are helping our global community end a pandemic. Perhaps this has given you the opportunity to connect even more so with friends and family, both near and far, through various platforms (e.g., online, video, phone) and has provided you the time to make these social connections even more of a priority. Perhaps this priority for social connection will continue as we reach the other side of all this.
Slowing Down From the Hustle and Bustle
We are being forced to take pauses and slow down, and find comfort in that. We can’t escape this new norm of ambiguity, so we have to create a new structure to have sanity. It will take some time to figure out your new routine, but eventually we’ll adapt to these new norms in our home and lifestyles. Finding some sense of normalcy, which could mean you have to be creative with figuring out a new routine, will help you adjust to this new way of life at this current time.
Change the way you’re thinking about being forced to stay home. Instead of thinking that you’re stuck at home, think of it as more time to spend on self-care and more time with your family. You can learn a new skill, take on a new hobby. This can be an opportunity for enrichment and learning. You don’t have to be at this point yet.
We are all struggling with this new way of living, with the trauma of all of this, and dealing with our anxieties and fears, but as this continues on, the new sense of chaos will subside. We can gently move ourselves in the direction towards healing and growth. If you feel you are unable to do that, or if you feel too anxious or overwhelmed, you are not alone. Therapy can help you with whatever you’re feeling and help you feel connected to others.
As you spend more time at home, remember that you are preventing others, including yourself, from getting sick. You are actively helping to stop the spread of the virus, and helping others who are essential workers stay safe, especially those in the healthcare industry and first responders who are risking their lives to help others.
The Importance of Self-Care and Kindness
This current way of life is still new, so we have to create the structure needed to find peace in all of this. We can’t continue in total chaos without our mental health being hurt, so it’s important to find a balance between chaos and order. You don’t have to be there yet, but it’s important to proactively move it in that direction. This can be done by knowing the importance of and practicing compassion and kindness towards others, ourselves, and the world around us.
We can learn how to take care of others by first taking care of ourselves. Even during “normal” (non-pandemic) times, you can’t take care of others if you’re not taking care of yourself. This situation is empowering us to develop a strong internal sense of self-care. When we work on ourselves, even though we might not have intended to, it helps the outside world - it’s an inside-out reaction. We’re being less wasteful, there’s a reduced hustle and bustle, and it’s creating a space for self-care, which in turn is helping others and the environment.
As a result of fewer outside distractions and commitments, we have the time and space to increase our self-care. Self-care can mean taking time to think about what makes you feel good and what’s important to you, then doing those things within healthy limits.
Learning What’s Really Important
As previously stated, self-care is taking the time to understand what’s important to you. We are now being forced to reevaluate our priorities and learn about what really matters. More and more, we are realizing the need to practice gratitude, and actively doing so will help with your mindshift. It’s important that we don’t take things for granted - things we once had access to and things we currently have.
To help nudge this process along, ask yourself these questions:
What did you take for granted in the past?
What are you currently grateful for?
What will you be grateful for?
What are you in control of?
What aren’t you able to control?
What is really important to you?
These will not only help you understand what matters most in life, but will help you see that there is a silver lining to this pandemic. We are being given the opportunity to reflect on ourselves, our lives, and our relationships.
Realizing There's More In Your Control
If anything, this situation is giving us opportunities - it’s forcing us to be mindful, be present, and look at what IS, not what will be. We can’t predict the next tomorrow. Everything is changing rapidly and life is uncertain.
We can only control our own thoughts and behaviors. You have the choice to control how much you expose yourself to the chaos and how much time you give to others. You can give time to people who are panicking or to people who make you feel better and who promote your self worth. If you have control over your schedule, take the time to practice mindfulness skills.
When you accept what you don’t have control over, you can focus more of your time and energy on what you can control. To mentally survive this situation, a situation where it feels like we are totally out of control, it’s important to:
Practice focusing on what we actually have control over (our thoughts and behaviors).
Accept the situation for what it is and accept that we can’t control everything.
Actively practice gratitude for what we have.
The more you do this, the more you’ll realize that you have control over your life. This will help you find internal peace and serenity, and be able to block out the chaos of the world around you. This will help you take in information and news, and accept it without letting it harm your mental well-being.
Coping with Adversity and Tragedy
Every time we face adversity, tragedy, or a challenge, it gives us the opportunity to grow and learn from it. The coronavirus pandemic is forcing us to learn a valuable skill about coping. It’s important that we look at the gains and opportunities, so when we come out of this we’re not defeated and broken down. This is all temporary. Think about when all of this subsides - AND IT WILL - what are we left with?
Some of us have more time on our hands, and some of us are busier than before. If you don’t have the time to actively take on a new skill or hobby (like if you're still working or have children at home), you are still learning a new skill nonetheless.
When you emerge from this, you can be proud that you did it! You coped and got through it! Finding ways to cope, discovering new ways to emotionally connect with others, learning how to take care of your mental health during a pandemic are all new skills. If this happens again in the future, we’ll all be more prepared to manage our mental health. But these skills don’t just have to be used for another pandemic.
Whatever happens externally, we’ll have the ability to take care of our emotional and mental well-being. We’ll be better able to cope with other external factors and not let them have control over our mental well-being. You are learning how to rely on yourself and your own internal wisdom.
You're Not Alone-Help is Available
This is a challenging and frightening time. While all of us are connected in a new way and going through the same collective trauma, not everyone has the coping tools necessary for managing on their own.
Whether you are in quarantine with other people, still going to work as an essential employee, or in isolation by yourself, it can be difficult to practice self-care and prioritize your mental health.
If you need support, remote (video) therapy is a great way to learn how to cope with your current struggles and to find some sense of relief, comfort, self-empowerment, and serenity. Contact Dr. Heather Violante, Psy.D. today at 954.391.5305 ext. 8 or at her website to find out how we can help you improve your emotional wellness.