You’re feeling down or worried. Then worried and a little down and every combination in between. You’re not alone. Maybe my sample is a little skewed, but I have not personally or professionally come across anyone yet who has been “knockin’ it out of the park” during the pandemic. If you haven’t experienced some anxiety or depression during the pandemic, you may want to consider looking into a career as a Zen Buddhist monk.
Let’s look at how this is affecting most people and what you can do to help yourself:
- You feel confined, constricted, or limited. This stress and limitations on what you can do exacerbate pre-existing problems, both in your personal life and in your relationships. Friction points in relationships have become burning issues and personal challenges have become harder to ignore without the distractions of the normal routine.
- Previous healthy coping mechanisms are less effective. Even avoiding your problems isn’t working anymore. You might try to rely on some less helpful/destructive coping tools like drinking, drugs and digital dissociation (my fancy term that covers everything from doom scrolling to excessive video game playing to porn).
- You’re starting to experience memory issues. How are you supposed to remember things when last Tuesday feels a lot like today, which felt exactly like Saturday two weeks ago? With the wash, rinse, and repeat we’re engaging in and the lack of the pre-Covid experiential markers we use for memory cues, forgetfulness is common. Not to mention anxiety and depression also negatively impact your memory system. Don’t freak out if you feel more forgetful. Other people do too.
- You feel powerless. Because of the large scale of the issues we are facing and how little we can do, you may feel helpless to do anything at all.
Here’s what you can do:
- Accept reality. It will take longer than any of us would like, but this too shall pass. At some point there will be a vaccine, and we will be able to do many of the things we did before the pandemic. We need to do our best to embrace the world that is and build from there.
- Focus on what you can control. These can be “small” things like projects around your home that have been on the to do list forever. This could also occur within the context of your job. Maybe you could take on a larger role in a project or spearhead something new.
- Find positive distractions. Is there a hobby that you’ve wanted to pick up or invest more time in? A book that you’ve wanted to read? Use these things as a healthy alternative to the destructive coping tools I mentioned earlier.
- Prepare for post-COVID life. It might be helpful to think about what you can’t do now that will help you hit the ground running when things change. Is it saving money for a trip to see family or maybe writing a book that you’ve been thinking about for some time? Is there a skillset you want to develop to help you find that new job when the economy starts to improve?
- Look for ways to connect with others. Use this opportunity to connect with old friends in a deeper way than through social media. Homeschooling? Reframe this as an opportunity to get more involved in your child’s education. Working from home? Enjoy the time spent with family now that you’re not commuting two hours a day.
- Find a way to impact the world. Despite the feelings of powerlessness, you can impact the world through political activity via phone/online organizing or through protesting if you feel comfortable doing so. Maybe you can find an opportunity to support someone in your community who needs assistance in this challenging time. Helping others is sometimes the best way to help ourselves.
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If you have any questions or would like help managing the impact of the stress so many of us are dealing with right now, please contact me for a free 15-minute phone consultation.