Coping With the Ongoing Pandemic
I have been mulling over writing this post over the past month since the one-year anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a therapist, my role is to convey empathy and inspire hope for those who are experiencing despair, anger and confusion due to the increased risk of variants and changing restrictions. But I am human too and I have been experiencing many of these same emotions. As a result I’ve put off writing this post numerous times. So how do we cope?
Self-reflection: Our minds don’t like uncertainty. Fear of the unknown can trigger feelings of anxiety. But with regards to anxiety, it’s important to remember that this is our perception of our ability to cope which is usually much lower than how we are actually coping. During difficult times it can be helpful to reflect on our resilience and remember that as humans we are wired for struggle. Every person is unique and will cope with the pandemic struggles in their own unique way. The nature of struggles we face changes throughout our lifetime. But if we realize that we were all born gifted for struggle, it may inspire some hope that we can get through this. Think back to the past year, all the challenges you’ve faced and every obstacle that you have overcome. Notice how resilient you really are. Notice your “inner-critic” that may be trying to refute that previous statement. It’s ok, your inner-critic also has a role in trying to keep you safe. Acknowledge it with self-compassion and through gentle inquiry, ask if that inner-critic has been helpful. When your inner-critic is conjuring up a negative thought, you can challenge it with a more helpful thought. We are wired to think negatively, it’s what’s keep our species safe through evolution. But we can notice the negative thought and then balance it with a positive one.
It can also be helpful during times of despair to know that things change. For example, even though it seems like we are in the exact same situation in terms of being lockdown as we were at the start of the pandemic, so much as changed. We now have vaccines and the list of people who are fully vaccinated is growing with each day. Last year, we watched in horror as the case numbers skyrocketed in the United States, then a few months later in other countries like the U.K. Now since the rollout of the vaccines, those countries case numbers have dropped by 95%!! I find that absolutely incredible. A great quote by Demond Tutu, ``Hope is being able to see that there is light, despite all the darkness.”
Lastly during times of uncertainty, a helpful practice is to identify the things that are certain. This can be incredibly grounding and reduce intense emotions. I sometimes gaze out at the river behind our yard and notice how certain it is that it just keeps flowing. Sometimes it’s fuller after a rainfall, but it keeps flowing. I notice the robins, as they pick worms out the grass or doves sitting together in a tree. It is certain that spring is here. It might snow again, but soon flowers will grow. I challenge you to look for the certainty and when this feels like too much, reflect on how far you’ve come over the past year. However you managed to get through, keep going. And when you feel like you can’t, take a break and turn inwards with self-compassion, however that might look like for you. If you need support during these difficult times, please reach out. We are here for you!