I happen to live in a place where the pandemic situation has not improved but not only that, it has become much worse than it ever was. We managed to get through the first and second waves without straining our health care system to a critical point but unfortunately, we are in that dreaded place now. Daily numbers are record high and the variants have become a major threat and source of fear. The burden and mental strain on the health care workers who are directly caring for COVID patients is inexplicable and unless you are working on those units, none of us can really imagine. The plain truth is that they are sacrificing their physical, emotional, spiritual and mental wellness for us and our communities and there is nothing harder than that.
We are going through the pandemic together but we are also having our individual experiences. The specific challenges we each face are unique but one thing is for sure…if you live in a place where things are worse than before, the mental burden is very high. It almost makes us want to throw a two year old tantrum – “I don’t want this!”. We were ill prepared for things to go badly right at this point in time because the arrival of the vaccines was giving us so much hope. We were already tired from a year of living in isolation and our usual outlets. Quite frankly, we thought we ‘won’.
I always put myself into context of situations so I understand why I feel the way I do. We were hopeful. We went backwards and now it is hard to conjure up the energy to do much of anything. Hopeless, helpless, frustrated, sad, disillusioned, given up and exhausted – do any of those feelings ring a bell? What about anger? I know a handful of people who are so angry at the decision makers and anyone who isn’t following the rules. While all these feelings are valid, they make sense, they are real and permission to feel them all….what can we do about it now?
I can come up with several mental hacks that have helped me. When I stop obsessively thinking about “when will this be done???”, that helps. When I don’t dwell on the negative impacts like not being with my family and not being able to go to restaurants with my friends, that helps. When I let hope seep in again and I believe that things will get better, that helps tremendously. When I think of the health care workers helping COVID patients, I feel humbled and that helps snap me out of a mood. When I validate my feelings without bypassing them, that also helps me. When I limit the news and doom scrolling, that helps a lot. This is an interesting hack because many people fight me when I suggest it because they say they need information to be responsible. Yes, information is important however, if your mind is already fragile, will pouring more negativity into it be helpful? We don’t need all the daily details to stay safe and do the right thing. I guess what I am saying is that if there is ever a time to be mindful about what you are mentally consuming, thinking about, stewing about, worrying about – NOW is the time. Think about what you are thinking about these days and decide what has helped and what is making me feel worse? It is an exercise and it is worth doing at this point in time.
I am not looking to feel like I did a year ago. I have changed. We all have changed in ways we probably don’t even realize yet. But I know that certain things make me feel worse and drain my energy. Take some time today to think about what you have been letting in and perhaps try a mental hack or two and see if they work. Take good care and a shout out to any health care worker with COVID patients – THANK YOU. That is not enough but we see you.