The pandemic has caused major detours and interruptions for many. Some are contending with serious losses like death of family members or job loss. Others are dealing with the lack of normalcy, routine, socialization, support and the list goes on. The pandemic has forced every person to deal with change in some shape or form and it has become increasingly difficult. We don’t like detours or interruptions. As humans, we like it when things work out and run smooth. Think about when you are driving and you see signs of construction and detour up ahead. What is your first reaction? Do you resist what is happening? Do you immediately start calculating how this detour will impact your life and perhaps you even come up with negative consequences? This is what our brain does – unconsciously. We don’t necessarily want it to jump to conclusions or resist reality but it does. When we expect a certain outcome, for example, we thought we would be at our destination within one hour but now it will take longer, we go negative and even catastrophic. We can all handle stressors when our routines and supports are in place. Being on a detour route, without any idea of when things will return to “normal” has caused a spike in anxiety, fear and depression. All of this is understandable when you think about the human brain and how we automatically function however, for the folks who are going through it, it feels like a failure to cope. Which causes further anxiety, fear and depression.
Considering what is happening for us right now, here are 3 tools to help your mental health during a pandemic:
- Limit the news: Although aspects of the news are important to keep up with and know about, too much will lead you down a rabbit hole of negative thoughts. If you are struggling with pandemic fear, it is important to follow public health measures in your town or city however reading all the human stories related to the virus may not be helpful at this time. Many people resist the idea of reducing the news because it is part of their daily routine, they like being informed and they don’t want to miss any information. From a purely mental health perspective, high consumption of negative news will further drain and deplete any one of us.
- Be open and honest: Let family members or friends who you trust know that you are struggling. Talk about it. Tell them what it is like for you. Let them know how they may help you. Although you may not see exactly how anyone could help, having support during a difficult time is known to be effective. We all need resources when we are triggered, this is not unique. It might be helpful to seek out the people who have been particularly good at supporting you in the past.
- Deal with your nervous system: Your internal alarm has been set off. We don’t have power to change what is going on but we do have power to change the response. Deep breathing as much as possible. Walk/run/bike to get the heart rate up. Do some exercise in your living with a few app or video on YouTube. Even though you might not believe it, tell yourself “everything will be okay” as much as you can. This is tough for those who are experiencing intense loss but there is a difference between “it is okay that this happened” and “everything will be okay”. No one can tell you how or when, but know that everything will be okay. It won’t be the same, but in its’ own way, it will be okay.
Final message: take good care of yourself in any small ways possible! This is a hard time and you are right to feel things. You are not a failure, you are a human being having a human response to a very difficult scenario. My deep wish for you all is to be free from inner and outer suffering.