One of the unique aspects of my job during COVID-19 is the opportunity to see how people generally are responding to this pandemic in the New Jersey/New York region. Every situation and response varies but everyone's lives have been affected in some way.
With this pandemic, what appears to be coming up the strongest is that there is truly no place to hide from ourselves. We are forced to stay at home, all day. The distractions of working, going to school, commuting, shopping or socializing may no longer be there. Consequently, we are being forced to spend WAY more time with our thoughts and feelings than ever before.
With all this extra time and limited distractions, everything is rising up to the surface. All of our negative thoughts, stories, worries and difficult memories are getting louder and louder. Any relationship issues we pushed to the side are now staring us in the face. That is both uncomfortable and terrifying.
So what next? How do we deal with the messiness of ourselves? For starters, this whole situation is new and the way to manage is something we are still learning, myself included. What I can say is that the same tools we have used in challenging times are still there for us now. Yes, they will not be the same given our situation. If the gym was your go-to stress reliever, that unfortunately is not available right now. It will take adjustment, creativity and thinking outside the box. But you will need to lean on those tools. We are in a pandemic and we will all need a little extra care. For myself, I've been leaning on walks, meditation, yoga, Arrested Development (oddly comforting to me in times of high stress), running, random dance parities and cooking. Find what helps you.
Second, try to recognize and be mindful of what you are emotionally experiencing at this time. We are being challenged in a big way, so it's natural to feel anger, depression, boredom or any other negative emotion that has been coming up. We are human, so this process will not be perfect. Acknowledge that this will be a tough time. Give yourself compassion for your situation and what you are being faced with. Even just saying aloud to yourself "this is a tough time, so it's understandable I feel this way" is enough. Let go of comparisons to others, especially situations or people that leave you feeling worse. I've heard a lot of clients talk about how they shouldn't feel something because their situation is not as bad as X, Y or Z. Comparative suffering leaves most of us feeling even more uncomfortable with ourselves and our emotions.
Lastly, times of challenge always afford opportunity for growth. I know how annoying that can sound. If you are suffering, I know it can sound like it's condoning the suffering. But seeing what you are going through as opportunity can offter hope and encouragement. Yes, you can get through this. You have strength and determination that has always been there and it's rising up the surface now to help you. We are all so much stronger than we think.
Deep breaths, you are enough and you got this.