Collectively, we are all experiencing some form of trauma due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While we are all in this same storm, we are not in the same boat and having the same experiences in this pandemic. During a traumatic event, there can be a lot of different feelings that you may experience. Here are a few common feelings that you may be experiencing at this time, as well as tips on how to cope with that feeling.
Anger. You may be upset that this is happening right now. Perhaps you are experiencing unemployment or a decline in business. You may also be upset that you are not able to socialize in the way that you usually do.
Ways to Cope: Often, when we experience anger, there are other feelings beneath that. There may be a fear of what this means for your finances. There could also be a sadness that you aren’t able to connect with others as you usually would. Try to spend some time thinking about what is beneath that anger. It is okay to be angry-call it for what it is and try to do something that may channel that energy. For some, working out helps them process anger. For others, it helps to write or talk about it. Do what helps you.
Perhaps you are doing seemingly well, while your friends or family may be financially struggling or having health concerns.
Ways to Cope: If you have a lot of things to be grateful for during this time, it is okay to acknowledge that! Also, if you are doing well financially, consider ways that you can provide resources to those in need.
Some people are not feeling stressed right now. This could be due to you feeling hopeful that things will work out, or it could also be from experiencing a chaotic situation in the past.
Ways to Cope: If you are feeling calm, try to reflect on what is contributing to that feeling. Also, engage in behaviors that reinforce that sense of calm, such as gardening, listening to music, etc.
Right now, people are mourning about a lot of different things. You may be mourning the loss of an event. Some folks are grieving the healthcare inequalities that are once again re-surfacing for black and brown communities. You may have lost a loved one to COVID-19. Your children may be mourning not experiencing milestone events, such as prom or graduation. You may be grieving the loss of the life that you had before COVID-19.
Ways to cope: Allow yourself the space to grieve. If you need to cry, cry. We cannot move towards acceptance if we don’t first acknowledge what we are currently experiencing. Then, consider ways that you can honor that person or missed event. For example, perhaps you set up a virtual graduation party for your child or have some form of a memorial service for someone that you may have lost. Maybe it is doing something that is a tradition for the family to acknowledge the person or the event, if possible. Engaging in activities like these help us process that grief and find acceptance to where we are in the moment.
You may not be feeling well, anything right now. In trauma, our minds often have a fight, flight, or freeze response. Perhaps you are in shock about everything that is happening right now.
Ways to Cope: When we are numb, we are not engaged. Thus, it can help to find ways to get connected to things that can help manage stress. Exercising, calling a friend, or participating in an activity, such as cooking a healthy meal, can help you re-connect safely.
You might be worried about what this means for the future. There is a lot of uncertainty about what is going to happen from moment to moment. You may be concerned about your family or loved ones getting sick. You may also be anticipating losing things that you were looking forward to.
Ways to Cope: Anxiety seems to creep up when we feel like things are out of our control. Instead of focusing on what may not be in control, consider things that are still in your control and choose to focus on being in the moment with those things. You can also remind yourself of times in the past when things were out of your control, and you still survived that event. Also, consider limiting the amount of time you watch the news or anything that may be triggering that anxiety.
Not good enough. You might be spending a lot more time online and seeing folks that may seem to be extra productive during this time, which may lead to you believing that you are not doing enough at this time. You may see folks thriving in their business or hitting physical health goals, etc. all amidst the pandemic. This can lead to one comparing themselves to someone else.
Ways to Cope: Remember, each of us will have a different reaction to everything that is going on. I am going to say this twice: You do not need to be productive right now. You do not need to be productive right now. If you feel up to being productive right now, go for it. However, sometimes the need to be productive can be damaging to our mental health if we are not doing what we need for ourselves. Try to limit your time on social media if that is triggering that feeling for you. Set small goals for yourself based on where you are. If you are having trouble getting out of bed, make that your goal for the day. If you feel better when you work out, set a goal to do a fifteen-minute walk. Doing what you need to care for yourself is important-celebrate that victory!
Whether you are feeling some of these feelings or something completely different, know that it is normal to feel what you feel. We all have various feelings in response to stress, and right now, we are dealing with a pandemic-you have a right to be in your feelings! The critical thing to realize is that we can do something to help ourselves feel better, even now. Acknowledge the feeling and try to do things that bring life to your life. If you feel like you need additional support, reach out to a mental health professional or someone that can help you process those feelings. There is strength in reaching out for help when needed. You are not alone in this.
Do what you need to do to become that cared for, healthier you.