COVID-19 Advice: Stop Trying to Cope and Start Feeling
You’re nervous. You’re scared. You’re feeling the loss of being unable to be close to loved ones. You’re grieving the loss of people you don’t know. Maybe you’re grieving the loss of people you do know and you couldn’t say goodbye in the way in which you wanted. You don’t know what to do aside from what the CDC recommends. You’re confused by all the misinformation and it’s only driving up your anxiety. You’re angry because you don’t know who to blame. You’re jealous because other people are healthy or are still on the job, but you’re sick or out of work. You feel inadequate because you "should" be able to put on a brave face. You're stressed because you have all these unanswered questions and your thoughts race whenever your head hits the pillow.
It feels like you're a single grain of sand watching high tide slowly roll in to greet you.
You wish this didn’t happen. You wish it would be over soon, but COVID-19 isn't going any where anytime soon.
You’re looking for ways to cope. A quick fix, a one shot deal would be great right about now. An answer, a cure for all that ails you. A panacea for your panoply of emotions. You want desperately to be feeling good and thinking good.You're struggling to see any positives. You want to cope so bad you binge watch a series you’ve already seen a hundred times just to revel in a sense of nostalgia and comfort, but you feel nothing but frustration.
And now, here you are, reading this blog post, hoping for answer, but I’m going to suggest something radical. Hear me out for a minute.
Stop trying to cope.
Not for the whole time. Not forever. Just for a bit. Give yourself sometime to grieve the loss of trust, safety, normality, comfort, companionship, love, power and control.
What you’re feeling is overwhelming, but it’s normal. These are overwhelming times, it stands to reason that our feelings would be the same.
These feelings need to be honored.
They need you to allow yourself a minute to feel and not numb up or look for a quick way out. Validate what you're experiencing. Validate that you are having these feelings and have every right to feel them.
I could teach you all about what the best evidence based treatments would say you should think, feel, and do at a time like this. I could teach you how to distract yourself, train you in the art of mindfulness meditation and help you focus on the present. I could teach you how to question your thoughts, challenge them then change them for the better. I could help you recognize that you, everyone, already have the knowledge, skills, and abilities that will help you manage this crisis. And even if you don’t have expert knowledge and skills, you, yes YOU, the individual reading this post, you have a survival instinct that has kept our species alive for thousands of years and it will continue to do so for thousands of years more.
Any good therapist could teach you these skills and more, but any good therapist would also want you to face these difficult emotions, so, what I’m asking you to do is to stop trying to cope and start feeling these emotions you don’t want to feel.
There is power in braving the fear and the hurt.
In fact, you will be stronger when you honor the fact that this is some heavy duty shit we’re dealing with right now.
We’re losing people by the hundreds every day. We can see it on the news, in the tired faces of our healthcare workers and other essential employees. We can hear it on talk radio and the sirens blaring down the street. We can read it in the Facebook posts and Instagram stories. This is a reality that is both real and unbelievable at the same time. It's also a reality that is not going away for the time being.
Honor that disbelief. Honor your fear and grief.
You’ll be stronger for doing so.
Then, after you’ve allowed yourself the time you need to feel, get back to calling your friends and family. Stat connected. It’s not Netflix that will help us through this time. It’s our significant connections.
Stay safe, stay healthy, stay home.