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Coping when the world comes undone

Everyone is affected by the current COVID-19 situation, some to greater extents than others but all of our lives have been changed in some manner. Seeing friends via Zoom or some virtual platform isn’t the same as going on jogs together, grabbing drinks, hugging, or dancing at parties. Distance is painful, and everyone is feeling it. Add to that the fear of having a loved one become sick with the virus and being unable to see them. That type of fear and helplessness is what nightmares are made of.

It may seem near impossible to recall a time when life did not feel like one big crisis of uncertainty. One thing that always has been and always will be constant however; change. Things cannot stay this way forever and while there is widespread loss, grief, and trauma—drawing from the universal human experience of it all can aid in easing some of the uncomfortable feelings associated with this mess…even just a little bit. This blog will focus on that unity and quieting of the mind during these scary times.

First, I would like to start with a quote that speaks to the ebb and flow of life and how healing and peace remain possible.

If this quote brings you any type of peace right now, wonderful. If it enrages you because you think it glosses over and diminishes the current situation befalling our world, that’s ok too. I will elaborate on a couple of the take home points that this quote brings out for me and how it may be helpful to you.  

Leaning ito Uncertainty and Discomfort

When something awful occurs, people search for answers, a solution, and/or something or someone to blame. Having a clearcut end in sight or a scapegoat makes people feel safer. But just as the above quote says, things don’t exactly get “solved.” Problems are dynamic and evolve, because the situation can change day to day or hour to hour. One of the most brilliant infectious disease doctors in the world, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said that even the sobering death toll estimation is fluid because it’s based off of a projection of current data, and that data changes daily. Social distancing is a measure to take to help lessen the effects of the virus, but it’s not magic. There is no one answer to solve this problem that has so many different components.

Unfortunately (and fortunately!), nothing in life is static, and allowing yourself to feel the discomfort of uncertainly can actually aid you in moving through it with less dysfunction in the long run. Whether you are feeling uncertain about the situation as a whole or your personal situation (like financial circumstances), drawing on the collective feeling of uncertainty can allow you to still feel connected and have hope that collective solutions will be found in time. Also, please find the courage to reach out to others for connection and for help when you need it.

Giving Up the Need to Control

What often bothers us the most are the things that are beyond our control. These are the things that often replay in our head over and over because again, we want answers to uncertainties. To help bring yourself some peace during these times, choose to give energy only to the things that you can act on right now. Continue living the best way that you can. Spend time reflecting on what brings you peace and do that.

Things in your control right now
  • Reading for pleasure
  • Having a happy hour online with friends
  • Being in nature
  • Donating food
  • Using the time to truly connect with your family
  • Allowing others to help you
  • Taking care of your health
  • Allowing yourself to rest 

What is in your power is giving yourself some time to rest. Allow yourself to accept that it’s ok to need more rest than normal because great changes have occurred. If you feel lethargic, depressed, or numb—emotional changes are expected when your world has been turned upside down. You can’t necessarily control your initial emotional reaction, but you CAN control what you give attention to. Consider what’s healthy for you. That may include focusing less on the virus. Prioritize what absolutely needs to get done, it is ok to put some things on the back burner. And if you are a health worker in any capacity, please try your best to find time to decompress and NOT focus on the virus by doing some of the above, no matter how hard that may seem.

Allowing Yourself to Feel 

It may seem counterintuitive, but suppressing feelings and trying to cover them up actually can prolong and intensify them. Just as Pema Chödrön’s quote indicates, creating space for ALL emotions, whether they are comfortable or not, helps us to heal and work through them. Honor yourself and your own individual reaction to the current situation in the world by taking the time to reflect on what comes up for you without judgment.

Common reactions to the current coronavirus impact
  • Shock/disbelief
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Numbness/feeling blank
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling a sense of doom/dread

Another way to help work through difficult feelings is to try your best to practice gratitude. Are you safe and warm in your house? Do you currently have your health? Did you get to play with a child today? What about the flowers blooming outside? There are always things to be grateful for, no matter how seemingly small. Focusing on those things can help to bring a bit of peace back into your mind.

We’re Here For You

As things seemingly fall apart, we can work together toward having them come together again. We are here for you during this time of crisis. Though feeling a virtual presence is not the same as us working with you in person, Angelus remains committed to continue to be present with you through these unprecedented times. We offer online counseling, and are happy to walk you through the process so you are comfortable with the technology set up well before your first online counseling appointment. We are committed to supporting you every step of the way and want to make sure you are as comfortable as possible so that you can access the services you need. We will be here for you.

available resources

never stop learning

Pema Chodran Foundation

The Top 48 Most Motivational and Inspirational Websites

Blog Credit: Natalie Drozda, MA, LPC is a PH.D student in Counseling Education and Supervision at Duquesne University & therapist at Angelus Therapeutic Services

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