Wouldn’t you agree this has been one of the worst years yet? The isolation created by the COVID pandemic, and everything surrounding it? Depending on who you talk to the answer to this question varies. Some become engulfed in the negativity of their surroundings, spiraling into a toxic cycle of thought. While others who practice gratitude may tell you something different.
We all have unique experiences, among the shared one that is the pandemic. I am sure we are all familiar with our own personal struggles brought on or worsened by it. Many clients I have talked to have highlighted the isolation caused by the pandemic, with the majority focusing on the negative effects of it. However, some have recognized the opportunity for self-improvement and reflection that has been provided by this isolation.
Are you the same person as you were before COVID? What changes have you noticed? Instead of going to the negative (as our minds often do), try to put a name on the positive changes you have noticed in yourself: have you become stronger? More resilient? This type of thinking is characterized as challenging negative thought processes.
How we perceive things is our reality, which is why challenging these negative thought processes and practicing gratitude is critical to our well-being and happiness. When I notice myself spiraling into negative thought processes, I consciously make the decision to stop myself and list a few things that I am grateful for (however big or small). It can be difficult at first to recognize negative and unproductive trains of thought, but the more this is done the easier it becomes.
Here are some simple ways to practice gratitude:
Watch inspiring videos that will remind you of the good in the world.
Call your loved ones more often.
Add to your gratitude list daily.
Challenge your inner critic.
See the opportunities for growth and development in your mistakes.
Finally, do not forget to be grateful for yourself! For all your capabilities, your passions, and even your quirks. Reflect on all that you have accomplished in your life, and those who have supported you along the way.
It seems like a lifetime ago when we could freely roam about our communities without worries of catching a deadly virus. Life is certainly more unpredictable these days with the COVID-19 pandemic running its course. It used to be that we’d wake up and know fairly well how our day was going to go. We had the security of a job, a fairly good assurance of coming home without any type of virus, and a routine that helped us feel stable.
However, since COVID-19, we’re living in a world where fear and panic have risen to the surface, with many people struggling to cope each day.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), fear and panic are defined as intensified or excessive fear launched by something specific. Panic is defined as intense or paralyzing fear that tends to come on suddenly.
Life as normal changed when our everyday lives were hit with COVID-19. No longer could we wake up and use our freedom to engage in work or our communities as we pleased. No longer could we face each day with a certainty that we and our loved ones would be alright. The underlying emotion in most homes has become fear and panic.
Effects On Mental Health Workers
As a psychotherapist working in a hospital, I’ve witnessed the direct effects COVID-19 has had on health care workers. A co-worker shared with me how challenging it’s been for her to watch patients suffer alone. In one instance, she had a patient quarantined with the virus. His family was not allowed in the room to see him, so she moved his bed by the window so he could see them as he talked to them on the phone. The grief and fear healthcare workers are carrying can become quite heavy at times. They are courageously stepping it up to care for those that fall ill, all-the-while trying to practice self-care.
COVID-19 And Generalized Anxiety
When someone experiences persistent, intense worry, it’s diagnosed as Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It could very well be that most of the world is experiencing these symptoms directly due to the pandemic. Anxiety, fear, and panic have set the stage for communities to begin living life in a different, self-distancing, isolated way. All of us have had to change our routines and make life adjustments that we hope will keep ourselves and our families safe.
To date, statistics report that almost four million people have COVID-19 around the world. Over 265,000 have died. The tragedy of loss behind the numbers is huge. The grief that cries out around the globe monstrous. All the while, most people continue to struggle with the same questions.
When will this be over?
Will I be alright? Will my family be alright?
What if I get sick?
Will I get my job back?
How am I going to recover from this?
What will life be like after the pandemic?
Moving forward, it will be important that all of us try to cultivate a new sense of normal. A sense of stability post COVID-19.
Preparing For Life After The Virus
Most people want to get back to work and a sense of normalcy. They’re eager to get back to a routine with some stability. Routines help us feel stable and help bring a calming to our emotions. For children, parents can help them prepare for going back to school or being at home without parents when they return to work by keeping routine and structure in place at home during the pandemic. Children tend to thrive better when there are schedules and consistency.
For adults, practicing self-care is essential. With the excess free time we’re experiencing, be sure to fill that time with things that nurture yourself. Get plenty of sleep. Take time to exercise. Do things that you enjoy. It’s easy to let boredom in the cracks, so consciously take on each day as it comes, engaging in meaningful tasks for yourself and with your loved ones.
Hope For Life Post COVID-19
There will be a day when the pandemic is over. Keep that in mind. People will return to work. Children will return to school or daycare. The economy will startup again. Offer gratitude for what will be once again in the near future, as well as for all the good in your life right now. Enjoy the simple things right under your nose.
In the grand scheme of things, it is an opportune time to evaluate our values and priorities. We have some time to reflect on what’s most important to us, as well as learn valuable lessons along the way regarding health, relationships with loved ones, community, and life in general.