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COVID-19 has thrown us a unique curveball that most of us never anticipated. We are dealing with a level of uncertainty and disruption that we are not used to and it’s occurring nationally. Uncertainty can throw many of us into a panic. Typically, we weather lifestyle changes and disruptions (loss of a job, health crises, change in family status, death) on a much smaller scale and often view others as operating just fine in comparison to how we are functioning. However, now it seems like most of us are in the same boat. COVID-19 seems to be the great equalizer in terms of its ability to bring much of our normal activity and routine to a screeching halt.
Before continuing, it’s worth noting there is a difference between reactive emotions related to a situation and a state of clinical depression and anxiety. People with chronic depression and anxiety may find their baseline symptoms increased due to the effects of COVID-19, while people who have never experienced mental health challenges will likely experience intermittent feelings of anxiety, anger, irritability and sadness that are situational in nature. We may feel overwhelmed with this combination of uncertainty and disruption and both groups need additional support during this time.
One of the most challenging things we are facing is lifestyle interruption with no clear end date. Knowing roughly how long we’ll have to deal with something is typically helpful. While we do indeed know this will end, we don’t know when, and that can trigger anxiety.
Many people have lost a sense of routine and structure. We wonder how to plan and how this virus may impact our ability to participate in much-anticipated and well-planned events in the next two months, like weddings and graduations. Most of us thrive on routine and having some sense of predictability and ability to control our future.
The steps taken to combat the spread of this virus have resulted in many of our assumptions being challenged, changed or blocked. All of these things can result in feelings of helplessness and hopelessness with increasing anxiety and despair. We are dealing with multiple layers of stress with a reduction on available outlets and ways to manage that stress.
So, how do we manage and ensure that we don’t spiral in terms of our emotions and mental health? You are not alone. There are many others feeling just as you are. We are in this together and we will get through this as a nation. Meanwhile, here are a few tips that you may find helpful in the interim: