COVID-19 has impacted everything we do from work to school to vacation plans. One emotion we are all dealing with related COVID is disappointment for the way it's affecting our lives. Dealing with the disappointments and losses that COVID has caused in our lives is no different than dealing with grief. You are mourning the fact that your school year is turned upside down, your work has significantly changed, or your plans for the future are on hold. Acknowledge your feelings for what they are and then use healthy ways to express them. Talk to friends, use art, journaling or another creative path. Acknowledging and expressing your feelings is essential to coping with the stress you are experiencing.
When we are trying to cope with stress, it is important that we talk to ourselves rather than listen to ourselves. Turn your thoughts to what you have rather than on what you have lost. Try to identify the ways in which this new normal has good things to teach us. What opportunities do you have to learn...to do projects, to reach out to family, to help your neighbor? Don't give into negativity, but pivot your thinking to what you have and what you can still do.
To cope try shifting your thinking by asking these few questions: What does this current situation have to teach me that will help me in the future? How can I use this time to learn a new skill or ability? What practices can I put in place now so I come out on the other side a better person? What are some ways I can serve my community? Focusing on questions like these will shift your focus from what is wrong onto hope and growth.
Having a sense that you are moving forward can help offset your stress. To cope you need to be proactive. Be intentional about learning and growing as a person. Seek out input that renews your mind and promotes growth. Read biographies or topics you've wanted to learn about. Watch inspirational movies, TED talks or YouTube clips. Meet with friends or join online forums with people who share your interests. Spend time everyday investing yourself and you will find new energy and a shift in your thinking.
Experiencing some form of accomplishment can send yourself the message that you are empowered and have control. Set personal goals for today, this week, this month or this year. For instance “today I want to learn how to make a cake from scratch”. “This week I want to paint a room”. “This month I want to read three books”. “This year I want to study a new language”. Focus on what you can control and the things you can't will have much less impact on your mood.
-Jerry Strausbaugh, EdD, LPCC-S, Executive Director, Appleseed Community Mental Health Center