We find ourselves in a sort of “limbo” these days. Some Stay Home restrictions are being extended while others are being lifted and we see some businesses open up while others remain closed. While we’ve all been waiting for a return to normal, the steps towards that, while necessary for our collective safety, are filled with a roller coaster of emotions for many of us.
So check in with yourselves. What are you feeling? Remember there are no “correct” emotions to be experiencing during such an unprecedented and challenging situation. So simply try to accept everything you are feeling each day.
As counselors, we get a unique glance at the variety of emotions this pandemic has triggered. Through our work with our clients (and on ourselves), we are moving towards a better understanding of the mental health effects of this pandemic. The effects are monumental, as people work through emotions such as uncertainty, anxiety, fear, depression, trauma and anger. Quarantine itself has triggered so many feelings, and on the other side of the double-edged-sword, stepping back out into the world as the Stay Home order is scaled back comes with its own set of difficulties. Many people are experiencing the feel of the new normal as “post-apocalyptic”, complete with the strangeness of keeping a 6 foot distance from everyone, the odd sea of masked faces in public places, the changes in familiar places (barriers, 6-foot stickers, new signs, etc.) and the overall tension in the air.
So much as we’ve all wanted to be able to go out into the world again, don’t be surprised if you find this experience scary, confusing, or uncomfortably strange. We’ve gathered some ideas on managing the transition and addressing the emotions that are likely to come up:
- Practice mindfulness. Observe your feelings and allow yourself to have them, without judgment. Fear, anger, sadness, worry. There’s no emotion that is not okay to feel. Billions of people are feeling these emotions during this pandemic.
- Follow the new rules of engagement as much as you can. You may not like them, and you may not even agree with them, but you might actually notice yourself feeling a sense of safety and control by following them to the best of your ability e.g. try to wear a mask where required, clean your hands, keep a distance from others as best you can. If you are having a hard time accepting the new rules, it might help to remember that you following the rules is likely to help others feel safe around you.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself if you touch your face, bump into someone, or forget your mask at home. The new rules are new for all of us! We are all doing the best we can. Try to resist judging yourself, and practice forgiveness as you allow yourself time to adjust.
- If you’re feeling stressed about going into a store or other places, take some time to mentally prepare. Listen to some calming music, listen to a guided meditation, or do some deep breathing (5-second in breath, 5-second out breath) before leaving the house, in the car, etc.
- Talk and/or write about your experience as much as you are able to. Allow yourself to think and write about how you feel, because your feelings are valid and deserve to be processed. And chances are, others are feeling similar things, so why not talk about it?
- If you’re not feeling safe or ready to go out or gather, don’t push yourself. Just because certain things are allowed again and people are venturing out does not mean you have to until you’re ready. Be honest/assertive with your friends/loved ones if you’re not feeling ready.
- It’s okay to be frustrated about how different things are or how long it’s taking for things to open up (like hair salons and gyms!). Get creative with what is currently allowed. Try golf, go for a bike ride, grab takeout and have a picnic, or grab some craft supplies curbside!
- Keep counseling in mind as an option. Sometimes, just having a specific person to process with can make transitions easier. Counselors are well-trained in helping people with change, uncertainty, anxiety, sadness, and more. They can guide you towards coping skills and help you process and understand complex emotions.
It’s unlikely that anyone is immune to negative emotions of one kind or another during a global pandemic. The strangeness of the current situation means any and all feelings are valid. Do try some of the suggestions above and share them with those around you who you struggling (kids, coworkers, family members, friends, clients, etc). We are all in this together!