By Rob Jost, LMFT
The world sure has changed quickly!
As we all try to figure out how to manage our new day-to-day lives, maintaining our mental health can be particularly challenging. Many of our safety nets of routines have been taken away, which means some of us struggle dealing with our loneliness, while others of us look to creatively figure out how to share our living space with loved ones. In whichever situation you find yourself, adjustments are being made and a faint sense of normalcy may slowly begin to settle in.
In uncertain times, it’s quite natural that feelings of worry, concern and despair arise. It is important that we keep feeling what arises for us, while also taking care of ourselves along the way. If we find ourselves feeling too much in the hole of sadness, perhaps it’s a signal to reach out and speak with someone. Connecting, sharing with others, especially for the introverts amongst us, at this time is especially important. We may feel alone and lonely, but we truly are all in this together, and need each other’s care and compassion. Sharing our concerns in a vulnerable and open way actually brings people closer together, as it paves a path of openness and healing, and a container for more meaningful connection gets created.
It is interesting to examine this upheaval from a perspective of stages of grief. While the stages typically describe what an individual goes through when a personal loss occurs, we as a society have reflected each of the stages thus far. Each of the stages is needed in order to fully reach acceptance, and yet they do not typically occur in a linear fashion. Perhaps, they also mirror some of your own recent views or experiences:
Denial – much of the country and the world (other than a few countries that seem to have successfully curbed the virus) exhibited denial about the severity of the virus. While health officials and scientists studying viral infections warned us about a serious outbreak, many of our leaders have reacted in a reactive instead of a proactive way.
Anger – sometimes confused as the “unwanted” emotion, anger is very necessary to process our loss. For me, my anger channeled at seeing the spring break beach goers ignoring warnings about limiting social gatherings. And, I’m sure those in my inner circle would tell you that my anger felt as though it was directed to them. Whatever it may be at this time that angers you – feel it, process it, and accept it. If the anger gets projected onto a loved one – apologize.
Bargaining – making wishful “deals” in our mind in hopes of controlling the uncontrollable. “I swear I’ll do _______ just to make things go away.”
Depression – what many of us may feel right now, and yet it’s a necessary step. To really feel the gravity of what is happening is important, as it allows us to move through what we feel naturally. This is when we really need to reach out to take care of ourselves. Dealing with depression, on our own, through a difficult time is a large burden to bear. If you find yourself struggling, please reach out to those that care for you and let them help you through this time.
Acceptance – in this stage we see things more clearly, and act accordingly. Life still goes on, and we once again begin to engage with it with a renewed sense of ourselves. It doesn’t mean everything is magically better, but we become more OK with what is.
The stages aren’t neat in order, and even after acceptance, we revert to the previous stages. Hence, the importance of honoring and feeling what is happening to us, while also doing what’s needed on our end to keep our mental health in balance. It’s not easy, and yet so important.