Talking to clients, family and friends about the quarantine, I am hearing many of the same things. “I’m feeling tired. This is getting old. I don’t know what to do with my time. I’m really irritable. When is this going to end? This is making me more anxious than I had been. I feel sad. I feel depressed. What’s going to happen with my kid’s school? What’s going to happen to my job? What does the new normal look like?” It is so normal to have any and all of these feelings and questions. Basically, all of us have had our lives turned upside down by this virus and quarantine.
I know the moms and dads who are trying to work from home and monitor their kid’s school work are very stressed. The people who work in restaurants are wondering when and if they will have a job. Students are missing proms, graduations and most of all just being with friends. Kids who need structure are not adapting well to distance learning, not to mention the teachers who were given no time to adapt lesson plans. College students who are graduating wonder when and if they will be able to get a job. And, over and above all the anxiety producing situations each of us are in, we all have the over- arching worry about the virus itself, “Will I get it, will someone I love get it?” It is scary!
So, again, all normal to be stressed, anxious, sad, afraid, but we can all have hope this quarantine will not last forever. In the meantime, we can do things to help ourselves through this time. We can use coping strategies.
I watched a brief training from trauma expert, Bessel von der Kolk and he discussed how this quarantine has Preconditions for Trauma. He talked about why this is true, but more importantly, he gave ideas on how to navigate through this time to come out the other end feeling OK. Here are the problems he outlined and the ways we can combat the effects:
– Lack of predictability- we don’t know when this will end or how we might be affected. What we can do is take control over our life and the things we can control like planning our day, organizing, keeping a schedule, going to bed and getting up at the same time we normally would, planning healthy meals, planning things to look forward to like maybe a Zoom lunch with a friend or a Zoom “cocktail party” with a group of friends or family.
– Immobility- We don’t get to move freely and go the places we normally go. But we can take walks, do yoga, maybe do that home project we’ve been putting off, have a dance party, do a fun craft, build something.
– Loss of connection with people- we need to stay in touch with the people we care about, phone, text, Face time, social media. People have been getting very creative with this.
– Numbing out/ spacing out- Mindfulness helps with this. There are some good mindfulness activities on YouTube. Listening to music, motivational podcasts, reading inspirational books and stories on line. I have been mentioning to clients not to drink, take drugs or overeat. Those things end up making you feel worse afterward.
– Loss of time and sequence- Keeping a schedule, watching enough news to know what’s going on, but not so much it becomes upsetting.
– Loss of safety- Remind yourself that following the guidelines will keep you safe.
– Loss of a sense of person- spend some time thinking about accomplishments and goals. Talk to a colleague, a work friend, someone who respects what you do. Talk to someone who is upbeat and helps you feel better when you are with them.
The important thing is to know you are not alone in this. All of us have struggles of some sort. This is a time to be gentle on yourself, to treat yourself like you would treat your best friend and remind yourself you will be OK. This, too, shall pass.