Life is full of challenges. Sometimes there is an overwhelming feeling of helplessness or hopelessness that might set in, making it difficult for people to trust their own intuition, or feel confused about how they are supposed to feel. This is especially true at a time like this, during a pandemic: COVID-19, Corona Virus.
As the world is facing the threat of Corona Virus, and as the virus’s consequences become more real and affect our immediate communities, fear, anxiety, irritability, even anger, and of course sadness and despair are normal emotional reactions.
Without the comfort of knowing what to do, we might scramble to find answers on how to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
As medical officials tell us how to clean our environment and how to cover our faces or wash our hands, we might feel even more desperate or frightened. We might even begin to think of obsessive thoughts and question ourselves, wondering if we have done everything we can.
If we go by definition, the above describes the anatomy of trauma. This is how traumatic events affect our mental health.
In this blog, I am hoping to accomplish one goal, and that is to bring to awareness the lessons we have learned from past traumatic experiences and apply them to this situation. Here are at least three tips and ideas to keep in mind:
At times of crisis, the mind will want to jump ahead of things and think of the worse case scenario. This is the mind’s attempt to preemptively keep you as safe as possible, because having had thought of the worse case makes you prepared for the worse case, or does it?
As it turns out, staying in the present time, focusing on everything you do know, and not making assumptions about how much worse it is going to get allows you to use your resources in a far more adaptive way. Being in a state of pessimism ultimately makes you feel hopeless, and when there is no perception of hope, you wouldn’t reach out for help or use the positive resources around you. That will make your situation far worse.
In the wake of crises, people might fall into dysregulated patterns of living, where their eating, sleeping, exercising and daily routines might alter. During the initial stages of becoming aware of a crisis, such as fire or an accident, such dysregulations are inevitable.
However, during more prolonged crises such as the pandemic we are currently dealing with, returning to a more predictive routine will make a huge difference in how well your immune system will be ready to fight. Sleeping on a regular schedule, eating fresh and healthy foods, stretching exercises such as yoga and activities that are more aerobic (like brisk walks in the outdoors) are strongly recommended.
Taking breaks from the news and not obsessively following the updates on the spread of the virus is actually a good idea.
Staying away from excessive alcohol and all recreational drugs including smoking is also particularly important, as you are trying to actually boost your natural health rather than making yourself more vulnerable. Lastly, staying connected with people you trust and love and reaching out to those whom you have not been in contact with recently is actually a fantastic mood elevator, and gives you a sense of belonging and being cared for.
Mixed emotions associated with quarantines:
If you have been separated from your loved ones, you can experience feelings such as fear and isolation, and maybe even rejection and loneliness. You are also likely to experience some guilt, shame, or self-blame. Rest assured that while those emotions are valid and perhaps predictable, they are transient and likely due to the temporary shock of the traumatic event of being quarantined.
Similarly, if a loved one is separated from you and kept in quarantine, you might experience guilt or shame around feeling relieved, or anxiety of being separated and a wish to join them, or just stressed from all the close monitoring of the symptoms. Again, such emotions are expected and normal reactions to a crisis. And yet, it is important to keep in mind that such emotions are transient, and that you should not fall for emotional reasoning, which is making decisions or jumping to conclusions based on the emotions of that moment.
Fluctuations in Mood:
Everyone responds differently to stress and anxiety related to getting sick. In fact, everyone responds differently to the idea of death, being that of their own or of a loved one. So recognizing your own emotions and being able to name them, to speak about them to a mental health professional, to keep a personal journal, or to choose to share them with a trusted loved one, are all incredibly helpful steps you can take to protect yourself at a time that self care is the name of the game.