Life in the middle of a global pandemic is an experience, that outside of reading The Hot Zone, I’d ever really considered. I feel incredibly lucky to be safe in my house with my family. We have shelter and food, and unlike when there’s a hurricane barreling toward the Texas Gulf Coast, I’m not worried about losing power or my house physically getting damaged. We have other worries though. Like how long will this last? What about the people who are not as fortunate as us? What will happen if we get sick in spite of all of our efforts to social distance? All this is on top of trying to all be in the same space all the time, while being harmonious and productive.
This is NOT normal. And that’s OK. This is a period of time that is marked with a lot of uncomfortable feelings and that’s OK. Feelings are not good or bad, they are comfortable and uncomfortable and arguably it is normal to have an array of feelings at this point, even super uncomfortable ones. Finding peace while being uncomfortable can be a real challenge, but it’s important that we try to work through it as best we can, so we don’t let it completely drag us down either.
When we look at the cost of prolonged stress on our bodies, it impairs our sleep quality and overall energy levels. It robs of us the emotional tools to deal with life, our kids, our spouse and other responsibilities. It completely drains our tank. It takes time and effort to process all the emotions coursing through us, but actually making time to do so will put us in a better place to help others and help ourselves. It will also open us to the possibility of new opportunities that are waiting for us on the other side of struggle.
We cannot fix the external stressors bearing down on us, but we can make time to process them and connect with how it’s making an impact. We’ve found that for us and our clients, the daily practice of slowing down to tune in and engage yourself is essential. With this practice, you understand the layers of emotion at a much deeper level, which helps you then clarify what you need to do to actually address the things you can change and release the things you can’t.
Specifically taking time to journal can help. Upon waking, dedicating 15-20 minutes to writing about your current thoughts, helps you to organize, label emotions and acknowledge traumatic events. Some days it may be as simple as getting it on paper so you can forget about it. Other days, you may unleash a torrid of emotion where you realize what you thought you was bothering you was merely masking a much different issue. It’s one of the very best tools available for caring for yourself.
Journaling is merely one step to caring for your emotional and mental self. Sharing some of your struggles and being able to confidently talk through difficult things with a trusted companion is also beneficial. If journaling doesn’t help and you feel you’re are struggling, reaching out to someone you trust becomes crucial. If you are needing more support than what a friend or family member could provide consider reaching out to a professional counselor. Most professional counselors have transitioned to virtual practices (for the time being) because the trauma of what we are going through right now, is real. You may be fine now, but you may also realize in the future that you do need some help. It is usually easier to get out in front of some of the difficult things we might be struggling with than waiting until we are at the “end-of-our-ropes”, so consider this thoroughly as you examine your individual needs.
Also realize that the circumstances that we are in right now may bring up old feelings and issues to work through that have little to do with our current circumstances. It’s only that our situation triggered the need to deal with them.
Ultimately, we have to make time to deal with feelings we’d rather avoid, like grief and anxiety. It takes courage and it can be a difficult process, but it can also be a very good one. Growth happens when we are moved outside of our comfort zone.
At least a couple times a week, make time to also acknowledge what you’re grateful for in this life. It helps to refocus your perspective on all that’s in motion and your life as a whole.
Finally, we’d encourage you to be consistent. Don’t just journal when you’re upset. Make it part of your weekly routine to check in with yourself. Questions you may want to ask yourself, if you’re struggling to write:
- How are you really right now?
- How did you feel when that happened?
- What was it like when your spouse came home and said …?
- What does this mean for you?
- What does this mean for your family?
These can be hard answers to find and process, but they will help you sort your feelings to grieve and heal. You won’t be the same on the other side of this, but why would you be the same? A huge life event has happened. None of us will be the same, but most certainly we can be whole again.
See Sarah’s Facebook Live on this topic for additional color and insights.