By Tracy Hall, Ph.D., LMFT
The pandemic has had a significant impact on each of us in different ways. Depending on personality, life experiences, age and other factors, we all have a unique perspective and mindset. Some may feel like they barely skipped a beat and that this season has been, at most, an inconvenience, and at best, an opportunity to spend more time at home with loved ones or tackle some home improvement projects. For others, it has been a scary time, a lonely time and a time without much hope. Here are a few things to keep in mind as we all strive for hope in the midst of the pandemic.
Keeping Things in Perspective
It’s important to maintain a healthy perspective because it informs our thoughts, feelings and actions. To this day, only two percent of Americans have tested positive for COVID-19, and most have already recovered. Less than three percent of people in Tennessee have tested positive. While we should still take wise precautions, we must recognize anxiety that can come from a time like this can definitely be out of proportion to the level of risk. Also, it doesn’t help when a very rare, outlier case gets paraded by the media, which can be assumed as the norm when it is actually the exception.
Anxiety and depression tend to be higher when we have a sense of uncertainty. We feel safer when we can make reasonable predictions, but so much of this time seems unpredictable. We hear conflicting messages from every direction, and some struggle to break away from the 24-hour news stations or social media, which typically makes symptoms worse. With my clients, I have seen how the time they spend on media directly correlates to their levels of anxiety. Personally, I check a trusted website once or twice a week and get an update on facts instead of spending time consuming everyone’s speculation and opinions.
The best coping strategies during this time are the same ones that have always worked…pre-COVID. Some of them may need a little tweaking. Journal, talk with a friend (maybe on Zoom, maybe on a patio with a little distance), eat right, exercise, spend time outside in the sunshine, etc. Find ways to practice good self-maintenance by meeting the needs in each area of your life: mental, physical, spiritual and social.
Looking Beyond Your Circumstances
I would also challenge you to ask yourself, “How do I determine what makes a good day/month/year?” Many people would quickly say 2020 is a bad year. Do you evaluate it based on your circumstances? If so, it could easily be a bad year: A pandemic, isolation, social unrest, job loss, a flat tire. The list goes on. If this is your measuring stick, then it’s not up to you whether you experience a good day or not. It’s luck of the draw. On the other hand, is it based on your choices and actions? With this option, you get to determine whether it is a good day or month or year.
None of this is meant to invalidate the legitimate grief and loss people are experiencing. We must recognize that each person’s situation is different. Some have had extra time on their hands to get things done around the house, while others have taken a major financial hit and are simply in survival mode. Whatever your situation, find ways to love, serve, comfort and bless others. It honors God and fights depression.
Hope is essential. It is especially important now, and we must remember that this won’t last forever. We know that God set a rainbow in the sky to promise that he would never destroy the world by flood again. Sometimes I go years without seeing a rainbow, but in 2020, I have seen no less than four rainbows. A couple of them have been the brightest, most vivid rainbows I have ever seen. You could say I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, but I choose to believe that God is still God and his promises are still true.
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