You cannot always control what goes on outside. But you can always control what goes on inside.
Has your mental health been affected since COVID-19 began nearly two years ago? Do you feel anxious, depressed, angry, sad, frustrated, isolated, or fearful?
You are not alone!
These are the feelings that are permeating through my private practice from most of my clients, including yours truly. Depression and anxiety are most common. The world has been attacked in a way never in our history for those of you who are reading this now. It’s an enemy we can’t see, hear, or negotiate with. It’s a silent monster and killer that has affected our state of mind as well as our physical well-being.
Those of us who have been spared the nightmare of the disease and death have still been adversely affected. Many of our relationships in and out of our immediate families have been challenged, disrupted, and even terminated due to the psychological implications and consequences this virus has caused. This has been a major contributor to depression and anxiety.
Parents, teachers, and staffers are at war with those governors who are not mandating masks in school. Terror seeps into our sleep, our daily routines, and even into the bedroom. The feelings listed above even impact our sex life. Those of us who are vaccinated are protesting those who are not. Those who have not been vaccinated are rebellious against those who want them to be. When I asked a contractor who was doing work for me in my home if he had been vaccinated, he replied, “That is none of your business!” We are in a cultural war that has created dissension, polarizing our country, emulating the political theatre we are living in. That means half the population of our country is at war with the other half. We are living through political, social, philosophical, and economic divisiveness. There is a sweeping state of paranoia palpating everywhere. We are amid a global crisis. Somethings got to give!Human beings crave connection!
Our brains are hard-wired for connection. When we go into a disconnect, we go into crisis. We need to feel the universe is a safe place. We need to be hugged, kissed, loved, and maintain a sense of a secure attachment. COVID-19, and now the Delta Variant have contributed to our sense of fear. There are those who have profited greatly from this nightmare. There are those who have suffered immeasurably. Many have no place to live. Some have had to move back with their parents. The stress is only transcended by the unknown. What’s to come? When willl this end? Many have taken the cavalier posture of moving on, despite the warnings and potential danger of not heeding to the guidelines of the CDC.
Add to this nightmare the environmental disasters all over the world. Global warming fostering fires out of control; heat waves with temperatures at all-time highs; impending hurricanes, earthquakes, shootings, hate crimes, surging suicides, drug overdoses, and our democracy on the brink of rupturing. It feels like the onset of Armageddon. It’s no wonder psychiatrists and mental health professionals are overwhelmed with cases of mental breakdowns. We are shocked by the global catastrophes and stunned by the anger that is palpable among our species.
Now, more than ever, it is paramount to be kind to others.
It is imperative to keep a positive attitude. Most important, and most difficult, is to unite as one nation in the fight for survival. I am aware that my blood pressure is rising along with the pressure on the keys as I type each word. It’s possible that just reading this, might even raise yours. Having a conscious awareness of these threats increases our fears. There is barely an escape. Healthy paranoia is appropriate in these untenable times. The media reports the daily COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths parallel to the stock market numbers. In the case of COVID-19, the numbers keep rising compared to the stock market where they fluctuate like a roller coaster. The dissension in our government cascades down to us and maintains our divisiveness. The fact that we can’t control others, leaves us powerless. The good news is that we can control how we respond.
The fact of the matter is that this situation globally has interfered with the quality of our lives. In my own life, I will have to cancel my planned trip with my family to Israel for the third time due to these adverse conditions. The chronicity of what is confronting us affects everyone to a greater or lesser degree. There is no escape. We must have faith, hope, courage, and compassion for those less fortunate than us and others. The imposition of wearing a mask is better than being hooked up to a ventilator, gasping for breath.
So…what can we do?
How can we learn to accept the now and look forward with hope to the future? There are always perpetual possibilities.
Wake up each morning with gratitude. Realize you are alive! You are here and now! The sun keeps rising each day to begin another, even when rain shadows its brightness. Begin each morning with meditation for about 15-20 minutes. Use the sounds of nature that you can get on your smartphone. There are hundreds of meditations available online. Stretch for about 15-20 minutes. If you know how to do Yoga—do it! If not, join a yoga class. If you are fearful of going to a live class, there are several on zoom. Having and taking care of pets who need you and love you unconditionally is very therapeutic. It distracts from the fears, woes, and sometimes loneliness. AVOID THE NEWS FIRST THING IN THE MORNING! It causes anxiety along with ruining your day. The news is almost always bad, particularly when it’s editorialized. It’s rare that we hear good news.
Eat healthy, exercise and practice stress reduction. Communicate with your family and friends. Avoid texting. It’s the most brilliant way to misunderstand and misinterpret. Alexander Graham Bell would love to know that you are using his notorious invention.
Lifestyle MATTERS! Count your blessings. You have them! Nobody gets through life without adversity! It can make you stronger or weaker! The choice is yours! Change is difficult, but growth is paramount. Even if you make one change a month, that’s a huge accomplishment! According to NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) and Tony Robbins, it takes 30 days to make or break a habit. It takes determination and fortitude to commit to 30 days.
The pandemic is powerful, but so are you. The pandemic doesn’t give a damn about your freedom or liberties. It strikes whenever, wherever, and whomever it can. It is relentless in its search for hosts. It will seek you out if you let it. It will be vicious with your mind and body. It will murder you if you give it a chance. Protect yourself wherever you go. Be mindful! Be a warrior to this invisible enemy. Once it attaches its spikes onto your cells, you may not have a chance to escape. This is not to scare you–it’s to inform you. My hope is that this blog will keep you mindful and you will imbibe my message. We are all susceptible! I think by now, you are aware of the danger that lies out there waiting to invade your body. This is not science fiction folks! Just look at the numbers that keep rising daily.
I want to end this blog on a positive note. The content sounds dire, and it is! However, we each can do our part to heal the planet. It takes an open mind, a generosity of spirit, a belief that we can do better, and a consciousness of healing not just ourselves, but the planet as well. If we each do our part, we will get through this. We will overcome!
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Joan E Childs, LCSW is a renowned psychotherapist, inspirational speaker and author of I Hate The Man I Love: A Conscious Relationship is Your Key to Success. In private practice since 1978, she specializes in individual and couple’s therapy, grief therapy, EMDR, NLP, inner child work and codependency. Learn more about her services at www.joanechilds.com.