By Corey Lewis, CPT, CSCS
To say that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected us all would be the understatement of 2020. Many people have been out of work for months due to social distancing guidelines. Meanwhile, front-line care workers have been busier than ever—and many are deeply apprehensive about their potential exposure to the virus. Millions of Americans have found themselves working from home, many while trying to homeschool their children for the first time. Now, as school officials discuss reopening plans or continued virtual education, parents fear that none of the options are good ones. Stress, fear, boredom, frustration, hope: these COVID-19 emotions are all completely normal. And it doesn’t look like we’ll be back to our old lives any time soon. Here, I’ll provide tips for dealing with emotions and maintaining a positive attitude as you continue to weather the storm.
Sometimes it’s helpful simply to have confirmation that you aren’t alone in what you’re feeling. To that end, the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company has created The Emotion Archive. It’s an interactive program chronicling the feelings of 122 participants in eight countries as they navigate life in the age of the novel coronavirus. The researchers classified the participants’ comments on an emotional index based on the work of the late Dr. Robert Plutchik. The comments illuminate how the participants were feeling in recent months: bored, distracted, annoyed, at peace. Participants vented their frustrations and shared their strategies for staying positive and productive in an increasingly chaotic time.
McKinsey is using this information to explore The New Possible, which aims to gain insight about how the future may look. Check it out for yourself, and you’ll learn more about the COVID impact on human lives around the world. It’s likely you’ll read something that speaks to you personally. It can be comforting to know other people are having similar experiences in these strange times.
Whatever your experience has been since the pandemic began, you’ve undoubtedly felt stressed and anxious at times. Even if you’ve been relatively insulated from the worst of its effects, these have been uncertain and challenging times. You can be thankful for your ability to remain at home and safe and also feel antsy, lonely, and pessimistic. You’re probably missing the family, friends, and colleagues you haven’t been able to see in person for months now. It’s not ideal for anyone’s mental health to be sequestered at home, even if your living conditions are pretty cushy.
Even if life looks far from normal right now, you can take steps to address any emotional problems you’re having. Here are some strategies for taking better care of your mental health going forward.
If you’ve ever wondered why communication is so important, these past few months have probably made the answer clear. Good friends help us to stay grounded, remember our priorities, and feel less isolated. So make sure you find a way to stay in touch with yours!
Wondering how to stay connected with friends until this is over? FaceTime, Zoom, and other apps can help you to enjoy one another’s company until it’s safe to get together in person. No, it’s not the same as meeting up for real, but it’ll help you beat those feelings of loneliness. You and your friends may even find that keeping in touch in creative ways helps to deepen your bond.
With everything that’s going on, it’s easy to start hammering yourself with criticism. Why can’t I stop stress-snacking every day? Why am I so lousy at homeschooling my kids? Why haven’t I exercised more? Why haven’t I picked up a new skill or hobby in my free time?
Now is a great time to breathe deeply, center yourself, and practice self-acceptance. You’re human, and you can’t do it all—no one can. Consider daily journaling for mental health to help you express your COVID-19 emotions in a healthy and productive way. You might also try mindfulness meditation, which will help you to realize (and remind yourself) that you’re bigger than your thoughts.