Things Feel Uncertain Right Now
In the last few months, we’ve watched COVID-19 spread around the world, upending global communities and halting life as we know it. The affects of the virus have been felt in all aspects of daily life, from our physical and mental health, to our finances and job security, to the stark transition into a digital first, socially distant lifestyle.
Through this all, one thing remains clear — we are living in a time of unprecedented uncertainty.
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Remember to Listen to Your Body
Many of us are spending our days worrying about whether or not we're sick. Is this headache stress-induced, or a symptom of coronavirus? How about these aches and pains? My chest feels tight. Should I go to the hospital?
During moments of high-stress, anxiety can show-up in new, physical ways. In fact, many coronavirus symptoms mirror those of physical anxiety. It's important to keep track of overlapping symptoms, and try and put things in-perspective if you feel yourself spiraling.
Pay attention to increases in mental anxiety and worry, and how those align with physical symptoms. If you're spiking, try and stick to a routine, stay digitally connected with loved ones, and limit media intake. Track your physical symptoms, and if they progress, call your doctor or a local clinic to discuss options.
Remember, panicking will only make you feel less in-control, and more vulnerable. We're all in this together, taking each day at a time. When you're overwhelmed, try to...
Put things in perspective
Accept that uncertainty is inevitable
Beyond the Physical, We’re Stressed About…
Millions of jobs have been cut or hit-hard by the pandemic. Whether you’re a person facing unemployment, a freelancer struggling to navigate the gig economy, a business owner fighting to stay afloat, or an essential worker facing the front lines, we’re all struggling with the speed at which this new reality took hold.
If you’ve recently lost your job, know that this loss is a result of these extreme circumstances and not indicative of your performance as an employee. Anger or sadness following job-loss can compare to the grief following the loss of a loved. Intense emotions are expected and nothing to feel ashamed of.
Identify the things you can and can't control, then focus on the former. This might include reducing household spending or seeking a temporary side gig. Finally, accept that in the short term, things will be tough and changes will need to be made. You have the power to push-through and face these challenges as they come.
The 24-hour news cycle can have a negative impact on mental health, especially for those with anxiety or contamination-based phobias/OCD. Many people with health anxiety are having a hard time navigating this new landscape and keeping their triggers at bay.
It's imperative to follow the guidelines put in place by the CDC in order to prevent transmission and keep yourself healthy. You should also limit news and social media consumption to minimize panic and avoid the spread of misinformation. If you’re currently in treatment or working with a mental health professional, make sure you have a plan in place that helps you navigate this new reality.
Money is a primary source of stress, even without a global pandemic going on. Many people are having to reevaluate their budgets and decide what can be cut, while ensuring critical products like food and medication remain feasible.
Now is a good time to think about ways to cut back on non-essential spending. Take a look at your digital subscriptions and consider cancelling ones that are unnecessary. It's also important to stop panic checking your bank and investment accounts. Decide on an allotted time each week to focus on your finances, and stick to that schedule.
Times of crisis can help us focus on what matters most. This situation isn't ideal, but it can serve as an opportunity to create more realistic budgets.
A large percentage of the global population has been experiencing some form of social isolation for quite some time, and we still aren't sure when life will return to normal. During quarantine, depression and anxiety can intensify as people feel increasingly distant from friends, family and old routines.
Remind yourself that this is temporary, and look for future activities, trips or goals that you can look forward to. Loneliness has been linked to negative effects on physical and emotional health, so do your best to stay in touch with friends and loved ones (and don’t forget your older family members)
We aren't just worried about ourselves, we're worried about our loved ones. This is especially true for people with immune-compromised family or friends. Navigating these concerns while separated or under intense stress can be extremely hard.
Help yourself by staying up-to-date on your family members symptoms, and the healthcare resources they have access to where they live. And of course stay connected with your loved ones as much as possible. Help one another stay positive. Let them know you care.
It’s hard to keep our thoughts from spiraling when the world around us seems to be falling apart. In times of confusion and endless worry, finding things to look forward to can feel impossible.
Remember that this in an unprecedented global event, and though it may feel like quarantine is dragging on, there is an end in-site. Despite the horrors of this pandemic, many of us will walk away with a newfound appreciation for our lives and loved ones. Focus on the things that you can control and leave aside the things you can’t. Consider making check-lists to keep track of your controllable responsibilities, or take-up journaling as an outlet for intense emotions.
You May Even Be Feeling Angry
Are you thinking things like: No one is taking this seriously! Everyone is acting too calm. Why don't others care more?
If you answered yes, you might have fallen into the habit of overgeneralizing or catastrophizing (aka always assuming the worst-case scenario). There's no denying that times are tough, or that many people have been reckless (or downright violent) towards at-risk communities and individuals. However, keeping things in perspective is crucial. All is not bad, in fact, there have been many acts of courage, hope, and selflessness over the last few weeks.
Believe it or not, many of our feelings are just... feelings. They shouldn't be over-analyzed or ruminated on. Emotional reasoning occurs when we assume that everything we feel is attached to a bigger meaning.
For example: “I feel so guilty about going to the store, I must have transmitted the virus” or “I’m feeling a bit down, probably because the world is going to hell in a handbasket.” False! Like thoughts, feelings often don’t mean anything – they are just our body’s reaction to what is happening around us.
Guilt-tripping, shamming, blaming and other negative thinking patterns are all over our televisions and social media feeds. And they aren't doing us any good.
One clue that you’ve become stuck in a blame-cycle, is if you're constantly faulting others - or yourself - for the pain you're feeling. "He made me feel this way" or "It's all my fault that my family is overwhelmed." Another red flag, is the word "should". For example, "They should have done this” or “I should have done that.”
Both of these thought patterns takes us out of the present moment, and can lead to viscous cycles of rumination. Think about what you can realistically do, right here and now. Do that instead of getting caught in a shaming trap. Remember, you can’t control anyone or anything except yourself.
When we get mad or frustrated with others, we sometimes try and pressure them into seeing or doing things our way. This isn't healthy, and may be happening more often than usual now that we're home and in close proximity to others.
The "fallacy of change" is a cognitive distortion in which one person expects another to change for them, sometimes in drastic ways. Keep track of the expectations you're putting on others, and the expectations that are being put on you. If things feel unhealthy, overbearing or unreasonable in either direction, there may be a control issue at hand.