The news is disheartening. You can’t turn on the tv, log on to the internet or listen to the radio without hearing something distressing about our current state of affairs. The virus has permeated every aspect of our lives. It has infiltrated each of us, some more than others. As of this writing there have been over 300,000 COVID-19 deaths worldwide since December, 2019. Over 33 million Americans have lost their jobs. Businesses are closing, our healthcare system is overwhelmed and we still don’t have a vaccine for this unrelenting, killer disease. It’s enough to make anyone want to adopt the sleep practices of Rip Van Winkle.
Given the magnitude of the damage, how do we cope? How do we not let these circumstances color our vision of the future, our hopes and dreams? What if we’re finding ourselves feeling depressed, alone and vulnerable? How do we deal with these raw and unsettling emotions when we have to wear masks and social distance ourselves?
I’d like to offer a perspective and a few suggestions that hopefully will help you to navigate through these troubling and uncertain times.
I believe that every crisis or calamity provides a critical opportunity for us to learn something. Maybe we learn how strong we are or that we need to make changes in our lives. Perhaps COVID-19 can teach us to take better care of our health. It also has exposed some serious cracks in our healthcare, unemployment and political systems. In her book, “When Things Fall Apart,” Author Pema Chodron stated “Chaos should be regarded as very good news.” I remember my reaction when I read that statement – I said to myself, “She has GOT to be kidding, is she nuts?” As I read how chaos brings what is not working in our lives to light, it provides us with an opportunity to change or fix those things. Without chaos, we’d continue moving along not realizing that our lives could be much better. The way we perceive our current circumstances has a direct effect on how we feel about it.
During this time, it’s important we monitor the thoughts we’re thinking about what is happening and what the future holds. Pessimistic thoughts, jumping to conclusions (deciding the outcome of something without proof), disqualifying the positive and assuming the worst are a few common thought patterns that can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression. When all we hear day in and day out is how awful things are, it is difficult to not go down a path of despondency. Just as dangerous as COVID-19 (and maybe even more so) are those types of thoughts. You must train your mind to focus on what is positive. Create a gratitude journal (Oprah knew what she was talking about). Engage in regular prayer. Take a daily inventory of what is working in your life. Create a story for yourself that focuses on you as your own hero(ine). Ask yourself if you’re being proactive in coming up with solutions to the problems being created by COVID.
Along those lines, take your energy and put it toward helping others. This has tremendous rewards and an incredible impact on our moods. Pay for the meal of the car behind you in the drive-thru (that actually happened to me last month and I was so very touched!), get involved in a community cause, donate money to a favorite charity (even $5 is welcome), check in on an elderly or needy neighbor, write a letter of thanks to your local police or fire department…you get the drift. The more energy you put into something positive, the better your mood will be
Check on your expectations. Are you trying to do to much? Are you being realistic? Are you putting too much pressure on yourself or someone else? Do you have a litany of “shoulds” you are telling yourself? Sometimes our depression and anxiety comes from the standards we’ve set for ourselves. We need to show ourselves compassion. None of us have ever gone through something like this before so there isn’t a hard and fast rule about how we’re supposed to behave. Give yourself a break. Allow yourself to feel what you feel. Cry. Cry some more. Don’t keep your emotions bottled up. Tell yourself the truth – that it is perfectly fine to not be ok right now. You’re not alone. We are in this together. Right now, as a society, we have much more in common than we do differences.
If you need additional suggestions or guidance on how to address mental health issues in your workforce or work through this stressful time, feel free to contact me at Alexandra.G@comcast.net and visit www.glumacconsulting.com.
Alexandra Glumac is the founder of Glumac Consulting Group whose purpose is to strategically support your business’s mission, vision and bottom line through the coordination and facilitation of customized, quality and seamless HR services.