The COVID Meltdown: How to Cope with Pandemic-Related Stress
It's safe to say that, at this point, everyone around the globe is tired of the pandemic. So much so that there's now an official name for it: pandemic fatigue. Unfortunately, the end of this difficult episode unknown, which means we're going to have to live with the constraints of pandemic life and all of its negative impacts for much longer than we would like.
But why is it so difficult to wear a mask, stay home, and spend more time with our kids and significant others? Here are some reasons "pandemic fatigue" is real, and how you can cope.
Grief and maladaptive coping skills:
Everyone's talking about how we're all going through the grief process right now but what, exactly, does that mean? Well, it's helpful to remember that grief is the result of a loss. Although the types of losses vary, every single one of us has lost something during this pandemic: jobs, plans, businesses, a sense of normalcy, intimacy, and in some cases, the very real loss of someone we love. So, how do we handle grief? In many, many, different ways, it turns out. Experts agree that there is no "right" way to grieve. However, there are some ways of dealing with grief that can cause us to suffer more than we might need to.
Learning to live with the suck:
Right now, it seems like the bad news will never end, and many of us are feeling a fear of the unknown. It's tempting to want to try and "stay positive" or look for a silver lining, or to tell ourselves that "if we can just get through this" then we will be OK. When we do get through this time, there will be silver linings, but avoiding reality or pretending to feel differently than you really do about the situation might actually make you more depressed. Remember that it's OK to feel sad, and talking to others about this openly can be helpful for all.
Tips for surviving "pandemic fatigue":
- Practice gratitude: Practicing gratitude is not about "feeling grateful," it's more about choosing to focus your attention on what's good in your life right now. If you're feeling low, make a list of five things you are grateful for, and don't be surprised if your spirits rise, just a little.
- Stay in the day: The concept of "one day at a time," popularized by recovery groups, is a powerful way to live when you're just trying to put one foot in front of the other. Try not to let yourself get sucked into worrying about the future, and instead do what's in front of you.
- Help somebody: It's harder to think about how depressing things are when you're doing something for somebody else. Volunteer at a food bank, write a card or make a phone call to someone who is lonely or struggling, or buy a coffee for someone behind you in the drive thru.
- Do something awkward: Let's face it, we all hate Zoom. But it's all we've got right now. Set up a Zoom call with your cousins or your old college roommates, and do what it takes to connect.
- Let yourself off the hook: Now is not the time to worry about living your best life. Try to take care of your own basic physical and emotional needs, but don't get too down on yourself if you're watching a little more TV than usual or eating pizza more than once a week.
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