By Beth Trammell, Ph.D., HSPP
As I have been in meetings with different folks about mental wellness during this unprecedented time in our history, I have heard and felt similar things that make this pandemic feel especially hard. I thought I would share them here in case anyone else was feeling particularly down. Know that you are not alone.
1. We are not used to feeling so many emotions at once, for such a long period of time.
Most of us are experiencing a wide range of emotions on a daily basis, from fear to anger, sadness to anxiety and so many more! All at once, sometimes overwhelmingly so. And many of us also have experienced the weight of these emotions for days and weeks on end to this point. In short, many of us are in deep emotions more frequently now than ever before.
This is hard because emotional awareness and expression are both skills that take practice. As we are overwhelmed, we might be feeling many things at once and the burden of those emotions is making us feel tired (both physically and emotionally).
Take a breath. Seriously. Like right now, take a deep breath. In through your nose and out through your mouth. Close your eyes for a moment and just listen to your breath for a few breaths in and out. This simple breathing technique can help keep you grounded and mindful – especially during intense emotional moments. Beyond that – realize that it’s okay to experience lots of emotions at once. Emotions won’t actually physically hurt us. We don’t have to be afraid of them. But we do have to honor them. So for a moment, take time to sit in how you are feeling. Write it down. Shout it out. Share it with a friend via text, phone or video message.
2. Most of us feel uncomfortable with having to repeatedly say, “I don’t know.”
Almost all of us like to feel like we are in control of things happening in our current situation. Even if you aren’t a “control freak,” you like to feel like things are in order and make sense. Right now, there are so many uncertainties. How long will this last? Will my family get sick? Will we be able to go back to work soon? Will things get better soon? Will the kids go back to school? On and on and on. Time and again, I have heard of the “uncertainty” and “unpredictability” as being “the hardest part.” And the truth is, we simply do not know.
If you find yourself becoming irritable or anxious with not having answers to the millionth question from your kid that you have to say, “I don’t know” to, come back to that same breathing exercise. Don’t allow the anxiety of not knowing take over. Simply say, “You know bud, I don’t know. And there are lots of things we don’t know right now. But what I do know is….(fill in the blank for what you DO know right now…) I like being home with you right now.” or “I love to be able to play with you today.” or “I love that we are getting to each lunch together.” It doesn’t need to be profound, it just needs to be honest about something tangible for your kid to see.
3. There is nothing to fix.
We are hurting, our people are hurting, and there is nothing to fix. At least not anything that will make everyone happy. Most of us like to fix things when people we love need help. That’s just the truth. And when there is nothing to fix, it can leave us feeling hopeless and helpless. If you have felt like there is no hope, let me encourage you with a few amazing ways this pandemic has impacted my community and family. And I would welcome the ways you have seen positive around you.
The most amazing teacher parades happening
Using technology to keep kids connected to their teachers AND peers
Finding creative ways to get outside every day – even in the rain!
Community leaders coming TOGETHER for the good of everyone
Words of love on the sidewalk in chalk
Video messages, after video messages, after video messages of people we love connecting with us
Human kindness for our front line workers who are truly heroes (the 7pm clapping!)
Courage from individuals who step out to help others in need
FEEDING more than 40,000 people. Like literally feeding the community. Bravo!
And so so many more!
What positivity are you seeing around you?
Dr. Beth Trammell is an experienced clinician who has worked with kids and families for over 15 years in a variety of settings. She has worked in private practice and school-based settings, as well as behavioral and mental health consultation for schools, community-centers and daycare. She engages parents and teachers in the community through online and community-based offerings, including: Make Words Matter.