The words below were written by our Integrated Behavioral Health Consultant, Nathan Wagner, PsyD. We hope that his advice will bring some peace to your mind and give you tools to handle some of the uncertainty inherent in this global pandemic. We are all in this together!
These are truly unprecedented times.
Over the past three weeks, we have watched our lives, and the lives of our loved ones, change as the country adapts to the impact of the COVID-19 virus. Virtually every aspect of our daily routine is impacted by the changes we have been required to make. Some of the changes might seem small, but others involve areas fundamental to our wellbeing and identity. Students cannot attend school, many adults have been required to stay home from work or have been laid off, and the vast majority of the places we like to go for relaxation, community, and enjoyment are closed for the foreseeable future.
How are we supposed to respond to this unprecedented time?
From our experience with all of you—our patients at MMC—people in our community are navigating this situation as one would expect. People are pitching in, helping each other, and looking out for one another. Despite the changes to our procedure, patients are uniformly polite, flexible, and cheerful. We can’t thank you enough for your patience as we adjust our procedures to meet this unprecedented time.
At the same time, we know that things aren’t easy. Below the surface, there is a lot of anxiety, uncertainty, and stress. There is short-term financial pain and deeper long-term uncertainty about what the state of our economy will be when this situation eventually ends. There can be stress, irritation, and arguments in the everyday interactions we have with family at home. There can be loneliness and a sense of claustrophobia, even a sense of not being safe, as we adjust to a stay at home order that allows only essential travel. Inspirational long-term plans and goals have been all but put on hold as we gut through daily life during the pandemic. Even if we are one of the few people who are still going to work, we may feel a sense of separation and worry as we think about our loved ones at home and wonder how they are.
These are all very normal emotional reactions to an unprecedented situation, one by which we are profoundly affected, yet about which we can seemingly do very little other than shelter in place.
So, how are we supposed to respond to this unprecedented time?
In truth, there is no right or wrong way. While there are more constructive and less constructive ways of moving through this situation, every person is going to navigate the situation in their own way—at times more effectively and at times less effectively. That being said, here a few suggestions that you may wish to consider as you move through this unprecedented time.
- Try to acknowledge and accept your feelings, whatever they are at the moment. Remember that you are feeling them for a reason. Give yourself the space and time to consider how you want your feelings to influence your actions. Try to be patient with yourself and your emotional reactions. At the same time, remember that the people around you are also working with their own emotional reactions to this unprecedented time. If you can, step back for a moment before saying or doing something that may be perceived as hurtful by those around you. Consider if you need to say or do it, what the potential impact might be, and if there is another course of speech or action available, including saying or doing nothing.
- Try to build in periods of time each day during which you are doing fun things with your family at home or outdoors—things like playing games, hiking, watching favorite movies or shows, cooking together, or even tackling household or cleaning projects that had been put on hold because there wasn’t the available time. At the same time, it is important to remember that space from others can feel (and be) necessary as we all adjust to being at home a lot more of the time than we are normally. Striking a balance between together-time and apart-time that works for your family can help people feel connected, yet not stepping on each other.
- Consider starting to build some new routines, whether they are exercise routines (e.g., walking, biking, or working out at home), catching up on reading that you had wanted to do, or getting back into hobbies or other activities that you had put aside for a while. Time is one of the most valuable commodities available to us and most of us suddenly have a great deal more free time than we had had before. Even though the stress associated with this unprecedented time can be highly distracting when it comes to diving into new activities, if we give ourselves the chance to immerse ourselves in these new activities, the enjoyment we get out of these activities will go a long way to helping us stick with things.
- Consider your level of engagement with the news and with social media. Does that level of engagement feel right to you or are there some indications that a little space from the news might be helpful? Is social media more or less a supportive place for you right now, or is it causing stress? As you think about your relationship with both news and social media, are there any changes that you think might be helpful to your emotional wellbeing?
If you or a loved one would like more direct assistance with adjusting to the COVID-19 situation, whether for reason of anxiety, depression, relational concerns, increased substance use, routine-building, or the need to talk about your stress, please feel free to reach out to our office. During this period of time Medicare, Medicaid, and most commercial insurers are reimbursing for Teletherapy visits that take place from the comfort of your own home. Co-pays and deductibles do apply. Call 970-626-5123 to either set up a Teletherapy appointment or to have Nathan call you back to answer any questions.