by Dr. Aimee Vaughn LPCC-S
You can’t scroll through the news or social media outlets without being bombarded by the news about COVID-19. Most of us are feeling the effects of the lifestyle changes that have rapidly taken place.
Why are people not doing well emotionally?
We Worry About Loved Ones
Even if you are not concerned about your own health, most of us have people we care about people who fall into the “vulnerable population” category. It is scary to have to sit back and wait, not knowing who could be effected, and feeling helpless to do anything about it.
You may be one of the people who are worried about how you are going to get by without pay as workplaces shut down. Even if you are one of the lucky folks who are still being paid, it is scary and sad to know that people you know and love are being hit hard, and we still have yet to know how bad the blow will be.
Everyone jokes about how extroverts are a mess but introverts have been preparing for this moment! But the fact of the matter is that introverts are doing just as badly as everyone else. When we lose the ability to choose what we are going to do next, even if it involves just going to the store, that is very difficult to manage emotionally.
The Issues are Control and Connection
It all comes down to we want to feel in control of our lives. We want to be able to help the people we care about, we want to be able to prepare for what is coming next, we want to do something, but our options are limited and the future is uncertain.
On top of that, most humans crave connection with others. You don’t have to be an extrovert to enjoy time with others or just time out and about doing things you enjoy and being around people. Feeling cut off from others, even the small interactions with people you don’t know at the market, can take a serious toll on mental well being.
What to Do
Control what you can.
A routine can help keep the day going and prevent the development of unhealthy habits. Plan out a day that feels productive and rewarding. Some people find cleaning to be relaxing, especially when life feels a little chaotic, so consider doing some tidying up and organizing. Make sure that you are still taking care of your health by eating right and keeping up hygiene practices. No one can see you at home, but if you do have an emergency, do you want to not have showered in 5 days? If you are unsure, no, you do not.
Get outside if you can.
Being outside and getting some movement can have major benefits across many domains, sunshine paired with movement, win win! Plus getting out and doing a “normal” activity can help you regain center. Maybe you will even see people you can wave at from a healthy distance!
Connect with others
It is important to continue to connect with those you care about and who care about you. People often think “I don’t want to bug this person” or “I don’t want to put my problems on them” but it usually makes both people feel better when connection has been made. When possible, do a video chat so you can get the full benefit of time together, face to face.
Try something new
You know how I mention rewarding earlier? Well, try out a new hobby, read a different kind of book, learn to bake, try learning another language, or teach your kids new things. It will help build positive emotion if you are doing things that are interesting and make you feel accomplished.
What Not to Do
I know it can be really stressful and you may feel alone, but you aren’t. If you feel alone, reach out to those you care about and just check in; they may need you as much as you need them. If you have limited connections, well now is the time to build them. Connect with people you haven’t talked to as much or try to meet new people through online social resources.
It is good to be informed and to know what is going on, but being glued to the news or media that is giving coverage may not be healthy, in fact, it might cause one to panic. Try to not engage in coverage more than a couple times a day. You may also need to cut back on social media if the content is triggering a stress response.
Stress plus being bored can lead to some seriously bad coping skills. I too enjoy the ‘add to cart’ stress relief, but financially, it is a bad idea. Sometimes people do a little too much online shopping, snacking, sleeping, drinking, all nighters gaming, and other activities that may be fine in moderation, but in excess can be quite unhealthy. Try be mindful of your activities because you might not notice the increase until it has gotten to an undesirable state.
One important take away is that if you are feeling alone, stress, anxious, or depressed related to this current situation, that is normal. It is not pleasant, but it is a normal response to such an extreme situation. Hopefully following some of the tips above will help the situation stay manageable until this passes.
However, if you feel like you might be slipping beyond what is manageable, reach out to a loved one or mental healthcare professional. There are support services out there to help you.
If you are a TN or KY resident and want to schedule a free consultation appointment with Dr. Vaughn at Guidestar click here: https://www.guidestarcounseling.com/contact/
If you would like to read more blogs click here: https://www.guidestarcounseling.com/blog/
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