Disclaimer: I am not a licensed mental health provider and my comments do not reflect the views of any organization.
I work in the field of mental health. A large portion of my career has been to help patients navigate personal crisis. That crisis might be a panic attack, angry outburst, processing grief or bad news. I decided I want to help us all manage this crisis. Coronavirus has brought the United States and the world to its knees. And as I scroll through various social media accounts and interact with others, I realize that everyone in the United States is going through a personal crisis. I cannot help solve this problem but I can help you navigate your personal crisis. I wanted to highlight some of the unhealthy behaviors I have seen and hopefully help steer you away from these to a more healthy focus. As well as just offer some tips to help us as individuals process our own feelings about Coronavirus.
The reality is that this problem is simply too big for any one person to solve. You can’t solve it any more than I can. When a problem has no tangible solution our defense mechanisms kick in which results in a fight or flight response. Our flight or fight response is an attempt to control the outcome of uncontrollable situation. What does this look like during this crisis? Here are some examples of each that I personally have seen:
- Watchdogging. From constantly posting news articles to full blown conspiracy theories. This is an attempt to have a sense of control by having secret or inside knowledge. Leaning on intuition and instincts over facts. We want to ignore the facts because the truth is so big, and it can’t be controlled.
- Fact Checking. On the other side people constantly reminding us of the cold realities and arguing online with those conspiracy theories are doing the same thing. By controlling the narrative, we can focus on winning arguments rather than facing their feelings about what is happening. Both are a fight response.
- Stockpiling. Why are people buying up all the toilet paper and canned goods? Again, this is an attempt for control. I can’t stop the virus or how its dealt with, but I can make sure I have all the supplies I need. I can ensure I have enough sanitizing products to keep everyone in my family safe.
- Downplaying. Ignoring a problem until it goes away is an easy response to lean on. By denying the facts of everything happening I can ignore the feeling of dread I see on everyone’s masked face at the grocery store. I can ignore the facts of the reality around me and I don’t have to process my feelings. I can share quotes about not giving into fear and ignore stay at home orders and live my life and feel safe.
These actions and many others are all an attempt to obtain control over an uncontrollable situation. The world has been affected and our daily lives as we knew them are gone. The emotional, economic, and social impact of this illness will be felt in every aspect of our lives for the foreseeable future. You cannot control this situation it is too big for any person.
We must accept the truth:
This is happening and we cannot stop it from happening. It can’t be speed up, undone, or ignored.
Its hard to read isn’t it?
It’s even harder to accept.
Accepting this truth is the first step in dealing with our own personal crisis we are experiencing.
How will we respond as an individual? I have some tips for managing that effectively.
- Stay clam. Fearful or emotional decision making is dangerous. Work hard to remain as calm as possible. This will help you make the best decisions you can.
- Control what you can. You can wash your hands and ensure you aren’t touching your face. You can decide to stay home and that will help keep you safe. As the experts have recommended. You can take up some tasks to protect yourself and others from this virus.
- Recognize the emotional response of others. Everyone is reacting all over social media right now. Everyone has an opinion about how to deal with this crisis. If their recommendations are bigger than their personal choices and they aren’t in charge of anything ignore them. This is their unhealthy way of managing the crisis and reaching for control.
- Engage in healthy social interaction. Call your parents they probably miss you. Talk to your friends about how they/you are feeling. Check in on your loved ones they may not be handling this crisis well.
- Listen to each other. Give space for yourself and others to lament. This virus is costing us all a great deal allow people to process their grief over the things they have lost. Avoid comparing situations to others. Someone having more pain doesn’t mean you aren’t experiencing pain.
- Look for the helper. We all know that negative news stories tend to grab our attention more effectively than positive. Mr. Rodgers and his mother taught us well “Always look for the people who are helping. You will always find people trying to help.”
I hope that these tips and this perspective is helpful and guides you to a healthier response to the crisis facing us all.
Care for one another.
This will end.
We are going to be okay.
PS: If you are someone who has been in mental health treatment these tips may be helpful but I strongly encourage you to maintain contact with your providers. Listen to their professional and licensed advice over mine.