The vaccine has been administered and many people are talking about the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel.” To be honest, it is nice to feel hopeful. Will life really go back to normal? Will we have to wait in line to get into Trader Joe’s? Will restaurants be full again? What will travel be like?
I am, by nature, a very curious person and tend to have more questions than answers. At this point, there is mostly speculation about what life will be like. Economists are predicting temporary inflation and employment rebound when it is safe to gather in larger groups.
But what about the emotional leftovers from a year when we were asked, and sometimes ordered, to stay in our homes? When we were told to distance from the people we care about? When our behavior shifted to include wearing a mask? When we lost loved ones and loved ones passed away without the presence of family members? When our front-line workers were exposed to consistent levels of high stress and death rates? Missing milestone events like weddings, graduations, first steps, funerals?
How do we approach life after COVID?
We have been living in trauma for the last year and a half – our systems put into fight, flight, or freeze mode – which has not let up. Most people have found a way to cope – whether it’s healthy and recommended or not. People have found solace in Netflix, food, alcohol, Zoom and FaceTime calls, sleep, and online shopping. When we’re in survival mode, it’s a time to do what we need to do in order to get through the perceived danger period. How will we respond when our systems don’t need to be on high alert?
In times like these when there are more questions than answers and there is so much unknown – it’s helpful for me to come back to things I know and things I can control. When I notice that there is a whole world full of questions and then focus on my immediate world, a lot of my anxiety dissipates. I can look at my cute dog and know that he is a constant. I can go for a walk outside and see that the sun is shining – and know that if it’s cloudy, the sun is still there. In moments like these I can find peace and steadiness. I can reset from the unknowns to what is known.
If you’re like me and get overwhelmed by all of the uncertainty of the world – here are some things that can help you re-center:
1. Limit Exposure to News
It can help to be very intentional with what kind of news you take in and how much you take in. Pay attention to how you respond to the news and know it’s ok to turn it off when you need to.
2. Pay Attention to Effects of Social Media
Social media is good for so many things, but it can also stress us out. Pay attention to who you are following and who you are giving your attention to on social media. I follow organizations that are doing great work in the community. It has helped to limit who I am following to organizations and people who help me be and feel like my best self.
3. This One Moment
This is one of my favorite things to bring me back down to earth. When I can bring my attention to the moment and what is within my vicinity – it helps cut down on the stress and any feelings of helplessness. This skill can be applied to every moment. In this moment, I am writing on my computer. When thoughts of what I have to do next come in, I let the thought go and come back to writing.
4. Daily Check List
Sometimes it is helpful to have a do-able check list to keep yourself in the moment. On really hard days it’s good to include things like “eat breakfast and go for a walk.” It feels good to cross things off a list and sometimes we need extra reminders to take care of ourselves.
5. Find Something that Makes you Smile
Take a break from work – no matter how busy you are. Take a break from taking care of others – even just for a few minutes. Find something that makes you smile, that lightens your load. Today, mine was looking at gifs from one of my favorite TV shows. Other days it is watching a few minutes of a live cam of the giraffes at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Or petting my dog. The point is to take a moment away from the heaviness and obligations and opening yourself to the possibility of something lighter.
These are some of the ways that have helped me to deal with the uncertainties of the future and helped me to accept the things that are out of my control. Hopefully some of these can be helpful for you too.
My hope is that we can continue to move forward with understanding for one another as we enter into a new phase of history and exit the “tunnel” of the pandemic.
*This blog was contributed by Hayley Greeno, MA, LPC, NCC, and Clinician at Diversus Health.
If you or a loved one is struggling with the affects of COVID-19, please contact us at Diversus Health to schedule an appointment with a provider today. Should you need immediate assistance, reach out to our crisis hotline at 844-493-8255, or text ‘TALK’ to 38255.