It seems like many of us feel like 2020 has been going on for years. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our lives upside down. We may be now working at home. Our new offices may include a spouse working nearby or our children doing their school work or just being noisy kids. Many parents are struggling to balance work, homeschooling, and managing a household that has people in it all the time.
Tough is an understatement. Our country is in an unprecedented time of social dissent, uproar, violence, and division. Many of us feel like we are constantly as the end of our rope.
With all of this stress, one aspect of this crisis that I think is not getting enough attention is the ongoing grief most of us are experiencing. We may have lost our jobs and incomes. We can’t see or hug our friends or family. Vacations, if they happen at all, are very different than they were before. We may have lost loved ones and then lost the ability to mourn them in the way we would have liked to. We have lost things as basic as sharing a smile as we walk by someone. We have lost any sense of normalcy or predictability which has then results in a loss of any sense of security and safety.
The losses have quickly compounded. There are the daily small losses on top of whatever large losses we are struggling with. Because people feel maxed out there just is no time or capacity to cope with the grief. We may minimize it saying others have it way worse than us. We may not even acknowledge it happening because it takes everything we have to get through the day.
There are many reasons for the mental health crisis now occurring in the US and this inability to process grief or have any time for reflective self-care is part of it. If we are focused on survival then we have no emotional capacity for anything else.
I would love to be able to give you a list of 5 things to do to make it all better but sadly that is beyond my capacity. I think each of us has to identify who are support system is. We have to find out what is the thing that we can do that keeps us from flying over the edge. Is it walks, meditation, weekly happy hour zoom calls, take out or something else? Or maybe your thing changes every week or every day. I think receiving emotional support and having some quiet time are keys for many of us. Exercise is also great. I know many people that are now taking daily walks. Simply acknowledging that we are scared and grieving is also helpful. Allowing some space to say you are really sad because you can’t see your elderly parents or naming whatever your biggest challenge is is important. It is important to know you are not alone in your struggles. We are in an unprecedented time and the levels of anxiety and depression have sky rocketed. Get professional support if you need it. Many of us are not coming to recognize that we are in this situation for the long haul so we need to strengthen our networks and coping skills on the one hand and on the other hand we need to own that some days are going to feel intolerable.
Take care of yourselves and your people the best that you can right now and ask for help if you need it.