Coping with Crisis

Stress, anxiety, fear, anger, disappointment, depression, confusion, helplessness, boredom and so many others—these emotions have seemed to be everywhere in these past months of the coronavirus pandemic, even to the point of seeming to take over the normal and often mundane parts of daily life., such as grocery shopping, work, school, connecting with friends and family, etc. During this crisis, I have encountered a number of common themes and shared emotions in my work with clients, and I have begun to notice that the recommendations and strategies for coping and getting through this time that I have been encouraging my clients to put into practice have been taking the form of a few common themes as well. Let’s learn from this crisis and come out stronger with these strategies, so that we can face whatever comes next.

Strategy 1: Adjust Expectations
Another title for this strategy could be “let go of perfectionism.” During this crisis, we are NOT doing “business as usual,” and it is not at all reasonable or realistic to expect ourselves (or our children, teachers, colleagues, essential services providers, friends, family, etc.) to perform at the same level with our normal tasks, occupations, school work, etc. that we did just a couple of months ago. I’ve had clients that are parents that have shared with me their struggles with not knowing how to help their children get all they need out of their school work and with not being able to help them learn in the same way their teachers could, and my response to them is: “You aren’t their teacher! You aren’t supposed to know how to do this, because it’s not what you have trained or prepared for.” Not a single one of us chose or prepared for this way of doing life; we were all unprepared, just as with any type of crisis, grief, or loss. We must give ourselves permission to do our best and be imperfect. Adjust the expectations of yourself and your loved ones with the understanding that it is not supposed to look like “normal” life right now, and you are all doing your very best. Give and take breaks when they are needed; give grace to yourselves and the people around you; let that pressure to be 100% go.

Strategy 2: Enjoy the Little Things, and Take One Day at a Time
The questions and the unknowns of this crisis are stifling, when we allow them to consume our thoughts (“How long is this going to last?” “What is life going to look like from here on out?” “Is anything going to really go back to normal?” “What will the summer and next school year be like?” and on and on). While planning and preparation are, of course, essential tasks in life, during a time like this when there are NO good answers to these questions, we can protect and empower ourselves by choosing to intentionally focus on one day at a time and on finding joys and hope in the small things in the day-to-day. Practice mindfulness, being in the moment. Take a walk outside and listen to the wind and the birds, feel the wind and the warmth of the sun on your skin, smell the spring coming on, and really notice the sights around you. Plan a family game night without screens and without news and media. Notice the awesome and creative ways people are still connecting with each other and helping each other. Release yourself from the pressure to know what next month, or the months after that, will look like.

Strategy 3: Be Honest, and Stay Connected
It’s OK to not be OK. Be honest with yourself and the supportive people in your life when you are struggling. Parents, this is a great opportunity for you to model for your kids how to express difficult and even painful emotions in a healthy way and model getting help and support with what you are struggling with. Stay connected with the people in your life who keep you going; plan that Zoom get-together on a Friday night; send that “Hi!” text to the friend you miss seeing at work or at coffee. And, get mental health treatment when you need it! We at Mountain Vista Psychology are providing telehealth (video conferencing) therapy services right now, as are many mental health practices and agencies; don’t neglect your mental wellbeing during this uncertain time!

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