I’ve been wanting to post on the blog since hearing the word “pandemic” for the first time, but I have struggled to know where to begin. As we settle into this new normal, I thought it might be useful to point out some of the questions I am commonly hearing these days. This is one of the rare times many people are coming to therapy and discussing a lot of the truly exact same concerns.
1) I’m sorry, I know you are probably really busy, but are you still able to see me even if I haven’t seen you in a while?
Of course! Yes, always yes. Everyone in the office will honor all requests to the best of our ability, myself included. I find many clients are worried about us, as clinicians, and how we are doing. Clinicians/therapists are trained to take care of others, and we truly want to do so. That’s why we do our jobs. It has been my distinct privilege to be on a journey with many of my clients during various times throughout their lives. While this is an unprecedented time, we are trained to assist and support people through crises. Please do not apologize for seeking support right now; this is what we do and it is our honor to be on the frontline.
2) Is everyone else having a hard time?
I have yet to come across a single person in my life, personal or professional, who isn’t having a hard time on some, if not all, days. In the first couple of weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak, things went from, “Oh, it’s just a bad version of the flu,” to “Oh no, this is really bad. Scary bad.”
Now, I’m finding many of us are growing weary. Weary and wondering: where did my structure go? When will this end? Why is it so draining to even leave the house? Did I sanitize enough when I got back from the grocery store? What is going to happen to the global economy? I feel so helpless, what can I do to help? How long can I wear the same pair of pajamas before I look like I’ve given up hope? This list could go on forever. In short, everyone is having a hard time, though for a variety of different reasons.
3) I see a lot of articles about self care and working on my efficiency at this time. It makes me feel badly; should I be doing more right now?
Ah, the good old “shoulds” and social media. Surviving is what needs to be done right now. Whatever your form of “self care” is, you take care of yourself right now. I wish I could give everyone a list of what would help them to feel “normal” again and bring back their old life. I don’t believe such a list exists. Although, if you have one, please send it my way! Otherwise, I think it’s really a good option to give yourself permission to take care of yourself however you want to: that might not involve cleaning out another drawer or worrying about how much time your children watched tv today. Your self care might involve sitting in silence and drinking coffee, even if you only can for five minutes. I believe this may be a time during which we focus on surviving not “thriving.”
4) Is it hard for other people to get out of bed right now?
Yes. It sure is. If you have seen the movie Groundhog Day, I think life feels like that for a lot of people right now. It’s really more of the same day to day. It is hard to get up some days when all you see is bad news. (I do recommending limiting news, by the way.) That being said, what a joy it is to see so many humans coming together and taking care of their neighbors. Some days, it may be hard to get up, and yet, we do. That doesn’t mean we have to look for the silver lining, but rather making it through each day and taking it one day at a time versus looking down a tunnel and not yet seeing a light. In the meantime, as many of my clients have heard me say before: we make the best out of the worst, sometimes. Humans are far more resilient than we all give ourselves credit for. Be kind to yourself and others. This too shall pass.
5) Any tips for coping?
I would say this is a rare situation in which we don’t really have a lot of inherent coping and cognitive skills built in. So, we are all getting creative. I don’t think there’s a one size fits all for coping with this pandemic. I’ve asked my clients to create a loose list (either written or in their minds) of their top concerns, and then we work through them together to decide on what some of their specific coping skills might be.
If you want resources, let us know. We will find something that works specifically for you. In the more general sense, here are some of my favorite readings thus far:
And, lastly, one of my favorite quotes that seems to fit with a variety of life situations over the course of the years:
“Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away… and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast…. be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust…. and don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”
Rainer Marie Rilke