Finally, the consequences of not getting it right are high: you or family members contracting the virus, potential sickness and untold deaths worldwide.
Add to this job loss and financial strain, social isolation and loneliness, close contact that may lead to arguments or abuse, stress of working from home while being responsible for childcare and home-schooling, and worrying about far away or elderly family members. It is no wonder there are reports of escalating mental health problems. In these circumstances we need to look out for one another and do what we can to ease the burden.
It’s a tough situation, but there are actions individuals can take to cope with the circumstances and ease the suffering.
1. Be kind to yourself (and others)
Living through this pandemic is tough. Many of us have not been in this situation before. We have no rules or experience or role models to turn to. We are making things up as we go along. You may be feeling lost, confused, anxious and worried. So is everyone else. These are all totally normal emotions. Allow yourself these feelings, have compassion and patience for your own struggles.
Don’t try to push away your difficult feelings or force yourself to “think positive,” which is not a healthy coping mechanism, as it denies the reality of your current experience. All emotions are OK, even the tough ones, and trying to stuff them down and replace them with “positive thinking” is an impossible and unhealthy task.
2. Manage your feelings
Find a safe and controlled way to acknowledge and express your difficult emotions, for example by writing them down in a journal or letter, talking to a friend, getting physical exercise or practising yoga or meditation. If your symptoms are severe and interfering with your ability to function, contact a mental health professional. Above all, think about how you would respond to a friend struggling in this situation, and apply that same compassion and advice to yourself; then turn it towards others.