"It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.” -R.E.M.
R.E.M., at the apex of their popularity in the 1990s, told us “It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine” and I am hearing that from a few of the people I talk to in my work and daily life. What I am hearing from most is “I am tired all the time,” “I can’t seem to charge may batteries,” “my anxiety is in high gear,” “everything feels harder,” “I’m breaking down more than usual,” and “I might be depressed.”
The universe has thrown us some significant curves as of late. For some of us we can take change in stride and have mostly adjusted (praise Netflix). For others the changes around the pandemic have taken a toll on them, their relationships, finances, mental health and more. And still others were already struggling pre-pandemic and may feel like their heads are now barely above water.
It’s okay to not be okay.
We are in the midst of a global pandemic, we are in what is being aptly described as a cold civil war within our country, there is a monumental election coming up, things are tense. Many twenty somethings are reluctantly returning to their family homes as the world they were being prepared for took a sharp left turn leaving them reeling and uncertain of what comes next. People are being asked to make monumental shifts in the way they work and live, couples who might normally get along are struggling to manage it all, people with children are trying to keep up with daily changes to the plan, make the right choices and balance the many hats they must wear, and people living on their own are looking for ways to stave off the isolation and still be mindful of health.
It is a lot.
The coronavirus pandemic has created a paradox of sorts with mental health services. At a time where more and more people need some extra support, it is harder to connect with services and most services are virtual now making it both easier and harder depending on your resources and how you feel about it. The reality right now is most of us are struggling, some more and some less, but most of us are not currently living our best lives. We are putting one foot in front of the other and getting through the day, our own personal versions of the movie Groundhog’s Day with the same day on seemingly endless repeat.
And that’s ok.
Because this isn’t something we can manage or fix or even avoid, there is no way out of it only through it and most of it is entirely out of our control. Which is hard. So it can be a good time to be as gentle and compassionate on ourselves and those around us as we can. Which isn’t easy but is also why so often we grow during difficult times. Growth is good but it’s uncomfortable and sometimes it even hurts.
What can make things better?
There is no one size fits all answer to this question but there are some things that might help. Find connection where you can whether it’s a virtual happy hour, a Facebook group or socially-distanced yoga on the beach. Go easy on yourself. We are not designed for ongoing stressors like this so it’s going to wear us down faster. Be your own best friend, cheer on your small victories like putting on pants or making your bed. Don’t let a mean inner critic take charge and make what is already hard harder. Reassess your self-care. Many of the things we’d normally do to soothe and destress are not available right now, so you might have to get creative. Get a new hobby. I know someone learning belly dancing off of YouTube and another person slowly becoming a master dog groomer as they keep their pet runway ready. And finally, reach out, to a friend, a therapist, your doctor, whatever makes sense for you.
Therapy can help.
Therapy can offer real support at a time when most of us could use it. A pandemic is also a great time to tackle those lingering issues you didn’t have time for before. Maybe work on managing your anxiety in ways that work better for you. Or tackle the on again off again depression that makes your life harder than it perhaps needs to be. Work on a difficult relationship that is weighing on you. Get some clarity about what you want when this pandemic is over. Figure out where you are, what you need and want, and how to get there.