My job as a psychologist, at least as I see it, is to hold space for others hurting and in need. To contain emotions, to be the grounded “parent” who understands, empathizes, and validates. To make a person feel safe.
This week has been emotionally overwhelming and draining, not only for my clients but for my family and me as well.
COVID-19 and all that surrounds it has us distracted, anxious, annoyed, disappointed, judgmental, and panicked.
Currently, there is a sense of urgency without a plan. Everyone has an opinion, without a clear solution. And talk and chatter about what is, can be, should be, and will be is the norm anywhere, and everywhere you go.
Even if your family is healthy and safe and you do not feel worried about contracting this virus, you still feel the energy. The anxiety and stress are palpable.
TODAY I HIT A BREAKING POINT
Today, I hit a breaking point, and my therapeutic emotional barrier collapsed.
After my last client left my office, I broke down. I saw the news that the Los Angeles school district had decided to close as of this coming Monday. Even though my own son’s school had already announced their closure, and even though I knew this was likely coming for most if not all, school districts, that news opened the floodgates, and I cried.
I sat in my office and cried because it is just too much.
I cried for the families who will be affected. I cried for the children who will be left (in the rain) without the basic resources they need. (The Los Angeles school district is the second-largest school district in the COUNTRY and supplies child care, shelter, and food to tens of thousands of homeless children each day.)
I cried for the mothers, fathers, grandparents, and caregivers who will have to scramble to create a new plan.
Yes, the Los Angeles school district has a plan in place for this closure, but it will still take a toll on and affect the children. It will still cause stress for the parents and caregivers, and it will still leave many without for the coming weeks.
My tears today were not just about the LA school closure; that was just the news that released my emotions.
MY TEARS WERE FOR ALL OF US
My tears today were for all of us.
- For the parents who are already trying to figure out how to keep their families safe
- For my friend returning from a business trip to find that her family does not yet have the basics they need to get through the weekend yet the shelves in the stores are empty
- For the husbands and wives who have already lost their jobs or fear losing their jobs in the next few weeks
- For the children who will be left home alone because their parents have to be at work
- For the teachers who have to scramble to create online lesson plans
- For the elderly who cannot have visitors because the risk is too high
- For the plans that have been canceled around the world – the birthdays without celebrations, field trips, family vacations, work trips – all canceled
- For the athletes who cannot play from t-ball to the professional levels
- For the cancellation of ALL events that bring happiness, joy, and playfulness to our lives
My tears were for all of us that are affected in so many different ways and will continue to be affected for the next few weeks, months, and maybe even year(s).
HOW CAN I HELP?
As I put my psychologist hat back on and think about how to get through this, I want to tell you to breathe.
I want to remind you to allow yourself to slow down and feel the gravity of what’s happening.
To stop judging and spinning emotionally with all the news and updates, and just feel your feelings.
This is big, emotionally, so feel it!
5 Ways to Reduce Your Fears
1. FEEL YOUR FEELINGS
We don’t know how all of these changes and precautions will play out.
We don’t know how long the fear will last, what will happen to the stock market, when the stores will replenish, or when we’ll feel a sense of calm.
So breathe. Carve out time to sit and breathe. Take a walk on the beach and breathe. Sit with your children and take deep breaths. Breathing will help ground you, connect you with your emotions, and help you find a sense of calm so that you can make healthy decisions moving forward.
If you avoid your emotions or allow them to bubble over, you will remain in a heightened state of anxiety, which is detrimental to you, your health, and your loved ones.
2. GET CREATIVE
Sure, we can all sit and watch Netflix, but use this time to connect with your family. Do a puzzle together, have a family game night, watch a silly movie and laugh, make a creative meal out of all the random ingredients you have left in your kitchen, bake cookies, play outside (even if it’s raining or snowing), make slime, create adventures and explore the world with your children, read books together, snuggle in bed when you can, get up early and go for a walk. Use this time to take care of you and your family because that is all you have control over.
3. SET A GOOD EXAMPLE
Remember that your children are watching and listening. They are paying attention to what you do, how you speak, and the choices you make. Yes, they need to know what is going on (at an age-appropriate level), but they are looking to you to see how you respond to your stress.
So, start implementing healthy habits and coping skills.
Put your phone down when you are with your family, set good boundaries with the news and social media, pay attention to how often you speak of COVID-19, set up social events in small gatherings to keep them engaged and active, exercise together to relieve stress.
4. BE MINDFUL OF YOUR CHOICES
Be mindful of your energy and choices. Your actions right now will directly impact your well-being and the well-being of your spouse, children, and community. If you do not make good decisions, there will be consequences. Practice social distancing, stay home if you feel sick, rest, hydrate, take your vitamins, wash your hands.
5. HELP OTHERS
Think outside of yourself. Charity and giving are healthy ways to cope with the fear, so start identifying ways that you can help others. Share your resources and time. Offer to watch a neighbor’s kids when you’re available, give out a roll of toilet paper if you can spare some, meet friends outside for playdates, and be an example of healthy coping during this time of uncertainty.
TAKE AWAY: Being mindful and shifting your energy away from the panic and towards goodwill will be infectious and lead to positivity and resiliency at home and all around you!