Apr. 16, 2020 - We all have many feelings swirling around during this time of quarantine. Some of these feelings may even conflict with each other, or change depending on the day, or even over the course of a single day. Some of us may have lost loved ones during this time. For others, this experience may bring up memories of past losses, feel like a trauma in itself, or cause us to revisit past traumas.
Some of the thoughts that come to your mind could be directly related to the pandemic (“I’m worried because my loved one is sick”); others might seem trivial (“I’m bored,” or, “I’m craving food I can’t get right now.”) You may also be dealing with other peoples’ feelings and worries, whether they’re in your home with you, or they’re someone you care about and can’t get to. As we work to flatten the pandemic curve, you may experience peaks and plateaus in how you are feeling. Simply put, it’s complicated. We may not fully understand what we’re experiencing emotionally until much later in time. Right now, we all just need to get through it together. And we will.
Here we’ve compiled just some of the moods you or your loved ones may be experiencing, along with some practical, encouraging responses from our Vice President of Mission Engagement, psychologist Dr. Doreen Marshall.
- I‘ve lost someone, and I don’t know how to grieve right now.
It’s important to recognize that loss (especially unexpected loss) can bring a host of different feelings along with it. We typically engage in rituals with others (like funerals) to honor our grief and our love for the person who died, and that may not be possible right now. Focus on what you can do in these circumstances to connect with your feelings of loss. If you can, engage in actions that help you connect with your grief and invite others to join you virtually (e.g. light a candle in your home for those who have passed; connect with others to talk about your loss via Zoom; write about your favorite memory with your loved one; gather pictures to share; create a memorial page online; or donate to a cause dear to your loved one who passed.) While this period of physical distancing may disrupt our usual practices around grief, it cannot stop us celebrating the life of the person who died, and finding new ways to engage support.
- I’m worried about a loved one who’s ill.
It’s normal to worry when our loved ones are not well. Right now, many of us feel helpless, and this is especially true if our loved ones are ill or vulnerable. It’s important to do what is in our control, and communicate with them via phone, notes, or other ways, if we can. If we cannot communicate with them, we can instead focus on the love we have for them and our positive intentions for them to regain health. It is also helpful to keep our thoughts in the immediate moment, and take things hour by hour, if needed, as we adapt to changing circumstances.
- I’m worried I’ll get sick.
It’s normal to worry about your own health in the midst of a pandemic. Focus on the actions that are within your control: getting rest, eating well as possible, and making time for brief periods of exercise or motion. Focus on doing the best you can to take the recommended precautions, and stay in the moment to ground yourself: “I am currently well and doing everything I can to stay well.”
- No one cares about me – shouldn’t more people be reaching out to see how I’m doing?
If you’re feeling alone, reach out to others if you can. Set up times to talk, text or message regularly to let them know you’re interested in talking to them when they are available. Remember that we are all experiencing our own complicated swirls of emotion at this time, and their lack of communication likely isn’t any indication of how they feel about you.
- I should be reaching out to the people I care about – but I just don’t have the energy, and I feel guilty.
Focus on what feels doable right now. It’s okay to rest and recharge. Give yourself 5-10 minutes to text, message or share a resource with people on your list. Even small actions may help you feel like you are staying connected.
- My coping strategies are different than someone I live with, and we are getting on each other’s nerves!
We’re all learning to navigate and adapt to different circumstances right now. Communication is key. If your living partner is coping differently right now, just remember that most of us are doing the best we can.
- I’ve lost my job, or I’m worried about money.
It can be helpful to know that you are not alone and that others may be sharing your concerns. Find support by talking with others and focusing on what you can control. You can research options for financial services that may benefit you, including government programs. Be mindful that you can also use this time to engage in actions that will ultimately help you regain employment as soon as possible once things settle down. Update your resume, check in with your networking contacts, learn a new skill online, or explore that side-hustle you’ve been thinking about but haven’t been able to fully consider.
- I’m scared I won’t be able to make it through this.
It’s okay to be scared, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to cope with new demands. Share your feelings with those who can listen and provide you support. There are a number of resources that can help right now. Here are a few: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800 273-TALK (8255); Crisis Text Line: text TALK to 741741
- I feel trapped – there’s so much I want to do, but I can’t go out to do it!
Focus on what’s possible right now. Connect with old and new friends via Facetime, tackle small projects that have been on your to-do list, watch YouTube videos to learn or deepen a skill, or catch up on favorite movies.
- I have all this time to be productive, but I can’t motivate myself to do anything!
Don’t worry about what you should be doing; just do what you can. This is not a time to compare yourself to others, or even to yourself from more productive times. Small actions are important now, as is getting rest!
- I’ve been binge-watching TV, and I’m worried I’ll never feel motivated to do anything again!
It’s okay if your motivation is low right now. As you adapt, that’s likely to change. Do what’s best for you and try take care of your mental and physical health with short bursts of exercise, like jumping jacks between shows! Even small actions make a difference.
- I’m running out of things to do, and I’m worried about having to contend with my own thoughts.
Thoughts are just thoughts, and not an indicator of how you will cope. When you find your thoughts running wild, bring yourself back to the present moment. Focus on what is right in front of you and your immediate situation: “I am safe, I am doing the best I can.”
- I’m worried what things will be like when this is all over – will life ever go back to normal?
Things will be different, but we will adapt to the new circumstances. We will still be connected to one another. Together, we will figure out new ways to live, learn, and cope with these changes.
- What if I don’t want things to completely go back to the way they were?
Change often brings progress where it is needed. This experience may be increasing your awareness of areas of your life that needed change. And that’s not a bad thing!
Follow us @afspnational, where you can find sharable versions of each of these moods and get into the conversation. We’d love to hear how you’re doing, and what other kinds of feelings you might be experiencing.