This month, we mark one year since Coronavirus upended our world, bringing varying degrees of anxiety, struggle, loss and grief into our lives. Whether we mourn the loss of a loved one or the loss of a former life spent with family, loved ones and other significant people in our lives – our reflection and acknowledgement of this anniversary, may bring up the feelings we experienced a year ago. Reliving those feelings, while preparing to move towards a ‘new normal’, can cause its own kind of heightened anxiety.
Locally and nationally, COVID-19 cases are down and restrictions are being eased. The COVID-19 vaccines and lifesaving therapeutics are impressive scientific accomplishments. Scientific accomplishments that signal the world opening up again can and should be celebrated, but it does not erase the past year’s losses. In fact, you may go through a wide array of emotions – relief, gratitude and excitement – all while carrying your lost loved ones in your hearts forever. It is normal to experience these mixed feelings.
In addition to practicing self-care, meditation, and journaling, Dr. Lucy McBride, Internist at Sibley Memorial in Washington D.C., recommends that we use facts to “halt endless loops of irrational worry”. She recommends for us to stop, listen and follow the three N’s.
TIP: This exercise can be done out loud to yourself, shared with a loved one or a professional, or written in a journal.
Name – Name the feeling or feelings you are experiencing: anxiety, stress, depression, guilt, or relief. Naming your feelings gives permission and space for you to feel these things, making them more manageable and tangible.
Normalize – Acknowledge that it is okay to feel these emotions. For parents with teens and children stressed about returning to school, listen to your child and acknowledge their feelings by responding with, “It makes sense and I understand there are lots of reasons to feel [anxious/stressed/nervous] about going back to school after a year away.”
Navigate – You may not be able to easily solve an issue but talking through the things that are causing the greatest distress or concern can help unburden the mental toll of those emotions. It can also help you create a plan of self-care to ease the effects.
It is also important as we re-enter society and get used to a new ‘normal’ that we practice patience and self-awareness. We must allow ourselves to accept all the mixed feelings that come with it. Just as mask-wearing and social distancing became our norm, we will need to be more open about checking in on each other and offer support to each other when needed.
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