The following Letter to the Editor was written by Dr. Lauren Fisher, co-owner of Del Ray Psych and Wellness.
My message for people reading this is: You will get through this.
I am sitting at my kitchen table drinking my morning coffee, watching the birds, and doing my daily planning. The sky is bright blue with soft pillows of white and gray clouds rolling onto the horizon. For a moment, it feels normal and I revel in the peace of that familiarity.
The forecast calls for scattered thunderstorms today. The exact time or intensity of the rain storm is uncertain, but we know the general timeline of when the storm will end and when the sun will shine again. The radar models allow us to visually see the storms pass over our location. We can relax in knowing where the end is and we can adjust expectations and schedules accordingly.
I think that most of you would agree that the Pandemic is like one major ongoing rain storm that is moving through our lives, with a rotating mix of heavy rains, gray days, and moments of sunshine and brightness. Our daily routines have been disrupted, anxiety about health and fear of survival is dominant, economic disruption and financial stress is pervasive, and our emotional tolerance for discomfort is being tested daily. Unlike the actual storm of today, the exact course of the pandemic is still unknown and the aftermath of how our world looks is yet to be seen.
During trying times, I find the old adage “This too shall pass,” to be fitting words to keep in the forefront of my mind. After all, there must be a reason that this saying has persisted for thousands of years.
Our ancestors have survived hardships for thousands of years, including diseases, wars, famine, and political, economic, religious, and racial oppression. You are here because of your ancestors’ desire to survive and their determination to forge a path forward during their darkest days. You are biologically hardwired to survive. In fact, many of you have probably already weathered hardships in your lives and, as a result, discovered strengths that you didn’t even know that you possessed. The hardships and dark days are the moments in which your resilience begins, or your ability to positively adapt to situations as they come. Whether this is your first hardship or one of many, the rest of us are here to support you, to remind you that this will not last forever, and to help you find your personal power to navigate through this storm.
The secret truly is taking one day at a time and putting one foot in front of the other. While we cannot control or predict the course of the Pandemic “storm” we have the power to choose how we react to the situational stressors in front of us.
If we are scared about our health, we can keep worrying about the future without any resolution or we can take steps to keep ourselves healthy through social distancing, protective gear, and healthy nutrition. If we are sad and lonely, we can drink and eat away our sadness, or we can reach out to a friend, online group, or therapist for connection. If we are anxious, we can consume more news that worsens our anxiety or we can choose to soothe our nervous systems by taking a walk, listening to music, or breathing. If we are faced with financial burdens, we can assume the victim role or we can figure out what resources are available for relief at this time. If we are frustrated with the restrictions, we can choose to complain about this tirelessly or we can choose to be grateful that we are alive. If we feel powerless, we can choose to do nothing or we can choose to help ourselves or someone else in need.
With a somewhat unknown future, the best we can do is to take things day by day. Each day, we can assess what we need for our emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.
Some reliable and proven methods to promote our well-being and to regulate the current emotional stress are:
- Creating a daily schedule with focused goals, maintaining a routine that is closest to your
- Taking care of your personal hygiene
- Eating nutritious meals,
- Exercise and movement
- Healthy sleep patterns
- Connecting with other people daily
- Being prepared by ordering supplies ahead of time (food, toiletries, prescriptions)
- Finding ways to stay calm
- Engaging in meaningful experiences
At times like these, we consciously need to be filling our personal tanks of internal resources because the persistent stress of the situation already has functioning lower. Conversely, we need to be aware of the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that are depleting our tanks and work on minimizing these, while also giving ourselves the grace to not be perfect.
Overall, the way in which we choose to take care of ourselves will impact our emotional experiences during this pandemic. Many people struggle with allowing themselves to experience negative emotions because of the actual physiological discomfort or because they believe that experiencing and showing emotions are a sign of weakness. In my opinion, true strength comes from the realization that experiencing a full range of emotions is part of the human condition. Acknowledging our emotions, to ourselves or others, frees us to move through the emotion and to identify what we need in that moment to release the emotion. There is ample opportunity to practice this during the pandemic because the majority of people are feeling varying degrees of anxiety, fear, sadness, and loneliness. It is true, you are not alone. In fact, this is one of the rare times that nearly everyone, literally, everyone around the globe is experiencing the same hardship. There has never been a more ideal time to practice expressing your feelings because others get it.
The good news is that in the middle of any storm, there are rays of sunlight or peaceful lulls between rolls of thunder and lightning. We can choose to find things that we are grateful for each day. We can appreciate the positives of pandemic life such as connecting more with family and friends, being able to exercise more, and/or having a less rushed day without commutes or over-involvement in activities.
We can be proud of ourselves in the ways in which we have shown resilience during these past few weeks, especially in the ways we creatively learned to adapt to the new situation. We can choose to find personal growth during this era, and who knows, perhaps even develop a healthier mindset and habits that we can carry forward.
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Staff photo by James Cullum