Covid Stress and Resiliency Part I

Covid Stress and Resiliency

Part I

 

We are now 7 months into the year of social distancing.  Since March, life has gotten more stressful than ever.  Families are balancing work, distanced learning, and schedules that are more complicated than we ever imagined.   So many are struggling with the basics of living: housing, work, relationships, even grocery shopping.  Every small decision seems fraught with anxiety. When I ask friends or clients how they are, all they can do is roll their eyes and shrug. Covid stress is everywhere. And there is currently no end in sight.

This is hard!

Covid Stress

I’m not going to say, “look at the positive.” Or “we aren’t given more than we can bear”.  Nor am I going to say “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” None of those phrases are particularly useful, and are very often hurtful and dismissive. Life in the time of Covid is stressful.  There is no sugar-coating it.

 What I am going to say is this: we may be walking through personal and collective fires right now. What can we do to push through?  How can we walk through this chapter to get to next part of our story?

This is what Resilience is about. 

What does Covid stress look like?

Since Covid began, there have been a whole range of physical and emotional experiences.  They show up differently in different ages, but tend to fall into the following categories:

Regression

For younger children this may look like set backs in potty training, bed wetting, tantrums, aggression, or not wanting to sleep alone.  For teens and adults, you may find progress that you’ve made in life slip backwards.  Relapses are happening.  Anxiety and Depression that may have been controlled are creeping back in.  Healthy habits may have taken a back seat.

Isolation

Your teens may be spending more time in their rooms.  People of all ages are retreating into their devices, while also being tied to them for work and school.  It may seem too stressful to interact on the phone or meet with friends and family.  Heck, we are literally being told to “self-isolate.”  This is not a judgement on such mandates.  Not at all. 

Isolation, however, is deeply challenging for us social creatures.

Anger

We are such an angry society right now.  Our social media is flooded with it.  We are angry at people, systems, the pandemic, and even ourselves.  Some of that anger is very justified, and even necessary to make change.  It is also taking a tremendous mental and physical toll on all of us. Children are not immune to this anger either.  Tempers are running high at home with arguments between siblings, parents, and between parent and child.  Normal developmental resistance of teens may be at an all time high.

Worry and Sadness

We are grieving.  My own four year old started crying watching an episode of Daniel Tiger about the pandemic.  We are so full of emotions that weepy moments may seem to come out of nowhere.  We miss friends.  We miss family.  We miss how things used to be.  And we are full of worry for the future and anxious about the general state of the world. 

We are just too full!

How can we develop resilience for ourselves, our children, and our loved ones?

 

Let’s have a reality check here.  Nobody is in their “normal” state.  When it comes to children, consider this: one day they left school. And then never went back! They didn’t see their friends for weeks or months.  They never said goodbye to their classrooms.  They didn’t have their field trips, their end of school celebrations, their awards and performances.  The world just stopped. Most don’t have the words to articulate the confusion and feelings.  

Teens are by nature social.  It is one of the key aspects of teen development, and suddenly hanging with friends was not possible.  Milestones that have been built by tradition, and idolized by media, have been erased.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a teen say, “this isn’t the senior year I wanted.” 

And for adults, everything has changed.  There is judgement from our friends, and ever present social media, for any choices we make.  Everything is a logistical nightmare, and so many are dealing with existential needs, such as food, safety, and job security.

Approach yourself and your family with empathy.  Check-in with yourself and acknowledge the tremendous load you are carrying.  Understand that everyone in your circle is carrying a tremendous load as well.  They just might be coping differently.

 

Allow yourself to grieve, but do not to stay there…

Your feelings are valid.  Name them. Acknowledge them.  When you sit with your partner or your child, let them know they aren’t “over reacting.”  With children, explain what is happening in a way that is developmentally appropriate. Let your mask drop a little and let them know that it’s been hard on you, too.  Name each of the things you are struggling with, and know that you are not alone.  Try not to be ashamed for your thoughts or feelings.  And for children and teens, avoid shaming their behaviors.  Behavior is just another way of communicating a need.  

 

Remember where you’ve been…

I’m guessing this isn’t the first challenging experience you’ve had in life.  Perhaps there’s been illness, death, break-ups, divorce, loss of jobs, loss of friendships…. so many burdens that have come before. So many fires that have been walked through.  If you haven’t personally had such a moment, you undoubtedly know someone who has. But you’ve made it through such times before!  You may not believe me, but if you are here reading this article you absolutely have weathered some storms. 

Take a moment to really think.  Close your eyes if it helps.  Really, truly think about what helped support you through the worst storms in your life up until now.  What has gotten you through some of the hardest days since March?  Make a list, hang it up in a place you see every day.  It could be small things such as a favorite song.  It might be something bigger.  Whatever gave you that little glimmer of light in the darkness, remember it was there and that there are other points of light now.

 

Look for possibility even in the impossible 

Ask these questions:

What can we do for now or instead?

Resiliency

Where is there still community and connection?

What can we do that we didn’t before Covid? 

What things would we like to keep once Covid has passed?

What do we value more now that we may not have before?

How would we like to remember this time?

 

Brake for break downs

Being resilient does not mean being relentlessly positive.  Finding the good does not mean ignoring the bad.  Even as you build up and push through the challenges, you are still allowed to break down under the load.  Having a good cry or taking a reflective moment can be a release. It’s a sign to slow down again. Take that moment to empathize and validate the weight you are carrying before regrouping.  Then look no further than that next step. 

 

Beyond the stress of Covid ….

Here’s the thing. This isn’t just about Covid.  For many people, this isn’t even the hardest year of their life. For many people, the stress of Covid is just another challenge.

Life is not always easy.  Everyone will at some point encounter something tremendously difficult.  How can we meet the challenge to survive and even thrive once we’ve passed through?

             Empathize. Validate. Build up. Break down. Repeat.

                        Until you find yourself on the other side.

 

Resiliency is knowing there will be more chapters in your story. 

 

HELP CREATE A SURVIVAL GUIDE:

 

Contribute to Part II! Tell us what has helped you through Covid Stress.  

Click here for a short survey  or answer in the comments

For more tips on managing stress:

4 Rs of Self Care

 

 

Further Resources:

General:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html

 

Parents and children:

 

 

 

 

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