There can be no question that we are facing something almost none of us have ever faced before—a sudden and dramatic change from the way we are used to living our normal lives. I am not saying this to alarm you. I am saying this so you remember that whatever you might be feeling right now, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I myself am probably experiencing many of the same feelings you are experiencing. It is okay to have these feelings. What you do with them is what matters. We must not let these feelings get the best of us, or overwhelm the way we feel in general. There are also still many ways things haven’t changed, and it is important to focus on those things too—like who we know and love, where we live, who we are, and also how we can stay connected, even if it is temporarily in a different way. Remember too, although we do not know how long this period of social distancing will last, it is not permanent. It is temporary. We must remind ourselves of this, as often as necessary.
Viktor Frankl, a man who knew a thing or two about tough situations (he spent time in Nazi concentration camps) said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Never has there been a time more conducive to this way of thinking than now. While we all “hunker down” to protect ourselves, our families, and especially those we may know or not know who are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, we are doing our part in self-sacrifice, while paying attention to the legal restrictions put in place. That itself is a positive response and an opportunity to become better versions of ourselves—responsible social distancing, for the benefit of everyone.
In staying home, you are doing your community and the rest of humanity a great service. That is no exaggeration. Thank yourself and others for doing this. When you do go out to buy necessities, consider thanking those who are choosing to work to make sure we all have what we need while we see how long this shut down continues. Recently, I was at the grocery store. While there, I thanked a stockperson for keeping the shelves full for us. We got to talking a bit (yes, we were standing six feet apart and I was wearing disposable gloves). He noted things had begun to calm down a little in his store, then asked if he could help me find anything. I said I was looking for a thermometer (like everyone else I guess). He told me they were out. I figured. It was the fourth place we’d been that day trying to find one. I thanked him again and went on my way. Just as we were checking out, he approached me, handed me a new thermometer, asked “will this do?” I asked where he got it. He said, smiling sheepishly, “there was one left in the backroom.” We knuckle bumped through our gloves. We can all do our part in helping each other, every day. He felt better. I felt better. Nice.
We are all trying to do our part, and it is in its own way both disturbing and wonderful. Yes, that may seem like exactly what an optimistic therapist would say, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also true. At times, we will all likely feel some amount of anxiety, depression, concern, down, bored, frustrated. That’s okay. Of course we will. We can also learn, grow, grow closer, be more circumspect, thoughtful, helpful, and introspective in this time of difficulty. If Viktor Frankl can tell us this after having survived as a Jewish person in a Nazi concentration camp, I have high hopes that we can do the same now.
The most important response we can make to Covid-19, aside from paying attention to the rules, the law, and basic tenets of decency toward others, is to not become too isolated. Reach out. Reach out to those you know and love, and reach out to those who have supported you in the past, including your mental health professionals. Reach out to new sources of support if needed. I have provided below a short list of a few resources for a variety of issues that could come up while you are trying to maintain your own mental health and help others with their mental health during the Covid-19 outbreak, including the current social distancing rules and recommendations. Consider also doing your own research for the many more resources quickly becoming available to assist us in these difficult (but temporary) times.
Transitioning to Social Distancing
General Tips for Mental Health while Coping with Covid-19
Elderly and People with ability challenges
If you think you might be in danger of harming yourself or others, please call 911 or contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Domestic Violence and Support
If you think you are in danger of domestic violence, please call 911 or call a domestic abuse hotline, like the National Domestic Abuse Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)