I would like to acknowledge aloud that I am tired. I feel like I’m in a rapid-fire Covid dodgeball game and the balls are coming fast, especially since school started again last week. The cycle of potential exposure, stress, test and repeat,” has already happened twice in our household. Covid has reminded me it’s time again to root around inside my resilience toolbox to better manage my feelings coming up around the rug of hope and normalcy being recently pulled out.
The arrival of Omicron has knocked me emotionally, which took some time to fully realize. I remained generally grounded during the undulations of the last few years of Covid. My family was safe and we were all able to adapt well. For this I am grateful as I know not everyone had this experience. I settled into a new “normal,” adapted my practice from in-person to online and provided therapy for a stream of individuals and couples living with the stress and uncertainty of Covid.
Over time, things seemed to be better. They were better. The relief was palpable in my community and across the country.
In the last month, as “the next variant” caught fire around the globe then landed here, a shift in my emotional state began. Tension, fear, disappointment, sadness, anger, frustration and an uptick in overall negativity started knocking insistently at my door. The feelings apparently managed to sneak in and tear up the place a little before I realized they were even there. As I reflect back, my last piece, Have Compassion for Those With Covid Anxiety, was the first clue.
Full transparency, I am vaccinated and boosted. I believe in science and am aware of the data that appears to support that for many of us the initial health impact of Omicron may be minimal. It’s the unknown of Long Covid that gives me pause and I would rather none of the people I care about, including myself, have to contend with it on the back end.
As I often advise my clients, the first step in addressing difficult emotions is awareness they are there in the first place. Figuring this out about myself was important to get to the next step. I then sat with the feelings and made sense of them. Because of my history, I have some vulnerability to my sense of safety (emotionally and otherwise). I’ve done my own work around this off and on for years. Interestingly, my old “stuff” wasn’t triggered in the same way before Omicron but I think there’s something about having a period of time where things appeared to be getting better, then watching it slip away, tipped me over.
Being able to empathize with your vulnerable self can help move you along to finding solutions. This is where having an emotional health toolbox is key. I journaled some about my feelings and then made lists (I’m a list maker) of things I can do to cope, foster my resilience and practice self care. This is a great example of despite what therapists “know” about emotional health, it can sometimes go out the window in our personal lives. Ideally, we ultimately remember what we “know” and use our tools. This is what I’m doing now.
Many of us are going through the same undulating emotions around being here again with Covid. Yes, it’s different in many ways but psychologically it appears to be having a similar impact on many of us collectively. Last night, I heard SE Cupp from CNN’s Unfiltered begin with, “Man, am I exhausted,” as she went on to talk about her pandemic fatigue, stress about her children being in schools with the surge, frustration around mixed Covid messaging, etc. I feel her pain. Many of you do too.
Let’s get through this emotional rollercoaster together. Here are some steps I’ve taken, as can you.
- Have awareness that you might be emotionally vulnerable right now.
- Take time with yourself to understand what’s happening and why.
- Practice self-compassion. It’s understandable you are having these feelings come up. You are far from alone.
- Build your toolbox. Whether you already have healthy coping and self-care tools available but just haven’t had to use them in a while or are starting from scratch, figure out what works for you and educate yourself on what your options are.
- Use your tools. I’ve restarted my meditation practice.
- Practice self-care. I’ve ditched the gym again but hiking, tennis, indoor light weights and regular stretching are all helpful for me. So is quiet alone time.
- Evaluate your relationships. Not everyone is having the same experience now. Some don’t believe Covid is an issue at all while others cope with difficult feelings with denial, among other ways. Connect with whose who support and validate your emotional experiences and choices to behave in ways you feel more safe. Pull back from those who are invalidating or tease you for your choice to pull things in for now.
During the course of the pandemic, especially early on, I wrote a lot of articles about how to get through it. And I had a few other guest posts from helping professionals as well. Some may again be useful now.
What Do You Do When the Bottom Falls Out? Rick Hanson, PhD
Couples: Virus Fear vs Virus Fatigue Lisa B. Kift, MFT
Living in a Time of Threat Lisa B. Kift, MFT
Powerful Tools to Recover Your Resilience Linda Graham, MFT
The reality is, things may get a bit worse before they are better. Let’s harness our tools for resilience together. During this time as people continue to seek support in therapy, with Omicron as a backdrop, the truth for me is doing this work brings me more joy than ever before. Focusing on and supporting my clients can almost be a flow state for me. I’ve realized that during this time, it also serves as a distraction from own worries.
I’m reminded of how grateful I am to be in a profession that resonates so deeply. And in tough times, is also soothing to me in the most unexpected ways.
Be well, everyone.