Dealing with Strong Emotions During a Pandemic

In this post, I discuss the complicated emotions I’ve been feeling regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and how I’m trying to work through them mindfully.

I’ve been struggling with whether to even write a post about the COVID-19 crisis as I’ve been dealing with a lot of complicated emotions regarding it.  I try to keep things positive on this blog and I find that hard to do on this subject as I’ve been having so many negative emotions surrounding the pandemic.  Things seem as though they may finally be improving a bit, though, so I’m going to try to express my thoughts and feelings and discuss how we can remain mindful during these difficult times. (To be clear, I am in the US, so my opinion is US-centric.)

First the negative feelings I’ve been dealing with

Angry feelings over COVID-19

Anger is by far, one of the strongest emotions I’m working through.

–I’m angry at hoarders.  They seem to think only of themselves and don’t save enough products for other people (some who may be seniors or the immune-compromised who really shouldn’t be going out).  If you aren’t the Duggars, and you aren’t buying toilet paper for multiple families, you don’t need that much, just stop. 😡 (On the other hand, we’re told not to hoard, but then the CDC comes out and says to have up to a month’s supply of food on hand…what are we supposed to do with those two bits of contradictory information?) 🤷

–I feel almost sense of rage at the news media.  I’ve distrusted them in the past but my anger is palpable at this point.  They mislead at every turn if it can cause controversy.  I shouldn’t be surprised anymore but I still am at points.  I read a clickbait headline that makes one claim and then goes on to almost disprove that claim if you read the actual text of the article, or watch the entirety of the video clip they reference in that very same article.  They aren’t openly lying, because there is a semblance of truth in what they say, but their claim is so far from the truth that it may as well be a lie with the message they’re proclaiming to the masses (and for the record, I don’t care which news source is your favorite, I’ve seen ALL of them do this.)

They seem to take pleasure in reporting bad news and stirring people up.  They don’t take the time to fully research information, that would apparently take too long. 🙄  It seems to be more important that they are “the first” to break a story.  I think people’s mental health is taking a beating from this crisis and it is partially the fault of the media…but I don’t believe they care.  They just go happily along reporting bad news every chance they get because it may help a reporter’s career or a certain company’s reputation.

Feeling confusion about COVID-19

Confusion is the second biggest emotion I’m currently dealing with.

–The idea that a minuscule event in one corner of the world can shut the entire globe down is astounding to me.  I always worried something like this could happen, but I always assumed it would be due to one of the REALLY scary diseases, like Ebola, or germ warfare involving smallpox that we don’t have the ability to deal with, something with a 60%+ kill rate.  I’m not trying to say the idea of social distancing is wrong, just that it feels strange to do it with a disease that is believed to have around a 98% cure rate.  It’s just something I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around.

–As I mentioned earlier, I also struggle to wrap my head around contradictory news reports.  First, every article seems to say DEATH AND DESTRUCTION WILL BE RAINING UPON US!!! (and then buried somewhere in the middle of the article you always find the same message, “most people will only experience mild to moderate symptoms and will recover”.)  I just haven’t quite figured out how to reconcile those two extremes…that the world is basically ending (at least according to the media) but that most of us are going to be fine. 🙄

–I’m also strugging with all the shutdowns.   I think in the long run they were for the best and probably helped slow the spread of the disease significantly.  I also don’t have a problem with continuing social distancing measures long-term, if necessary, on a limited basis.  It makes sense that large groups like in-person schools or sporting events may not be able to occur for a while.  This is a far cry though from locking everyone down in their homes.

I am glad to see that there are now guidelines for things being able to open up again, at least on a limited basis.  I lean Libertarian at heart, and it’s hard watching our civil rights being taken away with no real end in sight.  I just don’t see how it’s possible to keep any normal society running, long-term, under lockdown conditions?  You can’t just stop providing all “non-essential” services to people for very long.  Eventually, they will become “essential”.  And what happens when wildfire or hurricane season comes and people have to evacuate in large groups to evacuation centers?

Feeling Depression and Anxiety about COVID-19

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I struggle with anxiety.

–Obviously this is a stressful time in all of our lives and we’re all worried about our families, our jobs, the future, everyone’s health.  One symptom of anxiety is catastrophizing.  It’s so easy for me to jump to worrying about the worst-case scenario and that’s SO EASY to do in situations like these.

–I’ve had to almost divorce myself from social media.  At first, I tried just “quieting” a few people who constantly shared negative things on my newsfeeds, but then I started seeing so many of these articles shared that it became overwhelming.  I know things are difficult and scary right now and I understand this is a situation that needs to be taken seriously, but people are already feeling really bad and low.  I don’t understand everyone’s seeming desire to say, “Hey, we all feel awful, let me share MORE terrible news with all my friends, THAT will help things!” 😝

I just don’t understand why people want to immerse themselves in misery and then feel the need to share that misery with everyone else they know.  I’m not sure why I feel such a strong reaction to this, as I don’t think these people are bad or that they have bad intentions.  I think they’re legitimately just trying to get the word out, and they want others to understand why it is so important to socially isolate, to be careful, etc.  I think because we’re already getting that information from so many sources it seems the need to share it further feels unnecessary, like pouring salt into an already gaping wound. 

Maybe part of the problem is that plenty of people don’t take things seriously unless they have the crap scared out of them?  Maybe people think if they share the scary stuff, others will finally understand the severity of the situation?  Maybe they worry that if we only consider best-case scenarios, we won’t be prepared and/or people won’t take things seriously enough to enact protection protocols so we’ll end up with a worst-case scenario?  

I believe I’m technically an optimist at heart.  I try to focus on the positive (although I worry about the worst-case scenario, of course, especially with my anxiety).  But it just feels like so many other people only want to focus on the worst thing that can happen and they want to scream that to the world.  Why?  Why do we seem to focus on things that make ourselves and others miserable?

–I also think I’m feeling a true sense of depression for the first time in my life.  Anyone who is a regular reader knows I struggle with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) during the dark, winter months.  That’s a different thing though.  I know what it is and I know how to deal with it.  I also know it will end and almost exactly when it will get better.  This mess just feels like a sense of dread, confusion, and concern about the unknown that doesn’t seem to have an end at this point.  We’re all just hanging here, waiting for someone to tell us more bad news and things to potentially continue to get worse, and we have no idea if or when it will all end and how long that will take.  It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting!

Now for some positive thoughts!

Stay Mindful by Relying on Logic, not Emotion During Difficult Situations

I believe we have to be calm and be logical when dealing with all of this.  I don’t mean to sound snarky, but why can’t people stay rational in these situations without immediately jumping to APOCOLYPSE?!  Things change SO FAST (which is a GOOD thing)!  We jump from shutdowns to new forms of testing and treatments seemingly emerging each week…now, the same doctor who came out with millions of deaths possible worldwide has revised that death total down exponentially.  I understand this is due to all the social distancing people have been doing, but it’s still INCREDIBLY good news!  It means what we’re doing is helping and it’s SO EMPOWERING!  It means that each individual person can do something to help control this monster.  It means there is hope!  It also helps to better explain the frustration I mentioned above.  People were SO QUICK to embrace the worst-case scenario and now it’s shaping up to be something far different.  

Stay Mindful by Searching for Hope and Encouragement in Crisis Situations

I’m also feeling a sense of hope.  This is a unique time in our lives.  Many of us have never experienced something like this before.  As a (very OLD) Millenial, the only country-wide crisis I’ve really had to deal with was 9/11.  I grew up hearing stories about my grandparents’ generation dealing with World War II, the rationing of meat, the transitioning of factories to make equipment for the military, the various drives people who remained home engaged in for the “war effort”.  I always wondered what it would be like to be able to do something like that to help your country.  Maybe this is our chance?

I’m also encouraged by all the good we’re seeing:  local distilleries that are transitioning to making hand sanitizer instead of beer; factories that are now making ventilators and medical equipment; local people and programs with 3D printers that are able to make medical items or sew masks; companies all over the country and world that are rushing to send additional medicine to the places that need it most.  It reminds you that there is a lot of good in the world, and times like these are when it really shows.

I will say, there are a few things I hope to NEVER hear again once this crisis is over:

“CDC guidelines recommend…” 😝
“social distancing” 🤮
“the new normal” 😝

To Conclude:

We need to find things that make us happy during this time.  In the northern hemisphere at least, we’re heading into warmer weather and longer days.  Many of us live outside of big cities.  We can get out in our backyards, in local parks, or nearby woods.  This is still “socially distancing”, but at least we can enjoy the beauty of nature that surrounds us.  Some people can’t do this for various reasons, but even they can open a window and breathe in the fresh, warm air, or at least enjoy the sunshine streaming in, or the birds tweeting outside…there’s always SOMETHING we can do.

I believe in a lot of good things.

–I believe in God.  Not everyone does, and that’s ok, you do you.  Billions of people the world over do seek peace during this troubled time from a Source higher than themselves.  I don’t care what It is, what name you use, or Who or What you pray to, if you pray, embrace that.  It will help you get through this time of trouble.

–I believe in human ingenuity.  As much as this sucks, this is the best time in history we could be dealing with this crisis.  I read an article recently that said if this had happened 100 years ago more than a BILLION people could have died around the world.  Even the worst-case scenarios show nothing of that sort today.

–I believe in the technology we have at our disposal, from computers that help us figure out cures FAR more quickly than EVER before, to the best medical technology ever experienced to help us survive this mess. The computerized technology in factories that can help us mass-produce equipment and supplies at a far faster rate than simple humans ever could.  The technology that allows many of us to work from home so we can continue to be productive citizens and still make money for our families (this doesn’t apply to every person in every job, of course, but it’s far more available now than it was even a few, short years ago).  This same technology allows children to continue a modicum of education, as well.  I think how, just 10 years ago, many of these things would have hardly been possible…

–I believe in doctors and nurses and our leaders.  I don’t care what political persuasion you lean towards, I’ve seen signs that our leaders are working together to get us through this time of crisis.

I think there are MANY things to be positive about and be thankful for right now. So, let’s keep things positive!  What POSITIVE things have you seen during this time of crisis?  Tell me about it in the comments!

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Have you been feeling a lot of strong emotions during the pandemic? I sure have! Read on for ways to maintain a mindful mindset during this difficult time.

 

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