Most of us go through our day with a sense of invincibility. We don’t believe bad things will happen to us. So, we’re often blindsided when they do.
In the early days after the lockdown started, I was shocked at the scale of the pandemic and how quickly our lives turned upside down. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person to watch the news at the time and feel overwhelmed, anxious, stressed, and sad.
All around the world, people are suffering. Countless families have lost their loved ones. Millions more have lost their jobs. Parents everywhere are struggling with schooling, childcare, and working from home. Our daily lives have significantly changed in ways that seem so unimaginable.
In the midst of a crisis, it can be incredibly difficult to find pleasure in our lives.
It feels as if the whole world is in mass grief, coping with some kind of collective loss and instability, made worse by the need to self-isolate and distance from the people and things that make our lives meaningful. How something so microscopic could have such far-reaching effects seems unreal, even now. And I study the lived experience of isolation and HIV.
In the midst of a crisis, it can be incredibly difficult to find pleasure in our lives. But there are healthy ways to cope with adversity and build resilience.
Know that it’s OK to not feel OK. Give yourself permission to be vulnerable and to experience your emotions. It’s understandable to feel down. It won’t last forever and there are resources to help.
Don’t watch the news 24/7. Many studies show that constant media exposure to trauma harms our mental health. If watching the news is making you anxious, do something that feels good for you like listening to music, exercising, or watching something that makes you laugh.
Talk about your feelings. Try to talk about what you’re going through with someone you trust such as a friend, therapist, or family member. This can help discharge the stress that gets locked in our bodies and improve our mental and physical health.
Practice self-compassion. Treat yourself with the same kindness and respect as you would a loved one or friend. Self-compassion is very strongly linked to mental health benefits including less depression, greater optimism, and more life satisfaction.
Cultivate gratitude. Take notice of the things that make you feel happy and lucky to be alive. There is a large body of research, including work by Brené Brown, that suggests actively practicing gratitude and appreciation can help us enjoy moments more fully.
And if nothing else, know that as the weeks stretch on and restrictions lift, it will get better.