What to do when you’re world is torn upside down from COVID-19

Written by Terre Grable

March 19, 2020

So, it has been nearly a week, for some even longer,  since the world has been torn upside down from COVID – 19.   Our reality is something out of a dystopia novel:  shopping centers are closed, school are closed, grocery shelves are empty and everyone is encouraged to keep a healthy distance from others.  Rightfully so.  And to add further insult to injury, many work routines have been shifted to home, and some are not working at all. 

Economic stress + Barreness + isolation measures + a disrupted expectations = a big emotional mess.  

As a counselor, I have been asked daily my thoughts on how to survive these unsettling times.  While there is no single protocol for the emotional upheaval we seem to be experiencing, there are practical things I have been doing to manage and thought I’d share some for those that would care….or at least pretend to be interested. 🙂

1. Perspective – this is temporary.  Currently the guidelines are for 15 days.  15 days!  You can do anything for 15 days.  What if the timeframe is extended for 15 days?  Then we will handle that then.  Worrying never ends in a solution ….only more worry.  Save your emotional energy to be productive instead of anxious.  Gratitude is helpful as well.  I realize this is easier said than done…but I’m a person that feels comfortable in data and reason.   And what I know of anxiety is the practice make mostly perfect…that is, start by keeping your mindset that this thing is for 15 days, not 15 months.   

 Someone once shared with me, “Never trouble Trouble until Trouble troubles you.  

2. Verbiage matters.   Let me start by saying my intention is not to downplay the seriousness of COVID-19.  To the contrary, it is serious and we each must do our part.   That being said…words we tell our selves are very powerful.  They can determine our emotional path.  For some people, just saying the word “depression” feels overwhelming.  So, we change the verbiage to “I’m just feeling kinda low today.”  Same thing here.

We are not in a national lockdown.  Personally, I don’t even like to use the word “quarantine.”  For some reason that conjures up stories my grandmother would tell us about having to be locked away in their house while one of her siblings had scarlet fever back in the 1920’s and 30s.   We are social distancing.  We can get out to exercise, go to the grocery.  We can even run by our favorite restaurants and Starbucks, it just takes place in a different form….the drive-thru.  I choose to think I’m not being deprived of anything, still getting what I want – just in a different vehicle.  

What if the country does end up in a lockdown?  Again, we can cross that bridge when it comes. See #1.  

3.  Establish a new normal for a few weeks.  In our house, that will look differently than yours.  By figuring out a new routine, you gain a sense of control in an uncontrollable situation.  Personally, I stick to getting outside to walk or exercise each day.  I check the news in the morning and mid-afternoon.   I fill my day with work for a few hours and then getting to those projects around the house I have been putting off.  I connect with some of my family and friends every day via text or phone.  What can you do to help someone else or make their day brighter?

How long will this new normal have to last?  For the next 15 days!  What if it last longer?  See #2 and #1.

4.  Make future plans.  This will just serve as a reminder that current circumstances are temporary.  If you had to reschedule travel plans, make some new ones.  What are your plans for the fall and the rest holidays?  What about summer?  It is also a great time to readjust some personal and professional goals.  

5.  Dealing with financial anxiety.  This is a very real issue for so many people.  No one is immune to financial anxiety.  First, there are stimulus packages coming.  Keep in the loop with your elected leaders.  My personal experience is that when I have reached out to mine, they have been very helpful.  Second, realize this isn’t anyone’s fault.  The magnitude of COVID-19 came out of nowhere.  We don’t need blame right now,  we need community.  If you are having worries about creditors, the best thing is to be proactive and talk to them.  Communication usually serves you well then pretending there isn’t anything wrong.  Third, ask for help.   There are people and organizations that can help with food and clothing and other needs.  You just have to ask.   Then, when you have overcome all this, you can give back to others. 

6.  We have been here before and come out the other side.  I bet if you look back, you could find other times in your life when you felt in similar situations.   As a country, we have withstood 9/11 and the Great Recession.  Locally, we have overcome the 500 year flood of 2010.   The commons denominator is that we survived and overcame.  That means we have the will to sustain these troubled times because we have done it not once, but several times before. 

I believe we are a strong nation and even stronger when we pull together.  We are isolated only if we choose to be.  Even in self quarantine, people reach out.  There is hope because you already testify to surviving great challenges.  If you are reading this….then you already have survived other challenges in your life, and the next 15 days are just another one to tackle

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