We are all muddling through this pandemic mess together. So many of us are experiencing a range of new emotions as we explore how to navigate our fear and anxiety surrounding COVID-19. With all that is new and changing in our world, it is especially vital for us to prioritize mental health and practice managing our emotions in healthy ways.
Finding a healthy approach
For some, this may be the first time you are experiencing profound fear or anxiety distinct from the stress of everyday life. For others, that have experienced anxiety or depression, fear associated with COVID-19 may worsen symptoms. Consider your emotion regulation strategies? And are they working for you?
Anxiety can feel overwhelming and complicated. Anxiety demands certainty and comfort. We imagine the worst-case scenarios; we want to know what will happen, and we want to control it. The current climate is so hard because we all want certainty, and we can’t have it. At times, it may feel like every aspect of our lives has been overwhelmed with an asterisk of uncertainty.
Being able to stay present is enormously helpful right now, emotional reactivity is less useful. Are you thinking about something because there is a problem to be solved? Or are you obsessing over something that is out of your control? Anxiety can feel powerful and restrictive. Remember what you can control. You can control your own precautions—like wearing a mask and washing your hands. And, you can control how you spend your day. You cannot control restrictions from your local town or government; you cannot control the travel and exposure of others.
Learning to recognize and interrupt disruptive thought patterns is essential to regulating your emotions. Lynn Lyons, a local psychotherapist, specializing in the treatment of anxiety, encourages you to consider, what’s the part of you that you want to be in charge? Lynn proposes, when worry arrives, allow it. Acknowledge its validity and how it affects your emotions. Ask yourself, what am I feeling right now? It is essential to validate what you are experiencing; it matters. Then pivot. Make a conscious decision to head in a direction that makes you feel better. This is not a distraction, rather a recognition that there may be healthier ways to respond to your anxiety. What do I want to do about these feelings? Is there a healthier way of coping with them? Consider past responses and what responses are most helpful to your mental health.
Lean into discomfort
This is a moment in time where we need to lean into our discomfort. Name your feelings and really feel them—there is power in that. Communicate how you’re feeling. Acknowledge that we are all processing this change in our own way. Your comfort with social distancing may look drastically different than a friend or peer. How will you respect a friend or peer, and how they practice social distancing without compromising your comfort surrounding social distancing and COVID-19 precautions? Consider the language you will use to share what makes you feel comfortable. Develop a dialogue in advance of any anticipated interactions. Strengthen your active listening skills and hear others when they share how they are feeling, and they are taking precautions. Consider how you can respond free of judgment.
While there is a lot you cannot control right now, you can listen and ask questions. You can communicate what you are feeling, share what you are comfortable with, and respect other’s comfort levels. You can control how you respond to the chaos of our present time.
Please know that all your go-to trusted adults are here at New Hampton School to support you and the emotions that you are feeling. Director of Counseling Ms. Siciliano is a member of the health and wellness team, and she is available to connect via phone or Zoom; contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to find a time.