There has been much written about the impact of COVID-19. The isolation alone can have a major jolt on our brain functioning. Anxiety, depression and significant mental disorders are a by-product of this pandemic due to the fear and isolation. We recognize that some of our neighbors, friends, co-workers and family members are struggling with many symptoms and are wondering what is happening to them cognitively. Also, there is a looming fear that this may never end.
As difficult as this may be for us all, there are some key ideas we can utilize in order to deal with the stress and uncertainty of these symptoms. One reality is that we have little or no experience in dealing with these types of situations. Therefore, there is no previous experience that we can use as an example of how to handle such circumstances.
The first thing we must do is to talk to those we are comfortable with about it. Not everyone can engage a therapist so it may be easier to talk to those we trust at home, work or in our circle of friends about what we are experiencing. It is relieving to know that others are experiencing similar thoughts, symptoms and emotions. Shared experiences are very helpful to help us to not feel alone in the angst of COVID-19.
As we speak about these feelings, we should also normalize it. Simply put, we state together that what we are experiencing is predictable, common among our peers and has a solid rationale in light of our shared experiences. It really helps to know that abnormal symptoms have become normal because of the strange nature of this overwhelming pandemic. As long as we normalize our shared experiences, we can learn a great deal from each other and be of great support along the way. Rather than judging the symptoms as abnormal and questioning our sanity, we have the opportunity to simply say, “It’s ok!” together.
So we can talk about it, normalize it and then find ways to regulate our emotions and brain dysregulation. As I have written previously, we typically find that somatosensory interventions are best to help regulate our brains and emotions. Breathing, tapping, walking, listening to music, body movement, puzzles, engaging our pets, fidgets, or working with our hands and other activities that bring us calm are potential ways to minimize anxiety, fear and depression. Actively regulating our brains improves our overall health and keeps us from living in a place of extreme fear or helplessness. It will allow us to be more cognitive and less in a “flight or fight” syndrome that can be emotionally debilitating.
So rather than living in a place of extreme fear and feeling out of control with our angst, talk to someone about it as a shared experience, normalize it as a predictable consequence of this pandemic and spend quality time regulating your brain and emotions so that you can remain calm. It can make a huge difference in how we manage the stress and complex emotions of the these unsettling days.