Hello all! I am the nosy, bossy mom, and I am here to help you through the time of quarantines. It seems like a lifetime ago that many of us saw each other, but here we are, just two weeks into a truly life altering event — the COVID-19 pandemic.
We keep hearing the term “the new normal” everywhere — on the news, from our bosses and coworkers and so on. But most us just want back the old normal that we complained about and took for granted.
So often events like this pandemic only happen elsewhere, in some distance “third-world” country or to an isolated group with which we neither have nor feel any real connection. This just doesn’t happen to the planet as a collective whole! But it is happening now to all of us.
That means that this is the time to talk about emotional and psychological trauma. Normally, people deal with emotional and psychological trauma in the aftermath of natural disasters like tornedoes or floods or massive wildfires. But here we are, right smack in the middle of a disaster of epic proportions, and that means the trauma we are dealing with is pretty epic, too.
Trauma like this is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world. It can leave you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories and anxiety that just won’t go away. It can leave you feeling numb and disconnected.
You may even feel a looming sense of fear.
You are experiencing so many emotions all at once and in such a pure form that it is just overwhelming.
I want everyone to come out of this ok, but I also want us to learn how to be our brothers’ keepers, too. Right now, despite the stress and the trauma, we have an opportunity to build the kind of world we want to live in. I know it is hard, sometimes, to see the bigger picture when what is right in front of you is so scary. But there is a bigger picture, and we have the chance to make it a better picture. Like the caterpillar coming out of its cocoon into a new world, we have the chance to emerge from the cocoon of COVID quarantines into a new and better world, too.
But first, we have to know how to cope with the trauma we all are facing.
Coping with the trauma can present unique challenges. Every day, someone on television is reminding us of the fragility of our world. People that should be making sane and rationale decisions clearly are not. We are not even in a position of going out to find our support network. But as we traverse all of the new orders and codes being flung at us from all sides, here are some things, we can all do to help ourselves:
• Get Moving: Trauma disrupts the body’s natural equilibrium. You can be frozen in a state of hyperarousal and fear. Exercise and movement can help repair the nervous system, burning off the adrenaline and releasing endorphins. We like endorphins; as we all know, those endorphins make people happy.
• Don’t Isolate: I know this sounds impossible right now, but there are tons of ways to connect with people. Google Meetings, Facebook Live, the HouseParty app and Zoom are just a few examples. Chat with your co-workers, your family and your friends. Schedule a virtual happy hour or binge club, since we all love to binge TV shows. It’s a more modern version of the book club. Connect digitally. Attend a virtual concert. Pick up dinner and share the event with your family and friends.
• Take Care of Yourself: Eat a well-balance diet and don’t just inhale a bunch of garbage. Get plenty of sleep. Avoid drinking in alcohol in excess. Find a relaxation technique; I know there some people leading yoga classes online. Find a way to meditate, such as deep breathing exercises.
Remember that it is okay to feel what we feel, and it is okay to be scared of what’s happening. We need to know that it is okay. Get a notebook and write down the things you are thinking and feeling. Don’t dismiss your feelings, and don’t feel like you always must be strong for the people around you. Allow yourself the opportunity to go through the stages of grief that you are feeling.
There is now no “new normal” and no “old normal.” There is just our normal. Remember to make your schedule and stick to it. Step away and take a breath when you need to. Remember to be kind — those around you and to yourself, too.
If you truly become overwhelmed and cannot pull yourself out of it, do not forget about the virtual doctors. They offer the option to speak with a licensed therapist. So evaluate yourself and make that call if you need to; there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. And be that friend that suggests such making a call if you notice that someone else seems to be moving into a bad place. Help them make the call if necessary.
can get through this. But we will have to get through it together if we want to get through it successfully.
Sandra Kelley has a bachelor’s degree in human services and is pursuing her master’s degree in the same field. She is spending the quarantine working from home with her partner, her sons and her dogs and cats.