In the last days and weeks, I have been quiet. I have been thinking, feeling, listening, watching, just as you have. Now I have organized my thoughts and want to share a few ideas.
Let’s acknowledge we are living through history in the making. Things have changed, seemingly in a flash, for all of us, in similar and in different ways. Daily life has become unfamiliar, unpredictable, frightening and slow-moving. Individual and collective health has simultaneously become the world’s biggest priority and greatest danger. But how do we deal with our own mental health given the enormity of what is happening around us?
As a trained psychologist, this is where I have the most to say. I see you, I hear you, and I empathize with what you are experiencing, because we are all going through this together. We are all adjusting to what has changed, struggling to understand and adapt, and finding our footing. We are feeling anxiety and worry, sadness and despair, hope and grief, loss, trauma, loneliness, and disbelief, just for starters. So breathe, in and out.
We must begin by acknowledging what is, naming and accepting. Mental health defines us as humans. Even before this novel coronavirus, many have struggled with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse and addiction, psychosis, trauma and abuse, relationship challenges. We have feelings and they are messy, painful, deep. And danger and stress will bring out those struggles whether they existed previously or not. So, breathe, in and out.
Next is focus. Focus on yourself and the ones around you. Focus on what you can control. Focus on the choices you can make. Focus on your hopes and values. Focus on the path forward, however small your step. Focus on breathing. Focus on kindness and compassion, for ourselves and for each other. Focus on gratitude for what we can find to be grateful for. Focus on time outside, in nature. Focus on connection and communication with others. Focus on balance – reality with hope, reality with action. So, breathe, in and out.
Remember that whatever is happening now, it is temporary. However long the virus stays with us and whatever the life toll and financial fallout, we will adapt. This will change us, and we will get through it. We must prepare, perhaps for the worst, and then hope for the best, and take action. Action that you yourself define, whatever that means for you. So, breathe, in and out.
Last is resilience, human perseverance in the face of despair, and silver linings. So many humans have shown remarkable creativity, ingenuity, generosity, and amazing strength in response to this world health pandemic. Individuals, organizations, businesses, and the government have all created, shared and are working on amazing resources that are available and coming soon.
So, breathe, in and out. Breathe in again: This. Is. So. Unbelievably. Hard. And Painful. Breathe out: And we will get through this. We will. We will get through this together.
PLEASE reach out if I can be of help to you, a loved one, or someone else you know. I am available by phone, video, and text. Mental health has never been as important for so many people as it is now. In the wake of this crisis, I have moved my services online, as have so many others, so know that help and support is available. I am here if you need me.
Breathe in: Deeply. Breathe out: I can do this. I will do this. We will take care of ourselves and each other.
Emily Wernick Gordon, Psy.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Massachusetts