We’ve been fearing for weeks that the effects of a global pandemic are going to be disastrous for our mental health. Every single one of us is faced with uncertainty, which tends to come with varying levels of anxiety.
There is a huge spotlight on our emotional state as we are all trying to manage our fear, grief, anxiety, and depression. We’ve had a ton of stress dumped on our already weighted-down shoulders, and at the same time lost access to many of our coping mechanisms.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a popular strategy used by therapists, is based on the understanding that our thoughts directly influence the way we feel. If we can change those thoughts, we’ll feel better. So let’s take a closer look at the smaller pieces that we don’t realize are influencing our overall well-being.
The underlying issues we don’t realize are harmful to our mental health:
Control: When we feel out of control, helpless, or powerless, (common responses to an unprecedented global pandemic) we are desperate to restore that balance. So we try to over-control the things we think we can. We want to feel like we can still be proactive, still take charge of our own safety. If you hoarded a bunch of toilet paper, you’re an example.
We try to control our spouses, children, co-workers, and family members. Some of us will even try to control strangers (I’m talking to you, random man in the grocery store, who got too close and told me to go home and wash my clothes immediately). Focus more on the one person you can control. Don’t push away your support system. We need them now more than ever.
Blame: This is a way for us to regulate our own personal emotions. It’s way more comfortable to point a finger and find fault than it is to sit with uncertainty. It helps us make sense of something that doesn’t make a lot of sense. We’ve blamed China, world leaders, local politicians, hospitals, doctors, the government, Russia, and the neighbor who is out mowing his lawn without a mask on.