Some days, I can’t decide if I need a hug, an XL coffee, 6 shots of Vodka or 2 weeks of sleep!
Well, the reports are out and China has thus far seen a 25% increase in divorce rates since couples and families were forced into lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Surprised? Not really. I mean, as much as I love my husband and kids, being stuck in the same small quarters with them for almost 3 months is not just abnormal, it’s not healthy. Especially when most of us are used to such busy lives barely getting any quality time together normally, all of a sudden being stuck together in one place with the same few people plus all the added stress could very easily be a recipe for mental breakdowns.
WHERE DO WE BEGIN?
I think it would be best if we all begin by accepting that our emotions are normal and okay. Whatever they are. Regardless of what you may be feeling towards your family who you love very much, it’s normal. We are individually under a great deal of stress and, most of what we are dealing with is completely new. Whoever thought that a parent would be expected to work full time, home school their child(ren), make three meals a day, snacks, do laundry, clean the house, stimulate the children, make sure elderly parents are okay and make financial decisions all at the same time? On top of it, we are coping with the incredible anxiety of what this virus is doing to our world as we know it, wondering how and when things will change and worried that we may get it. So why then are we surprised that people are breaking down? People that were once highly effective and efficient are finding that they cannot cope. People that had it all together are crumbling and couples that were happy are feeling not so happy at the moment. Each person silently struggling with what is going on inside them while trying to keep a brave face on and keep it all together. It sort of feels like the walls are slowly closing in on us and there is nobody out there that can say…..”don’t worry, I’ve been down this road before and this is how it ends….NOBODY.”
WHAT SHOULD WE DO?
Well, I am no expert but being a trauma survivor, my first piece of advice would be to allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling – in case you are wondering, I do believe that what we are going through is a traumatic experience. Clearly, the degree of trauma is different for each person based on experience but nevertheless, very traumatic for everyone and we need to treat it that way – Suppressing feeling and emotions falsely allows you to feel better in the short term but the build-up will inevitably make things much worse down the road. For many, showing emotions or feelings is frowned upon, either culturally or socially. It’s often considered a sign of weakness – especially among men which is why so many suppress or hide how they feel. I myself struggled with this for a long time. Many people are being told “but you have food to eat and are healthy so you should be grateful”. Yes…we should be grateful but we are also allowed to be pissed off that every basic human right of ours has been stripped away with no end in sight! We are allowed to be mad, sad, angry, confused, anxious and anything else you want to feel because we are in the midst of an unprecedented circumstance. And…I have to say, all the Instagram and Facebook posts of all the people that have it all figured out and are baking, cleaning, having Facebook live parties with all their friends and living their best lives while most of us are struggling to hold on are all a bunch of bullshit so can someone please tell them to STOP THE ACTING! There…I said it.
So, here is what I have decided to do. I have made a list of a few things that have helped me process my trauma over the past 8 years. Different things work for different people but if even just one can help somebody cope or see the light at the end of the tunnel then, I’m happy.
For many of us, tensions are elevated and we find ourselves easily triggered or aggravated often for a reason we cannot explain. When you combine two or more people in a confined space all feeling the same way, it can cause added stress and unnecessary arguments. I believe we really need to dig down and ensure we are all being compassionate towards one another and understand that we are all feeling things many of us have never felt before. Normally. one person is under stress while the other is level headed and able to put things in perspective but right now, we are all feeling the strain and constant worry. Remind yourself of that when you’re feeling misunderstood by the people around you.
When I think of resilience, I think of being the master of each small moment – baby steps essentially. Many of us are used to getting up and preparing to conquer the day. Setting goals and intentions from the moment we get up. Work, lunch with friends, gym, buy that birthday gift, put the kids to bed….the list often longer than we possibly have time for in a day. For now, wouldn’t it be better if we just take it slow? I am finding that feelings and emotions are literally like a roller coaster during the course of a day and some days I wake up feeling like I want to write a book but by lunchtime, I can barely get off the couch. It’s increasingly important now to honour how we feel and be gentle with ourselves. For those of us that are healthy stuck at home, our mental health is at risk and preserving it should be our number one goal.
Writing has and continues to be the most therapeutic tool for me – I was never a writer before. It was my traumatic experiences that brought here – It has allowed me to privately process my feelings, emotions and even come to terms with my experiences. It has even provided me with solutions, often without even realizing it until I am done and have had a chance to read what I wrote. An article written by Harvard Medical School https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/writing-about-emotions-may-ease-stress-and-trauma explains the theory behind why writing can be a great way to deal with emotional stress. For me, I often sit down to write about something specific and by the time I am done my brain has taken a completely different course than expected. I have realized that this is because we have so many suppressed feelings, emotions and memories that need to be processed. Processing feelings in our heads it very difficult because there is always so much more going on.
4 & 5. Prayer & Belief
I put the last two together because I can’t imagine one being possible – or effective – without the other. First, let me clarify that when I say prayer, I do not necessarily relate it to any religious group or faction. It can be but it is not necessary. I prefer to consider it more of a spiritual practice this way, nobody is excluded. There have been many times in my life where I have lost my faith; literally lost my faith in everything. It was during these times that I stopped praying and therefore stopped believing. I Stopped believing that there was hope, stopped being optimistic and even stopped having any courage to move forward. It wasn’t until I found my faith again and started to pray again that I felt stronger, more confident and more in control of my life. It wasn’t until I started to pray again that I believed I was in control of my destiny. The power of prayer is something surely everyone has heard about but did you know that there have been actual scientific studies that have proven the healing power of prayer? Blind studies have been done where a random group of people is asked to pray for a different group of people – most of them didn’t even know the person/people they were praying for – and the results are powerful. A study was done by the Indian Journal of Psychiatry https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2802370/ – it specifically states that prayer or meditation has been proven to decrease heart rate, decrease stress and anxiety as well as have a positive effect on mood, spiritual health and even tolerance to pain. Many clinically significant gains have been recorded as well. So in a time where we are all feeling scared, confused and maybe like we have no control of our lives and the outcome, let us dig deep and find the power within ourselves again. The simple act of prayer can allow us to feel strong again, feel whole again and regain some sense of confidence that we do have a say in the outcome. Pray, believe and give thanks.
With all my love….