Is the ‘new normal’ starting to get you down?
For most of us, it has now been around two to three weeks of being home-bound, watching lots of Netflix, hearing bad news, getting bored, being around our family members a whole lot…. Many of us are starting to feel down, discouraged and perhaps helpless, hopeless and somewhat depressed. We may even forget what day of the week it is because every day now seems to be pretty much the same…cooped at home and no place to go!
No matter who we are, parents, young adults, teens, children, we are all humans who had routines and habits before the pandemic, some of which we liked, some of which we didn’t, but now that our patterns have been pretty much shattered, we are finding ourselves in an adjustment period that involves the loss of what used to be and currently is no longer. So, our reactions to our loss of freedom and the loss of our pre-corona life habits may resemble the 5 stages of grief that research shows many prisoners go through when they lose their freedom to incarceration (ok, we are not quite incarcerated but you get the idea...):
Denial: Not believing the situation is real.
Example: “Is this a bad dream? I cannot believe the whole world has shut down”
Anger: feeling irritable and angry at the current situation.
Example: “Why didn’t people see this coming? Why didn’t our government act quicker so the virus couldn’t spread so much?”
Bargaining: Lots of If statements.
Example: “If only we saw it coming….”; “If only I had bought enough toilet paper and hand sanitizers when I first heard of the virus in China ….”
Depression: experiencing feelings of sadness, hopelessness, withdrawal, emptiness, numbness.
Example: “Life will never get back to normal. I cannot take this anymore”.
Acceptance: Recognizing that there is nothing that can be done to change the situation.
Example: “I guess that’s our new life”; “it sucks but it is what it is”
5 Things that you can do when you are starting to feel down and depressed:
1. Spray your ANTS: identify your Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTS) and challenge them. These ANTS are often catastrophic thoughts (“Life will never be the same”; “This will never end”). Replace these negative thoughts with realistic thoughts (“this will take some time but we will return to normal life”).
2. Get Distracted: Do something to distract yourself from negative thoughts (e.g., pet your dog, let water run on your hands and focus on the sensation, sing a song, etc.).
3. Let it be: our mind is like a busy train station with so many thoughts coming and going. Practice meditation by doing slow, rhythmic breathing, pay attention to your breath, and let your thoughts leave the station!
4. Move it: physical activity and exercise release endorphins that make us feel better, less anxious and help us sleep better. Go for a walk, go up and down the stairs, find a YouTube workout video, etc.
5. Glad to be alive: make a list of things that you are really grateful for (your health, your family, your pet, the fact that we have food, toilet paper, running water, electricity, internet).
Hang in there, everyone. Some days will be easier than others. Use the tools and you will reap the benefits.