I’m sure the title goes without saying for everybody, especially those who have caught the virus. There may be some positives within the larger picture for those who have avoided the virus to this point — such as working from home, sleeping later, or otherwise. But the overall disruption that coronavirus has brought to all of our lives has triggered a range of emotional states in people, and reminds us that our mental health needs to be a priority during this time.
To illustrate the various reactions, some people, including many who are most at risk, have remained in denial of the danger of the virus and continue to go out as usual, ignoring the warnings and orders. For those who have gotten past the denial, many are angry. The presence of this virus has taken family members’ lives, has taken jobs, closed kids’ schools, cancelled weddings, cancelled vacations, left families without income, tanked the economy, stuck people at home indefinitely, and many more reasons to be angry.
People are also in shock. A few weeks ago, life was carrying forward as it always does, with its usual sorts of ups and downs, ebbs and flows. And now suddenly the country (and much of the world) has come to almost a full stop, and many have lost jobs that were possibly quite secure at the time. Nobody could have ever seen this coming before December, and it’s hard to understand how to wrap our heads around the sudden dramatic shifts. The traumatic nature of life flipping upside-down so suddenly will likely carry beyond the crisis itself for many in one way or another.
This brings us to the next emotion — fear. Many people are scared, or are dissociating the fear. If not scared for themselves, they are likely scared for family members, friends, or others. Many people may try to hide the fear or pretend it isn’t actually there. For some, this is actually part of the denial. To turn and face the fear feels like too much. So instead, the problem doesn’t exist until they’re forced to deal with it.
Helplessness and symptoms of depression are also showing up for people. When people feel out of control and vulnerable, some try to grasp at control in various ways in order to feel like there is something we can do to put our lives back into our own hands. And for many they can ride through on these forms of control to some degree, at least for a period of time. But the reality is that there really is only so much we can control, which the current situation has brought to the front for many people.
For many, many people, it is really hard to sit with uncertainty. To really have no idea what’s going to happen next, where this is all going to go, if we or someone we know will get sick, for how long we’re going to be stuck inside, for how long the virus will continue to upend our lives, for how long some of us may be without work or steady income, etc. It is this area — the uncertainty and unknown — that really stirs the anxiety and fear even further for people, and can be completely intolerable for many.
Anxiety, worry, and panic attacks are ongoing for many people to the point where the current baseline sits constantly on the verge of panic. This feeds into things like panic buying — which is completely unnecessary. The frenzy of panic-buying is a symptom of the panic, fear, and lack of control people are feeling. And it unfortunately breeds panic behaviors from people who weren’t initially panicking — people have to follow along in the panic otherwise they will be left with nothing.
So, while it’s normal to feel panic and fear (and this can be managed in therapy), if people can stop themselves from hoarding supplies, this can actually lend to the return to emotional normalcy. When you see the shelves fully restock in the stores, it will be a positive and hopeful feeling, and allow for leaving the panic behind.
All of these feelings above as well as others not listed here are all understandable during this unusual time.
One of the difficulties with mental and emotional health during this time is dealing with these emotions in a healthy way while stuck at home for weeks on end. It can also be very easy to neglect your mental health when there is something out there that threatens your physical well being. This can manifest as feeling like you’re in constant fight or flight mode with nowhere to go with it — as if you have one thing to pay attention to, and everything else drops to the side.
However, beyond the virus itself, with life thrown so far off track and so much into the air recently, now is a critical time to take care of your mental health rather than allowing the emotions of the current situation to start taking over. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, or any combination of emotions above, reach out to a therapist — you can even have your sessions from home with online video sessions. You shouldn’t have to go through this on your own.