By Kristen Panthagani
I started this blog because I saw a lot of people getting confused about science topics surrounding the COVID pandemic, and I wanted to help clarify things where I could. So the majority of my focus has been science. But one of the biggest side effects of this pandemic has been the impact on people’s emotional well-being. I have been working from home since mid-March, and will continue to do so until the end of August, and this isolation is certainly taking its toll on me (even though I am one of the most introverted introverts you’ve probably ever met). So with that said, this post is dedicated to everyone stuck at home and feels like they’re doing great (and maybe even enjoys working from home, like me), but occasionally (or maybe not so occasionally) has seemingly random bursts of sadness/anxiety/depression due to the stress of this whole thing. Some mystery person on the internet came up with a perfect word for this:
While I didn’t have gin for breakfast, today was one of those days for me. So this post is my attempt to deal with it (and maybe it will help you too).
Step 1: Validate to yourself that this sucks.
The pandemic absolutely sucks. There are lots of very stressful things happening all at the same time. Some of us have been trained to deal with hard things by “looking on the bright side!” At least I’m not sick! At least I still have my job! At least there are no hurricanes in the forecast! While it is good to be thankful for the positive things in our lives, if we don’t allow ourselves to feel the negative emotions of this being as hard as it is, that sadness will just get buried inside and not really go away. So, if you’re on the coronacoaster, and today is a hard day, don’t try to just snap yourself out of it by distracting yourself with positive things. That’s not how humans work. Instead, first validate to yourself that what you’re going through is hard, and know you don’t have to pretend it’s not. (Also you are allowed to feel unhappy even if someone else has it worse than you right now. This isn’t a competition.)
Step 5: Let Mr. Rogers remind you that there are lots of people who sometimes feel like this.
The last 30 seconds of this song feels written for the pandemic.
Step 6: For just a second, look at this giddy puppy.
(disclaimer: this is my puppy )
Step 9: Watch this Brené Brown video on Empathy.
Step 10: Until you're feeling better, don't talk to people who don't know how to empathize.
Empathy is a skill people can learn, and not everyone has learned it yet. I find it is helpful to avoid talking to people who haven’t demonstrated skill in empathizing when I am feeling sad, since I know their words might be unhelpful.
Step 11: Pull out your phone and look at a picture from exactly one year ago.
This was our wedding reception
Step 12. Look at pictures from your last trip when things were "normal."
NOLA, February 2020.
Step 13. Make a list of the things that you were really looking forward to, but that got cancelled because of the pandemic.
For me the big ones were my parents weren’t able to come to my thesis defense, and my husband and I were planning a trip to Europe this summer to celebrate our first anniversary, which obviously isn’t happening now :/
Step 14. Name one good thing that has happened because of the shut downs/other changes caused by the pandemic.
I planted a garden on my balcony and now it is so green and beautiful.