Dealing with the Coronacoaster

Dealing with the Coronacoaster
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 2: Feel sad for a little bit.

First, just sit in it. Let yourself feel sad.

Don’t scroll further yet. Sit in it.

Step 3: Ok, now just for a second, look at this cozy kitten.

Step 4: Don't expect that kitten to have magically cheered you up; your feelings are valid and this thing is hard.


Sit in the sadness a little longer if you need to.


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 7: Ok, now pick one thing in your house to clean.

Step 8: Now tell yourself you don't actually have to clean it.

Working harder is not the solution to sadness.


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.


Step 15: Don't expect that good thing to make up for all the hard things and stuff you've missed.

You can simultaneously be thankful for the good things and grieved over the hard things. You are allowed to have multiple conflicting emotions at the same time.


Final Step: Read these Strange Planet comics, and know it's ok if you're having a hard day.

Some ideas that might help in a swirling, confusing world

Some ideas that might help in a swirling, confusing world
Kristen Panthagani

There is a lot of confusion and division swirling around these days, and sometimes it feels like the world is spinning, and it’s hard to know up from down. I’ve found that when I can name what I am experiencing, it can help me process what’s going on and re-center my grasp on truth. Here are two concepts that I think may prove helpful in processing some of the events going on right now.


Gaslighting is a form of manipulation where a person makes false statements that cause their audience to doubt their own memory, perception, or judgement. It is classically part of an abusive relationship — many abusers use gaslighting to confuse and disorient those they are abusing, trying to distract them from the fact they are being abused, or ultimately convince them that they are not being abused. A simple example might be: Person A told Person B they would go grocery shopping. Person A does not go grocery shopping, and Person B asks why. Person A responds by saying “I never said I would go grocery shopping” and accuses Person B of “misremembering.” Or Person A might say “I was only joking when I said that, you should have known I wasn’t seriously planning on going grocery shopping,” even though Person A was clearly not joking. Or even, Person A might get angry that Person B didn’t go grocery shopping, and blame them for the fact that there is now no food. When this goes on repeatedly, it is extremely disorienting and can be surprisingly powerful. It can make a smart, logical, confident person start questioning their own judgement and memory and sow a lot of self doubt. It feels like one’s mind is in a fog, and one is getting hit and hurt by words, but it’s hard to even put your finger on where they are coming from. Every time one tries to combat the lie that was said, the abuser tries to flip everything around, so there is no fair playing field of reason and truth. It is extremely disorienting.

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is the state of believing or acting upon two or more conflicting ideas at once. This is when we as humans hold conflicting beliefs, and it makes our brains hurt. An example might be Belief 1: “I believe that person A is knowledgeable and trustworthy.” Belief 2: “What Person A just said is not true.” We’re not sure what to do with that, and it leads to confusion. Until we can reconcile our cognitive dissonance, usually our brains hurt and our responses may not be fully logical, because we are trying to respond based on conflicting ideas.


I have found that naming what is happening can help me process what I am experiencing. If you are experiencing either of these things, I hope this helps you too. Also if you see other people experiencing these things, have lots of grace for them. This stuff is hard.