Scrolling my social media feeds last week, I initially felt inspired by the grit and enthusiasm displayed by so many people living in Covid-19 lockdown. We, as a human community, were making the most of our situation. Though dire circumstances confined us to our homes, we could make lemonade out of these bitter lemons. And fresh baked bread, too!
The Paradox Within the Pandemic
It’s a funny thing, this paradox within the pandemic. A terrible thing is happening in the world around us, or in our own personal worlds. Many people are sick with the Covid-19 virus, or have died. Many people, including ourselves or those we know, have lost their jobs. So many are living in fear. Yet as life as we knew it began to shut down, we marveled at having time for the simple things. I’ve heard so many people talk about the simple joy found in taking a (properly distanced) walk outside every day.
We celebrate innovation around connecting (how did it never occur to my husband, or myself, to have video “distance dinners” with far-flung loved ones?). We have more time for meaningful conversations, with people we haven’t had time for in years. Many have shared that this experience is teaching us, like a slap to the face, what matters most. We profoundly appreciate things we took so for granted. These insights are all good, of course.
When the novelty of all this started to wear off, though, and the inspirational examples piled up, it felt as if possibilities turned into pressure. Now that so many of us are confined to our homes, we have to do important, fun or creative things.
We can use the extra time to take courses! Create works of art! Write books! Redecorate! We shouldn’t waste a moment of the gift of confinement. We must make the most of it all! Ideally, it should all be delightfully “Instagrammable”, too.
Give Yourself Permission (and Space) to Feel Your Emotions
I believe that, in addition to celebrating the gritty human drive to rise above our circumstances, we need to give ourselves permission to grieve. To be afraid. To sit with our emotions. To slow down. To slow way down, if we need to (and are able to).
There’s nothing wrong with being productive or creative. It can be a helpful, constructive way to cope. But we must also allow ourselves space to not be “amazing”. Our world has not faced anything like this Covid-19 pandemic in over a century. It’s big. It’s ok, and even appropriate, to not be ok.
Some people may feel like failures because they are not sufficiently “seizing the moment” within this pandemic. Because they are struggling to cope. I have felt this way at times.
I feel better today, buoyed by hopeful news like the promises from many large corporations to manufacture equipment for front line health care workers. But my general mood has been somber. I have grieved over stories from physicians in Italy. There’s the devastating economic impact. It’s all so much.
If you’re tapping into fresh reservoirs of strength and inspiration, celebrate that. You can use your energy to help others, too. But if you’re really struggling as you watch it all unfold, feeling fear as the coronavirus marches closer, or mourning your own real losses, that’s a normal reaction.
I prefer to be a “hero”, one who rises above circumstances to encourage and help others. We need our heroes, that’s for sure. But sometimes we must simply allow ourselves to be humbled by a situation. To grieve what’s happening, to not know what to do next. To be messy. To handle things imperfectly. To not have anything “Instagrammable” to share with the world right now.
Allow yourself to feel the reality of what you’re going through. Reach out, if it would help to talk to someone (it probably would). Journal your feelings. You don’t have to present a brave face to the world, if you’re having a tough time. If negative emotions threaten to overwhelm, find a counseling professional who works with people virtually or by phone.
I’ll say it again: If you’re feeling like all of this is too much – it’s because it is.
Looking for more information on Covid-19? You’ll find additional suggestions for how to personally navigate the coronavirus pandemic in this article: Covid-19: How to Keep a Healthy Perspective
I want to thank you for your wisdom and magnificent heart. I appreciate you stepping up to share this truth and I know it will inspire so many and have positive impact. I know that it is giving ourselves permission to feel what we feel and let it role through that make us strong.
I am doing a virtual networking group on zoom next Tuesday from 1pm – 2:30pm and would love to share this with them.
With blessed appreciation for who you are what you contribute to us all.
Hello Carolyn!! How lovely to see your name here, I remember when we met (I think it was via WOW?) more than a decade ago. Thank you so much for your kind and very encouraging words. I would be so honoured if you would share this with your group! Thank you so much, bless you and stay safe and well. – Susan
Thank you for being so real and for sharing how you feel. I am a health coach as well and I think sometimes people expect us to be stronger or to be the perfect example. I always explain that coaches are human too and can fall apart and be upset about things that are going on around us. It’s easy to get caught up in the news and I found myself the first week watching it way too much. When the news overwhelms me and I feel the wave of sadness I sit down and allow myself to feel it and remind myself as you said that it is ok to feel the way we do. The first week was pure denial and then when the reality hit us it hit us all pretty hard when things advanced quickly. Praying that we all find strength and comfort during these hard times. Thank you for your encouraging words and for being you. You have touched my life for many years and l appreciate you more than you know. You help so many! God bless you!
Oh Laura you’re going to make me cry with this! (The good kind of cry! 🙂 ) It’s so humbling, all of this, isn’t it. Especially for those of us who are used to being the ones who help everyone else hold it together. At least that’s how our roles can feel or seem sometimes. Thank you for your beautiful words here. I’ve always believed that (most of the time, anyway) if we allow people to see what’s *really* going on in our lives, it can be a gift to them. We’re all just human in the end. God bless you too! xo
You’re very welcome, Cathy!
THANK YOU for giving us “permission” to be unproductive! I, too, had all these grand plans when all this began, but lately I have been finding that there are days when all I want to do is watch a TV show or a movie that I can get lost in and just escape Covid-19 for a bit–even if it’s only for just a little while. These mini vacations seem to be helping me cope; but then I find that I haven’t been so productive. But I hear you saying that maybe that’s okay. And now all I feel is relief!
Hi Cherri! You “officially” have permission 🙂 . I like the idea of a mini-vacation from Covid, I think every person could probably use a bit of that every day. We have enough to worry about right now without imposing unnecessary or arbitrary pressures on ourselves.
Thank you Dr Susan!
This is Valerie who wanted to be a “plant doctor” when I participated in your workshop decades ago.
I am now a counsellor focusing on grief and loss and really appreciated your words about giving yourself permission and space to feel your emotions. I needed to hear that.
I want to create a post in our little community of Peachland Facebook page about the normal feelings of grief people may not recognize in the hope that they will understand better. I listened to a CBC radio interview with David Kessler of grief.com that inspired me.
Thank you for sharing your wisdom!
Hello Valerie! Sorry that I missed responding to you, I can remember you and your “plant doctor” dream as vividly as if it were yesterday (I can see exactly where you were sitting when you said it, and still feel my delight at your explanation). How wonderful that you are doing such meaningful work, the world is surely a better place because of it.