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A Mental Health Provider's Personal Experience with Coping During COVID-19

When the Corona Virus quarantines started happening, my sister sent me a picture of a Facebook post where the writer was saying by the end of quarantine they would be 30 pounds heavier with a serious drinking problem, or they would have a completely clean and organized house, be in the best shape of their life and living in harmonious balance. I took this as a bit of a challenge, I did not want to be gaining weight while sitting on the couch waiting for the end of the world to come. What type of example would I be setting for my family, friends and Clients if I didn’t practice all of the self-care strategies I have in my arsenal and stay as productive as humanly possible? So I stayed busy, reorganizing every nook and cranny in my house, saw all of the clients I could, completed additional training, and read books I had sitting on my shelf I always felt too busy to get to reading. With all I was accomplishing I was well on my way to the second person in the post my sister sent, and well on my way to returning to full on panic attacks. I was so anxious about not being anxious or depressed, I was so sold on the idea that it had to be one choice or the other that I missed my own warning signs, telling me that anxiety was getting the best of me. One afternoon I found myself sitting in my office crying because, despite all I was accomplishing at home and at work, it still didn’t feel like it was enough. I had a friend tell me honestly, that I needed to slow down and to take a break. As hard as it was to hear that, I took their advice and started taking a look what I was doing and why. I started reading the book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***, which really challenged me to consider what I was putting my energy into. I ended up reconnecting with my own therapist to make sure I had the support that I needed. My therapist also challenged me in my belief that there is a “right or wrong” way to handle the stress of a pandemic. It’s a pandemic! We don’t have any kind of experience or expertise in how to deal with this, it’s unprecedented. Whether you, like me, struggle to admit it or not, there isn’t a “right way” to handle things right now. We are all trying to do our best. I noticed that one of my worst coping skills, perfectionism, came up because I had nothing to compare my emotions around this to. My mind took over and used the skill that I have had the most success with in the past. I know many who have had similar experiences, and it’s been scary, concerning, disconcerting, and/or terrifying for them. My point in writing all of this is that, we are all doing the best we can. You don’t have to gain 30 pounds and have a drinking problem nor do you have to have an immaculate house, work out every day, or have a perfectly harmonious life. There are days where it will be a struggle and days where things will be easier. We might not always use our healthiest coping skills, and if we continue to accept that this is a difficult time in our lives as well as others, and recognize that we are all human and make mistakes, perhaps it will make living through a pandemic a little easier. My mom sent me a different posting a few days ago, it says: You do not need to thrive right now. You don’t need to use this time wisely. It is okay to just survive it. So whether in this moment you are using the coping skills that help you survive or your skills are those that help you thrive, I hope that you take the opportunity to validate how you are feeling and accept that you are doing the best you can.

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