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We are living through one of the most emotionally and financially turbulent times in history. People all across the country are losing their jobs and businesses, not to mention worrying about their health and the health of their loved ones. Tensions are flaring, political sides are digging in, and anger is rising. Fights are breaking out on Facebook, protests are going on in different cities, and some of us are no longer on speaking terms with each other. The pandemic has not only made people physically sick, but emotionally and spiritually sick as well.
Nobody is immune to feeling vulnerable in a time of nationwide instability. Though our feelings are valid, we have to remember that they aren’t always productive. Unless we can use our anger in a constructive way towards achieving a goal, it serves little to no purpose other than making us physically and emotionally exhausted. So how can we, as a society, both acknowledge and validate our frustration and stress during this pandemic, but also remain compassionate towards ourselves and others? Here are some tips.
1. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. When bad things are happening to us, it’s hard to care about other peoples’ misfortunes. When we become angry and frustrated because of the bad things happening to us, we also lash out at other people without truly understanding what they themselves are struggling with. For example, some people think it’s selfish to protest during a health crisis, while other people believe it’s selfish to keep people from going to work and supporting their families. When we can put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and see why they think the way that they do, it’s easier to be compassionate towards them, even if we don’t agree completely. For example, if someone just lost their business that they put their life’s savings into, it causes us to reflect upon why they may be angry at not being able to work. If we find someone who has lost a loved one due to COVID-19, we can understand why they may be more hesitant to open up the country. Putting ourselves in another person’s position helps us to feel compassionate towards our fellow citizens, instead of angry and frustrated. It also allows us to work together to find solutions that benefit everyone involved. One we understand one another, we can work together to solve problems.
2. Practice positive self-talk. Many of us struggle with anxiety and depression because we speak to ourselves in a very negative way. We usually don’t even realize that we do it because our thoughts are often subconscious. When we constantly put ourselves down for every little thing that we do, it’s no wonder that we feel anxious, depressed, and angry all day long. It’s also no wonder why we lash out at other people and have little pity for those struggling around us. But what if we did the opposite and started talking to ourselves in an uplifting, empowering way? What if, instead of saying, “I’m going to lose my job and our family will be destitute,” we said, “I have a job today. I can’t know for sure what tomorrow brings, but I will be grateful for my job today. I will look for back up plans right now and keep saving my money in case I lose my job, but I’m not going to stress out about something I can’t control.”? Which statement makes you feel better, and which one makes you feel frightened? If you practice positive self-talk on a regular basis instead of constant self-flagellation and fear-based thinking, you will be amazed at how much more productive and calm you will feel.
3. Stay away from that which makes you angry. Social media can be devastating for our emotional well-being, especially in a time of crisis. We all know someone who has unfriended another person because of their particular belief system. And we all know what it’s like to see a post on Facebook that makes our blood boil, even if we might otherwise like the person who posted it. Or perhaps you talk on the phone with someone who is always making you feel badly about yourself or your particular situation in life. Maybe that person says things that make you angry but you feel obligated to call them because they are a family member. Whatever the circumstance is, if you are surrounded by people or situations that make you angry and stressed out on a continuous basis, it will be hard for you to stay compassionate to yourself or to other people. Take a break from your Facebook feed or the news and go on a walk. Call a positive friend who lifts you up instead of one who belittles you. Do whatever you have to do to keep your mental health in check. Keeping healthy boundaries is essential for our mental well-being.
Though we are living through difficult and stressful times, there are things we can do to minimize our own anxiety and depression. We don’t have to practice self-compassion and compassion towards others perfectly, nor does it mean that we should ignore our own feelings and concerns. However, we can minimize our exposure to stress, and challenge the way we approach it. Then, together, we can try and make the best of a stressful situation and survive COVID-19.