If you’ve been feeling like you’ve been on an emotional roller coaster for the past couple of months, you’re not alone. According to mental health experts, one of the most important aspects to maintaining an even keel right now is to realize — there is no even keel.
“If you’re struggling right now — that’s normalcy,” said Tedd McDonald, a community psychologist and professor in Boise State’s Department of Psychological Science, College of Arts and Sciences. “That’s most of us. We have no history with this — and that makes it scarier and more depressing.”
McDonald said one way to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic is to be nice to yourself. “If we can take it as easy on ourselves as possible, we will get through it,” he said.
Mary Pritchard, a health psychologist and member of the Department of Psychological Science at Boise State, said what most people feel is a mixture of anxiety, fear, grief and depression.
“A lot of our students and faculty feel unmotivated right now,” said Pritchard. “They say: There are days I can function well — other days I can’t get off the couch. It’s a huge psychological impact,” she said. “This has a lot more of the feel of a natural disaster and the young people — they don’t remember 9/11 or H1N1. … For some reason we are panicked on a societal level we’ve never seen.”
Both agree that self-care is a must.
McDonald said it is easier for us to reach out and help others than to help ourselves and right now, we need to focus on looking inward as much if not more than lending a hand to others. “Really being able to forgive ourselves and granting us grace is so important during all this,” McDonald said.
Pritchard agrees and said you can help yourself by doing things that feel good and also send a positive message to others.
“Paint a rock, do a sidewalk chalk — howl,” she said. Some Treasure Valley neighborhoods open their doors and howl at 8 p.m. every night as a form of connection — and a way of letting off pent-up steam. “I’ve gotten to know my neighbors and we get together in chairs in our driveways and talk, very socially distanced. Find your community in any way you can. Do what you can to fill your cup right now,” Pritchard said. “We are not functioning on all cylinders here; we’re not even close.”
McDonald said it’s good to remember we won’t be in this place forever.
“That whole idea of hope — I think we underestimate the power of that construct,” he said. “Things are going to get a lot better. … We just don’t know when.”