The power of this novel virus is such that it’s arrived into the realm of mental health, as online articles about anxiety and COVID-19 will attest. As the crisis continues to unfold, it’s worth remembering that the definition of good health also includes our ability to cope emotionally with threats to that health, regardless of what the threat actually is or does.
We’ve already seen remarkably varied responses to Life in the Time of Corona. Denial, anxiety, hoarding, the conviction of conspiracies—it’s a list as long as a therapist’s notes. And because we all react differently, an important thing we can do to preserve well-being is be aware of our biases, check ourselves against the science, and do our best to accept some equally true but contrary things, such as: yes, the virus could touch any one of us personally, and also; we’re healthy now, perhaps with few commitments, and even stuck at home there are abundant opportunities for happiness and gratitude.
“Strange times” often mean we must hold conflicting thoughts in daily life, an ability that helps us cope with anything. A woman I know, thankful to still be paid while not working, while so many face financial hardships, is somewhat guiltily looking for ways to help others. A hard worker in a stressful job, she also admitted—hesitantly—that this could be a needed respite. Her empathetic tendencies and the possibility of recharging were clearly at odds. And both valid.
Balancing a mix of complex feelings is a challenge for all of us, but it helps to remember that there is likely good reason for each feeling; we aren’t required to narrow them down. Accepting all feelings means coming to terms with the truth about well-being in hard times—which is that there isn’t one truth. Martina Horner writes, “…Keep learning, enjoy challenge, and tolerate ambiguity. In the end there are no certain answers.” Or, at least, may we save the clear answers for vaccines; and may we learn to accept ambiguity elsewhere in the interests of better well-being.
For more on coping under the COVID cloud see:
Bridget Hardy is a Wellness Coach and Fitness Specialist.