The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted virtually every aspect of our daily lives. With ever changing policies and restrictions, shutdowns and closures, and the fear of the unknown- it can be difficult to stay positive. Katie Caffrey, PhD at Palouse Psychiatry & Behavioral Health recognizes that stress about the future and loss of normalcy are legitimate concerns affecting many in our community, as well as across the nation and globe. The good news? You don’t have to suffer in silence. While we can’t change or control everything in our lives, we can find ways to cope and strategies to help us deal with them.
Dr. Caffrey notes that “catastrophic thinking isn’t productive.” She reassures that it’s okay to be overwhelmed and disappointed, but thinking thoughts like “it’s never going to end” or “we’re never going to get through this” only serve to create more stress and tension. Dr. Caffrey likes to use evidence-based thoughts to help people combat catastrophic thinking. Evidence-based thoughts include looking at trends, research, and data to understand and clarify thinking. For example, if someone is fixating that “I’m never going to be able to go back to working from my office,” evidence-based thoughts would include looking at how other organizations have successfully brought employees back, the current infection rates and trends, and doing research on how you can safely return to work.
Some people have taken a “white knuckle” approach to getting through the pandemic; thoughts like “I’m not going to do [insert activity] until the pandemic is over” or “once the pandemic is over, then I’ll do [insert activity] again” are common. These types of thoughts create tension. Instead of waiting to do activities like exercising, socializing, or getting a routine health examination or testing until life returns to normal, a better approach is to consider what can you do to make it work in the current environment? Perhaps that means exercising outside, getting together with friends virtually, or getting routine health examinations while following masking and social distancing recommendations.
For parents, it’s important to reassure your children that the pandemic will end eventually. Creating a modified sense of normalcy in your children's lives like maintaining a routine, finding ways to safely socialize, and creating structure at home can be useful tools. While you can’t control what their schooling will look like, when they’ll be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, or when their sports teams and activities will resume, you can help them work through the disappointment, stress, and anxiety surrounding these challenges and changes. Giving them tasks to do during their routine such as “we have dinner at 6:30 every night. Would you like to help me make the salad?” or “today is Friday, which means family movie night! Can you pick out the movie for us to watch?” can help make their day-to-day fun, as well as consistent.
One of the most common questions out there is- how do I know when I need to seek help? If you’re experiencing symptoms that impact your daily functioning, even if you’re not sure if you meet the criteria of having anxiety or depression, Dr. Caffrey encourages you to seek assistance- “if you’re not sure, just reach out and ask. We see many patients who don’t always fit the definition for clinical depression or anxiety, but we are still able to provide strategies, resources, and assistance.” Yes, the pandemic has created challenges and elevated stress levels, but it doesn't mean you have to suffer alone.
If you’re interested in seeking help at Palouse Psychiatry & Behavioral Health, ask your primary care physician for a referral.
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