It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down. Working from home, telemedicine, remote learning, cancellation of events and gatherings, and lockdowns have upset plans. It can be difficult to come to terms with the loss of normalcy in your daily life as well as the cancellation of plans you were looking forward to. Katie Caffrey, PhD at Palouse Psychiatry & Behavioral Health understands these challenges and offers some strategies to help overcome them.
If you had a life event cancelled, such as a graduation, wedding, retirement party, or baby shower, it’s normal to be upset, frustrated, and mad. Dr. Caffrey suggests looking at these losses and examining what was most important to you about this event- what was the biggest loss? Was it hearing your name called in an auditorium with thousands of people celebrating your accomplishment? Was it the validation that you completed something you’d been working towards? Was it taking a photo in your cap and gown or with all of your colleagues? Once you determine what the biggest loss was, brainstorm ways to retain those elements. Perhaps you can find safe alternatives- such as watching your virtual graduation with your immediate family, connecting with your friends and family virtually, or having drive-thru events so your friends and family can still celebrate the new addition to your family. Get creative!
Another great strategy is to engage in some problem solving. Think about an upcoming event, celebration, holiday, or part of your routine, then think about if different scenarios happen, what would you do?
For example, if your child’s school returns to online learning- what would you do? Perhaps you’d start working from home and educate them at the same time. Maybe your partner would take on those schooling responsibilities. Maybe you’d seek out education resources that are still in-person.
Whatever the case may be, you’ve devised structure. This method helps to take away the tension of “what will I do?” and uses a pragmatic approach. In today’s rapidly evolving environment, it’s impossible to foresee and plan for each and every possible scenario (and Dr. Caffrey notes that attempting to do so isn’t a great plan and can lead to increased anxiety around situations), but having some realistic options in place can make a change to your plans easier to digest.
Dr. Caffrey suggests people stray away from an “all or nothing” approach. If your wedding was cancelled due to the pandemic, don’t just throw the idea of getting married out the door. Find ways to still partake in a celebration or event- maybe you do a virtual ceremony and plan to do the wedding you’d worked so hard to plan once it’s safe to do so.
Whatever the case, Dr. Caffrey warns that “you’re going to feel worse if you do nothing, so take the opportunity to make the best of the current situation.” News stories and social media have highlighted many creative and clever ways people have celebrated and socialized while respecting policies and regulations; we’re always excited to see what you come up with!
We deal with “less than ideal things” everyday- when it’s raining and you just washed your car, you’re stuck in traffic and are late to an appointment, your favorite team lost a game… the list goes on. While the cancellation of an event you were looking forward to is unfortunate, it’s not unlike the other inconveniences and less than ideal things we deal with on a regular basis. Dr. Caffrey suggests taking the mindset that you’re “making an investment in gratitude for the future.” Right now, you may be bummed that you aren’t able to gather with your friends and family for birthday parties, celebrations, and events, but just think about how much more you’ll enjoy gathering together once it’s safe to do so! Looking forward to those future get-togethers can help reduce the disappointment and frustration you may be feeling now.
Dr. Caffrey notes that “it’s also important to make sure you’re doing your part if you want the pandemic to end.” Masking, social distancing, and getting the vaccine when you are eligible to do so have shown to be our best course of action to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Dr. Caffrey also wants to reinforce that “fighting against the measures in place to help contain COVID-19 won’t make the pandemic end faster.” If you’re missing your pre-pandemic lifestyle, doing your part and following all policies and recommendations ensures you’ll be back to that lifestyle sooner.
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.