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We Are All In this Together: Continuing to Survive the COVID-19 Pandemic

Special needs mom, Clinical and School Psychologist
03/22/21  8:00 AM PST
covid-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has been ongoing and is slowly (or maybe not so slowly) wearing us all down. We have been managing our children being home, virtual education, virtual meetings for our work, virtual meetings for everything and anything, and the daily stress that comes with listening to the rising numbers of people who have tested COVID-19 positive. We are all missing in person meetings, seeing friends and family freely, and being able to engage in our daily life routines outside of our home that we didn’t realize how much I genuinely missed until we couldn’t.

It has been overwhelming, to say the least. Teens everywhere are suffering in their virtual learning world that is devoid of social interactions, social plans, going to watch friends play sports, participating in sports and extracurricular activities as well as in-person teacher lessons and interactions. We are all wearing masks and missing major pieces of information that comes from facial expression, body language and being able to see another person’s entire body. We miss the in-person interaction where we engage and connect via true eye contact and even touching an arm or reaching over and grabbing someone’s hand to show compassion or sharing joy.

Our teens are struggling to stay on top of assignments, hand them in and perform on their in-class assignments, tests and projects. There are multiple portals and forums in which assignments and information are posted. Gone are the days of going into class, receiving a a worksheet, completing it and turning it in. Now, assignments are lost in cyber land if you forget to click “hand in” or “send,” or even send it in but in the wrong place. It’s an entirely different world that our children, who are far more tech savvy than we will ever be, are struggling.

As parents, we are worn down by little to no down time. Our children are ‘bored’ and are fighting more, we are feeling frustrated and anxious, we feel isolated and sad about not being able to see our family and friends, and about the upcoming holidays and how different they are this year.

We are all in this together. We are all struggling. Here are a few recommendations to help us get through this long-haul through the cold months of the winter and into the spring, with the hopes of our world finding a some sense of normalcy in the months to come.

Find Your Anchors

Find those things that you use to mark a season or things that you usually do to bring your comfort and happiness. For example, baking cookies or building a gingerbread house. You can also attend a religious service (virtually or in person) regularly, meet with the people in your “COVID-19 bubble” in a way that feels safe to you. Find your routines and patterns that help you through times when things feel uncertain. For example, I insist on getting dressed for my work day and using my mascara on the daily. This makes me feel prepared for my day, whether I am working or not. Other things like, creating meal menus or exercising consistently so that something feels like it is within your control. Find the things that make you feel productive or satisfied and do them on a regular basis.

Acknowledge

Even though I am the infamous fixer (I’m a psychologist, for goodness sake!) in my household, this pandemic has far surpassed anything I can “fix.” For many of us who are feeling out of control because we can’t use our usual strategies to fix situations. Acknowledge that this is the first (and hopefully, only) pandemic that you are living through and you are doing the best that you can to get through it. We don’t have a reference point and getting through each day is your daily goal. It will not last forever and life will, at some point, resume. At some point, this will be a past experience that we will be eternally grateful to have behind us.

If you become overwhelmed by the emotion, try to sit and breathe through it. Write about it in a journal (electronic or pen and paper). If you need to talk to someone, call a trusted friend or family member. If this is how you feel on more days than not and for most of the day, seek the professional help of a therapist. Try not to smother your feelings with alcohol or substances. Acknowledge them and work through them instead.

Create Your Mantra and Repeat it Often

In those moments when it feels like you can’t take it anymore, find your mantra and repeat it often. For example, “I can do this,” or “This is a hard moment that will pass,” or “This will come to an end.” We are all having hard moments, difficult hours, or days that feel like they were a disaster from the start. These are the days when you want to find your phrase and say it often. Sit with your feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, sadness, anxiety, and know that these intense feelings will not last forever. Our feelings, good or tough, come like waves with a ferocity but they will eventually lose their momentum.

For many of us, we have likely never felt so disheveled and off kilter as we do right now. Find your daily routines that help you to feel stabilized, acknowledge how you’re feeling, and create a mantra that will help you through the days when it feels like an end isn’t in sight.

Dr. Liz Matheis

 

Dr. Liz Matheis is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and certified School Psychologist who specializes in working with children with ADHD, Anxiety, Autism, Learning Disabilities, and behavioral struggles. She is also mom to three children, one with special needs. Her practice, Psychological and Education Consulting, is located in Livingston, New Jersey.

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