Community members look through pamphlets advertising various mental health resources in the Elk Valley at a suicide information evening in Fernie in February. Paige Mueller/The Free Press

Mental health and COVID-19: finding balance

By: Dr. Tyla Charbonneau, registered psychologist

There are bright lights and silver linings to be found while we practice the COVID-19 precautions and recommendations. The earth might heal a little, we as humans may slow down and learn to make do with what we have instead of having everything at our fingertips, and we are likely to spend quality time with our families. We need to look at these positive aspects of the situation in order to instill hope and to keep us going.

In addition to this positivity we also need to take time to sit with our emotions, even the ones that do not feel good or are considered negative.

We need to find the balance between hope and allowing ourselves to feel. Brené Brown, a shame and vulnerability researcher, said that the emotion we are most likely feeling right now is grief.

We are experiencing the loss of social connection, of group recreational activities, of a quiet home while children are at school, of our routines, our gym memberships, non scary trips to the grocery store, and the ability to stand next to someone and feel the energy they put out into the world.

Kids are going through the same thing. They are grieving spending time with friends, going to the pool or the park, music lessons, and art classes.

We need to make time to feel the sadness and frustration that come with these loses and tell ourselves it is okay and normal to have emotions, even if they are confusing. Given that the state of the world is confusing for many of us to cognitively understand, it makes sense we may feel confused about our emotions too.

Amid the confusion, allowing yourself to lean into the emotions can help. Pushing feelings aside for later does not really work. In a recent podcast Brené Brown was talking about people who say they do not want to open the Pandora’s Box of emotions in an interview. She simply said, “are you under the impression that you don’t live in that box?”

Our feelings, whether we acknowledge them outright or not, influence all of our thoughts and actions. In this time of uncertainly we cannot be without feelings and they will show up in all kinds of ways.

If your partner gets angry that it is still snowing it might really be that they are feeling cooped up and are waiting for the snow to melt to be in the yard or warm sunshine. If you find yourself getting angry with others over things that previously would not have bothered you ask yourself, “What am I feeling? What is really going on for me?”

It is not likely to be about whatever the person said or did but rather something in you that needs attention or care. It is okay to feel everything that we feel right now. Every single emotion, none is silly or ridiculous, they are your feelings and they matter.

Once you have explored how they show up in your body and mind you can also provide yourself some comfort such as, “this is tough, many of us are feeling this way, you are doing a good job handling it.”

It is true that we are all in this together, and it is also true that each of us in our own way is doing the best we can. If you have not heard it yet today let me tell you that you are doing a good job. Be kind to one another and yourself.

The content provided in this article is for information purposes only. It is not meant as a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you find yourself in distress, please reach out to your local physician or mental health providers in your community.

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