The Cycle of Emotions During the Pandemic: What You Can Do

The Cycle of Emotions During the Pandemic: What You Can Do

The world has become a very different place amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s only natural to experience different and possibly heightened emotions. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 40 percent of U.S. adults reported struggling with anxiety, mental health or substance use. The report in June 2020 shows a considerable rise compared to the same time period last year.

This statistic is important because it provides a glimpse into what people are feeling related to the pandemic and the changes it has brought to society. Along with depression and anxiety, people are feeling grief. There are different types of grief. The grief we feel when we lose a loved one is what we think of most often, but there’s also grief over how the world and our lives have changed. Another kind of grief, called anticipatory grief, happens when we’re uncertain what the future holds.

What Can You Do?

Understand the Stages of Grief

This will help determine if what we’re feeling is coming from one of these stages. Everyone goes through these stages differently and in no particular order. Kessler and Ross identified five stages of grief. Recently, Kessler added a sixth stage.

Here are some examples of how we might move through these stages related to the pandemic:

  1. Denial – “The pandemic is not going to impact me.”
  2. Anger – “You’re making me stay home. I can’t do the things I want to do.”
  3. Bargaining – “If I stay home for two weeks, all will be fine, right?”
  4. Depression/Sadness – “When will this end? There is no end in sight.”
  5. Acceptance – “This is real and I must accept it and find a way to move forward.”
  6. Finding Meaning – “What can I learn as a result of this?”

Find a Balance in Your Thinking

It’s easy to get pulled into negative thinking which can lead to negative feelings. One thing you can do to take control is actively practice positive thinking and even write positive daily messages in a journal.

Think About What You Can and Cannot Control

You can control the things you do – like following the advice of experts. You can wear a mask, wash your hands and social distance to keep yourself and others safe. You can learn new ways to connect virtually. You can’t control what others are doing. You can only control what you’re doing and lead by example.

Have Empathy

You will encounter people who are irritable and may catch you off guard if you’re used to them being kind. Remember the world we live in right now and show them empathy. They’re going through tough times, too. Offer support and encouragement.

Build Connectedness

This is key. Research shows the more connected we are to family, friends and the community, the less violent we’ll be toward others and ourselves, and the fewer mental health and substance use issues we’ll have.

Understand When to Seek Help

You may just need to reach out and talk to a friend, or you may need to seek help from a professional. Grief can sometimes lead to depression.

Know the symptoms of depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts (call 1-800-273-8255 or go to nearest emergency department if experiencing this symptom)
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

Anyone experiencing symptoms for two or more weeks should seek professional guidance to determine if they’re experiencing depression. Bryan Medical Center offers free confidential online depression screenings.

David Miers, PhD, LIPC

David Miers, PhD, LIPC

Health Expert

Dr. Dave Miers, PhD, is the director of Bryan Behavioral Health Services. This includes mental health treatment and counseling, psychiatric evaluations including medication management, and substance use evaluations and treatment.

Learn More About Our Counseling and Mental Health Services

You may also like

COVID-19: Coping with Stress, Social Distancing and the New Normal

COVID-19: Coping with Stress, Social Distancing and the New Normal

We certainly live in stressful, uncertain times right now. Events, schools, jobs, services and life’s milestones, are all coming to a standstill.

As someone who has worked in mental health for 23 years, I want to assure you that some level of anxiety and stress is normal. In fact, some stress is good because it alerts us to threats and motivates us to take care of ourselves.

And, I urge you not to neglect your emotional well-being and self-care during these times. If gatherings, support groups, exercise classes or other outlets you usually rely on are off limits, try phone calls, social media and texting to stay in touch with those you care about.

Here are some other strategies to help while we are safely social distancing:

Strategies for Adults

  1. Practice relaxing and breathing. Take breaks during the day, practice relaxation skills and take deep breaths. As the old Johnny Mercer song goes, accentuate the positive!
  2. Stay positive. Start a journal and write about positive things going on in your life.
  3. Stay Connected. Check in with people through text, phone, email or social media.
  4. Keep in touch, especially with those you trust with your feelings, and share with them your thoughts, concerns and needs.
  5. Have some fun! Watch a movie, go for a walk, play games.
  6. Avoid too much exposure to news and information. You can watch a bit of news each day to stay informed, but don’t get absorbed by it. It can weigh you down.
  7. Take care of yourself physically. Exercise, eat healthy foods and get plenty of sleep.

Strategies to Help Young People in Your Life

  1. Talk and answer questions. Have daily discussions and ask your children if they have questions or concerns. Go over the facts with them.
  2. Reassure children that they are safe. Our community is taking extra care to ensure that we are practicing social distancing and taking other precautions to prevent the spread of this virus.
  3. Be a good role model. Practice good coping skills such as those above. Share the healthy ways you deal with stress.
  4. Limit media exposure.
  5. Keep structure in their lives. Work with your child to set a daily routine.

We’re in this Together

Try to remember: We’re all in this together, and hopefully soon, the “old normal” will return. Perhaps, we will even see our lives with new clarity and hope for a better future.

You can find more information in my podcast “Staying Sane During Social Distancing”.

If you find yourself anxious or if life seems overwhelming and this it’s impactive your daily life, or if you think you are having symptoms of depression, please take our free, online mental health screening.

Additionally, the Bryan Medical Center Bryan West Campus mental health emergency room is available 24/7 to determine if hospitalization is appropriate.

David Miers, PhD, LIPC

David Miers, PhD, LIPC

Health Expert

Dr. Dave Miers, PhD, is the director of Bryan Behavioral Health Services. This includes mental health treatment and counseling, psychiatric evaluations including medication management, and substance use evaluations and treatment.

Learn More About Our Counseling and Mental Health Services

You may also like

The ‘Pet Effect’ and Its Impact on Your Mental Health

The ‘Pet Effect’ and Its Impact on Your Mental Health

If you’re on the fence about adding a pet to your family, here is something in the ‘plus’ category: Pets can be very good for your mental health and well-being. As a mental health professional for more than 27 years, I’ve seen in my practice as well as my own life, how pets can truly make a difference. Whether it’s a dog, cat, bird or fish, many studies prove the benefits of sharing your home with a pet.

Our little “shorkipoo,” Ollie, has been with our family for three years now. He was a gift to our youngest daughter, but this little guy with a big voice has brought a lot of joy and happiness to our family as well as to friends and our neighborhood. (I think more people know where “Ollie” lives than where we live!)

Pets Improve Our Well Being

Just ask nearly any pet owner and you’ll hear how spending time with an animal helps them relax and alleviate stress. While the phrase “emotional support animal” has become commonplace, the science behind the “pet effect” is beginning to back up the claim that pets improve our well-being.

So how about those studies? For starters, they’ve found that:

  • Service dogs aid treatment for military members and veterans struggling with PTSD
  • Pet ownership benefits those experiencing mental health problems
  • Therapy dogs reduce stress and increase feelings of well-being in college students

A lot of research is also being done on how animals can help children who have conditions like autism spectrum disorder, ADHD and others, be more comfortable and present in the classroom.

According to the Mental Health Foundation of the United Kingdom, “a pet can be a great source of comfort, companionship and motivation for their owners. In many ways, pets can help us to live mentally healthier lives.” I’ve seen this in my own life. My father lights up when we bring Ollie over for a visit. And when my late mother was ill with cancer, Ollie always put a smile on her face.

So What Is It about Pets that Makes Such a Difference?

Pet ownership creates a sense of responsibility. In turn, that sense of responsibility promotes many positive behaviors with benefits for both our behavioral and physical health. Regular exercise, for example, helps improve mood and well-being. When you take a nice long walk with your dog, you get a physical workout as well as the emotional satisfaction of bonding with and caring for your pet. I walk Ollie at least a couple of times a day, rain or shine, and have him to thank for sticking with my exercise routine!

Pet ownership has social benefits. Walking a pet gets you out of the house and into your community, where you can greet old friends, meet new people and interact with other pet owners. In our case, a walk around the block that should take three minutes can take 30 because every little kid wants to pick up Ollie or pet him.

Caring for a pet requires following a routine and building some structure into your day. While the schedule you follow actually may be one you set up for your pet, just having a regular routine in the first place can be an important accomplishment for many struggling with their mental health.

Stroking a dog, cat or other animal helps reduce stress. In fact, even just the companionship of having a pet around can be a source of comfort and relaxation. When my daughter comes home from school, Ollie is first on the scene, showering her with unconditional love and affection. What better way to decompress from the day?! Pet ownership can also counteract feelings of loneliness and help ward off anxiety, and can establish a sense of pride or achievement. This benefits all of us and can be very important to someone with depression or anxiety.

Volunteer or Visit

If you’re unable to have a pet, consider volunteering at a local animal shelter or visiting a friend with a pet. Many of the benefits of time spent with animals can be realized after even a short time spent together (though the effects tend to be strongest between a pet and its owner). If larger pets are out of the question, think about a guinea pig or fish. Even these more “low-maintenance” pets can help you de-stress and build resiliency.

David Miers, PhD, LIPC

David Miers, PhD, LIPC

Health Expert

Dr. Dave Miers, PhD, is the director of Bryan Behavioral Health Services. This includes mental health treatment and counseling, psychiatric evaluations including medication management, and substance use evaluations and treatment.

Learn More About Our Counseling and Mental Health Services

You may also like

Negative Self Talk: Is It Hurting You More Than You Know?

Negative Self Talk: Is It Hurting You More Than You Know?

What is negative self-talk?

Self-talk is the internal dialogue that narrates our daily experience. I often think of it as a digital voice recorder in our brain that is constantly recording and playing our thoughts. Read More

You may also like

Psychosis: Uncovering a Condition Found in 1 in 15 College Students

Psychosis: Uncovering a Condition Found in 1 in 15 College Students

Have you ever heard someone greet you by name and when you turned to respond there was no one there? Have you ever walked into a room and remember seeing someone or something, and when you got closer, you realized what you thought you saw was not there? Most likely everyone can remember a time when they heard or saw something that others could not hear or see. When this situation happens over and over and interferes with our daily life, we need to take action. Read More

You may also like

Stay Ho Ho Hopeful: Managing the Stress of This Holiday Season

Stay Ho Ho Hopeful: Managing the Stress of This Holiday Season

The holidays often are portrayed as a time of year that’s supposed to be filled with joy, family, friends, generosity and kindness. But for many parents, this is a time of year rife with emotional challenges and increased stress. Read More

You may also like

13 Reasons Why: A TV Series About Suicide & An Important Reason to Talk to Your Child About Suicide Prevention

13 Reasons Why: A TV Series About Suicide & An Important Reason to Talk to Your Child About Suicide Prevention

On March 31, 2017, Netflix launched 13 Reasons Why (13RW), a TV series based on a popular novel of the same name. The series is a fictional story and cautionary tale of a young girl’s suicide that covers many other sensitive topics, including teen bullying, rape, and assault. Read More

You may also like

Back to School and Your Child’s Mental Health

Back to School and Your Child’s Mental Health

Students are now back in school, and we’re all getting back into our “school routines.” Read More

You may also like

Pin It on Pinterest