May 2, 2021

3 Ways to Lean into Discomfort & Cope with Pandemic Depression.

We all have difficult things we have to face.

Our suffering is individual to each of us, but the last year has changed everything for everyone.

In just over a year, a newfound virus spread around the globe affecting millions of people and their way of life. Careers, holiday celebrations, finances, and social lives were all affected by the pandemic.

Like most of us, I’ve struggled to cope with the changes and uncertainty the pandemic brought.

These three things helped me get through the past year:

1. Remember that things will change.

After a year of dealing with COVID-19, it seems like we will never be free of this new, restrictive way of life. We’ve had to rearrange our lives to accommodate government mandates. Our social lives and time with family have been cut short because we’re afraid of either contracting the virus or unwittingly transmitting it to someone we love. It’s important to remember that nothing lasts forever. When you accept that, it’s freeing. So no matter how frustrated you are with all the changes COVID has forced upon you, keep in mind that they will change.

In some areas, restrictions are already starting to lift as infection numbers fall. When we are happy and things change without warning, it can be frustrating. That’s when we fight change. When something is yanked away from us before we’re ready, we want to scream and rage against the unfairness of it. And, it’s okay to feel that way. But there comes a time when we must embrace the change.

As humans, we’re so resilient. We adapt. Our way of life will continue to be shaped by COVID-19, but life won’t revolve around this virus forever. So when you’re stuck in a valley, remember that it won’t go on forever. You will smile and laugh again. And at the same time, happiness is not a permanent state of being. We can take steps to reduce our suffering, but there’s no way to ensure we’ll be happy all the time. The best thing we can do is lean into the pain and embrace the ever-changing nature of life. And then smile and laugh again.

2. Get outside and go for a walk.

COVID-19 has forced us to stay home more. Things have closed down. Jobs were lost and celebrations canceled.

The isolation pushed many of us into depression. When we are forced to spend more time alone, just getting outside and going for a walk can improve our mood. Exercise—even a light walk—releases endorphins.

Going for a walk also lets us reconnect with nature. We’re giving ourselves a chance to marvel at the beauty of it all. From the caterpillar on a leaf to the sun setting at the end of the day, there’s no shortage of things—big and small—to appreciate. A simple walk is an easy way to feel better and get some perspective. Being stuck at home due to COVID-19 is isolating for even the most introverted people.

3. Journal and get it all out.

I’m always talking about journaling because it has helped me so much. My journaling habit is one of my main coping practices. A journal doesn’t judge us. It’s a safe place to give voice to everything we are feeling without worrying about offending someone or shocking them.

When we’re dealing with circumstances outside of our control, like the pandemic, we never feel just one way. It’s normal to feel a mix of emotions. As the pandemic continues, we may feel scared, sad, and angry. All these emotions warring within us leave us feeling conflicted.

A journal is a way to record what we are feeling and reflect on our different emotions. By getting our thoughts and emotions out and onto paper, we can sort through them and make sense of them. And let them go.

Life has highs and lows. We go through peaks and valleys. When we are in the middle of a low time, it can be hard to remember it will end. But it will.

Railing against the circumstances of the pandemic is futile. There is little that we can control. It’s really only our words and our actions that are in our domain. Leaning into the discomfort and embracing the impermanence of life doesn’t come naturally, but with practice, it gets easier. When we’re going through hard times, journaling and getting out into nature can help us cope.

How are you coping with the pandemic? What has helped you make it through?

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