Email from Counseling Services 4/9/20
Greetings from VCSU Counseling Services
We recognize that all of us have all been adjusting to rapidly changing personal and professional lives. We wish to acknowledge what many may be feeling.
The discomfort you are feeling might possibly be grief!
Once we name it, we can manage it. The world has changed, and we know this is temporary, however it may not feel temporary. We realize things will be different. This is all understandable in the cognitive sense. However, the emotional sense may be different. We are developing a new normal, let’s do it in a healthy manner.
The emotion of fear, anger, irritability, and maybe even hopelessness is normal. Fear of economic toll, loss of connection, loss of safety, and loss of special events (trips, graduation, conferences, celebrations, holidays) are all real. We may also be experiencing what is called anticipatory grief. Anticipatory grief is that feeling we get about what the future holds when we are uncertain. Anticipatory grief is the mind going to the future and imagining the worst. This kind of grief can be confusing. We may even have a lingering sense that more loss is still to come. Even though we have never experienced this type of pandemic in our lifetime, history tells us that this is survivable. This is a time to overprotect but not overact. If you are wondering if you are experiencing this type of grief, here are some signs and symptoms.
- Hypervigilance: This can manifest as persistent anxiety and feeling overwhelmed or procrastinating more often. Feeling stuck; over planning; unable to make decisions for fear of being wrong.
- Exhaustion: This can be particularly difficult at a time when others are talking about how productive they have been while self-isolating. You may feel unproductive when comparing yourself to others — stop it! However, you are far from alone in this exhaustion. This is a time to limit social media, set boundaries with your time, and practice self-care. Let others know what you can and cannot do. “I’ve been having a rough time with this pandemic stuff. Can we keep the conversation light or away from CoVID-19?” Setting boundaries is a healthy self-care strategy.
- Anger: Anger is often a secondary emotion to fear. We may be angry about not being able to control things in our life. An example may be working from home — perhaps something that has once seemed a luxury is now not a choice. How do we balance workload, parenting responsibilities, and loss of colleague connections? Working from home may now even feel like a punishment! It may be helpful to think about your working situation as “you are at home working; not working from home.” If we were typically working from home, everything would look different than it looks when we are “at home working.”
- Denial: This virus won’t affect me/us; this whole thing is overblown; I’m not (old, immune-compromised, susceptible to lung ailments) so I will be fine; I will be fine if I stay around people who are healthy; It’s okay to spend time with others if they wash their hands. However, this is a time to be following all the health safeguards that have been given to us.
- Despair and Sadness: May be feelings of hopelessness or helplessness. “I can’t go to work; I can’t earn money; I’ll go broke; this is my new normal and I don’t like it; I don’t know when this will end.” Sometimes despair presents itself as irritability and short-temperedness.
- Role Loss: Grief may appear in this arena too. We may grieve not being a helpful leader or supervisor; not being able to support the new hire in the manner we wish; not being able to host that social event for family, co-workers, neighbors. We are grieving our loss of roles; our routines; our journeys — it is hard.
- Acceptance and Meaning: We will figure out how to proceed. Acceptance is where our power lies. We find control in acceptance. “I can wash my hands; I can keep social-distance; I can work virtually; I can connect with others virtually.” We may not be as remote as we thought. Appreciate walks, sunsets, sunrises, journaling, dancing, singing, poetry, etc.; “I can’t control the pandemic, but I can do my part by washing my hands; wearing masks in public; social-distancing; staying home when not feeling well.” The world may be changing but it may result in changes for the better. What can we learn during this time that will be positive to bring forward after the pandemic ends?”
Bring it back to the basics. It is important to stay hydrated and rested. Prioritize rest and relaxation. It is time to deescalate our bodies and brains. You are not alone in what you are feeling. Be gentle with yourself and stock up on compassion (for self and others).
We invite you to follow us on our Facebook page VCSU Counseling Services and Instagram VCSUCounselingServices. Let us know how we can support you.
Go ahead and grieve — you have earned it. We all have earned it.
Erin Klingenberg, PhD; LPCC; NCC-BC
Director of Counseling Services
Valley City State University
Kelsie Carter, M.Ed; LPC; NCC-BC
Mental Health Counselor
Valley City State University