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This unprecedented pandemic is taking a toll on most everyone. Of course, everyone is handling it differently and its effects impact people to varying degrees, but I think it’s safe to say that at this point in the stay-at-home mandates and social distancing, it is taking a toll on everyone.

From my perspective

It has been interesting to continue providing mental health care over the last few months as COVID19 has continued to wreak havoc on vulnerable populations and our healthcare system. Those effects have been severe and painful. Another less severe but perhaps more far-reaching effect has been the toll on nearly everyone’s interpersonal lives. Whether it’s actual quarantines, social distancing, working from home, or working extra shifts, everyone’s lives are a little (or a lot) different now than they were 3 months ago.

We are limited in various ways in who we can see and how often, on a personal level (i.e., family, close friends) and societal level (i.e., sporting events, movies). And it’s hard! For many, it came out of nowhere and has left them reeling and lonely. It is something I’ve seen in the therapy room (virtually, of course), as we continue taking on new clients. While I’ve watched many clients bravely begin the process of therapy, I’ve noticed something else. Some clients are having a really difficult time adjusting to the new normal. But some aren’t!

From an other’s perspective

I was consulting with a friend of mine who is also a therapist and we both realized that this social distancing in particular is hard for everyone (even our introverts are starting to feel it!), but clients that have been with us for a while, who have been working to establish healthy self-care routines and healthy coping strategies for anxiety and depression- those clients are adapting and managing it. Some are thriving! They know what it is like to feel out of control or sad or trapped, and they’ve worked through it with therapy and strategies and tools and have come out on the other side more resilient.

Now, as we are all being challenged with a basically brand-new set of obstacles, they already have the tools they need and know how to care for themselves well in the midst of the trials. This has been awesome to see. Many recognize that they are handling it quite well compared to their peers, and can feel encouraged by the normalizing of symptoms they may have been dealing with and working on for months or years.

Continuing the work

I was struck by this realization, and was glad for it. Glad for my clients who have the tools they need, and glad for the normalizing of some of these symptoms and the option of therapy as a means to wellness. My hope in sharing about these observations is threefold.

First, I hope it can offer some encouragement to those who have likely dealt with therapy and all of it’s frustrations and stigmas that you are doing good work. Second, I hope it can offer some hope to people who are dealing with mental health struggles for the first time- that what you’re experiencing, it’s not just you. There are ways to work with it, cope with it, and heal it. Lastly, I hope it can expand our “empathy muscles”. I hope that it can shed some light on the fact that these feelings of loneliness,depression,boredom or anxiety are feelings that some people have to experience and deal with ALL the time. I

hope that if you’re getting a taste of them for the first time, that it allows you to feel more empathy and act with more kindness towards others. Those feelings are not easy, but are made a little easier when met with understanding, kindness, empathy.

This is a weird time for everybody. Let’s be there (in whatever ways we can) for one another and take care of ourselves. If you are struggling with the effects of this virus, know that it’s not just you, and know that there are people trained to walk with you through it. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Optimum Joy today!

Written by therapist Clair Miller

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