“All the art of living lies is a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.”
~ Havelock Ellis
Has the past year and a half been painful for America and the world? Yes!! Many of us have lost someone we love or know to COVID. If you have, I am so sorry.
With 700,000 Americans dying in the last year and a half, there is a lot of pain, grief and loss floating around. Even if you haven’t lost someone directly, we all, on some level, are experiencing the stress and anxiety of this pandemic due to isolation, job changes or loss, family difficulties flaring, or financial problems causing additional challenges.
My clients report feeling more irritable, depressed, and anxious and often are using more alcohol or other substances to calm, distract or avoid what they are feeling. The challenge with this choice is the overuse can create more problems, not less.
If you’re not sure how COVID losses or changes have affected you check in to this list with no judgment, but a sense of curiosity:
Has your drinking or using increased over the last year?
How much more?
How has the increase affected you?
Are you having more anxiety or depression?
Are you having trouble sleeping, experiencing hangovers which make productive work difficult?
Fighting with your partner or co-workers more?
Feeling more irritable or reactive?
Purdue University and I share these tips about how to cope with grief or loss resulting from COVID:
- Recognize your loss – We often feel numb after a big loss and this numbness can helpfully allow you to slowly accept what’s happened.
- Allow the Pain – The truth is you are going to hurt for awhile – As much as it hurts, admitting it will help you move through the pain faster.
- Accept all your feelings – anger, sadness, fear, guilt, heartbreak are all normal feelings.
- Anger – yes…let it rip. It’s hard for some (especially women) to allow anger – that good, rich anger that if not felt can turn into depression. Beat pillows, yell into a pillow, break old dishes – often the anger will then turn to tears – let them flow.
- Be gentle and kind with yourself. There’s no perfect way to deal with grief.
- Allow others to support you and reach out for help.
- Keep a journal – Research shows that writing out your feelings (I suggest actual writing vs. notes on the phone) helps to release them.
- Give yourself Time and Permission – When my mother and grandmother died unexpectedly a few weeks apart I gave myself a year to be fully “IN IT”. Everyone is different so give yourself the time YOU need.
If you’re coping by overusing drugs or alcohol, recognize that the truth is we can’t drink or use our problems away. Those problems are still there the next day and the next. Instead, work to moderate use so you aren’t creating harm for yourself. If you are unable to do so, seek help. SAMHSA National Helpline is 1-800-662-4357, or call your insurance company and ask for substance abuse counselors that fit your plan.