Beyond Pandemic Survival Mode: Feeling the Feelings


We have looked for silver linings, counted blessings and tried to feel grateful. In the midst of adversity, instability and losses, we have worked to stay as positive as possible. In experiencing collective trauma from COVID-19, we have gone into survival mode, and done our best to find the good wherever we can.

And in many ways, finding gratitude helps sustain us. But now, with several seasons of the pandemic behind us, we may still be experiencing difficult emotions — from anger and anxiety to sadness and fear. While we may now see that the pandemic will eventually end, it is still unclear when life will really feel normal again. And in the meantime, worries over getting sick, profound loss and grief over not being able to see — or losing — loved ones due to COVID, homeschooling stress, financial pressures, isolation, and insecurity about jobs, housing and other issues persist.

To manage the day-to-day in pandemic survival mode, we can try to power through or push down difficult feelings. The problem? Denial can help for a while, but the feelings don’t go away. In fact, you may actually feel worse.

Accepting and validating all feelings as genuine — no matter how negative, uncomfortable or disturbing they are — can actually help us process them. Naming them, not blaming ourselves for feeling bad, and sitting with the idea that we are not “wallowing” but simply feeling difficult emotions can help us mindfully deal with them and begin to believe that they will not last forever.  Allowing and supporting children in expressing feelings can help them process them — and develop resilience.

If you are having a hard time emotionally, talking with a therapist or taking part in a group can help. Find free or low-cost mental health resources or call 2-1-1 in L.A. County.

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