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Feeling Scared and Sad During the Pandemic

“I don’t need to hear any more about how stressed we all are!”

My client was understandably irritated. She felt inundated with frightening statistics and dire warnings about the spread of COVID-19 during the holidays. She was tired of the drumbeat about how “different” everything had to be this December.

But at the same time, she couldn’t stop checking her phone, watching the news, and listening for updates on what was “happening.”

I reminded her that she knew the best practices to stay safe and she was doing all of them.

Then she burst into tears. “I’m just so scared,” she admitted. “And sad.”

This is where most of us find ourselves these days — some version of scared and sad.

I heard someone say on a recent podcast that it is as if there is a constant drip of adrenaline and cortisol into the collective nervous system. We are swimming in a state of high alert and it has become so normalized we don’t even realize how hard this is on us.

There is no easy solution or fix, but there is a small practice that can help.

Acts of kindness. Toward yourself.

We all hear the admonition to be kind to others, especially in this time. But this practice starts with being kind to ourselves. We are doing the best we can in an unpredictable and daunting time.

I don’t know what acts of kindness are specifically helpful to you, but I can share some that I and my clients have found helpful.

Stop taking in so much “news”

It is a kindness to let yourself consume less media. Pay attention to what makes you tense up the most. Reading a headline? Ominous music during a report? Hospital pictures? Alerts on your phone? Pay attention — and allow yourself not to read/listen to/scroll through those places. You are being kind to your nervous system.

Get outside at least once a day

You don’t have to walk or do anything except slow down and breathe. Take a pause. Notice one thing you see outside. Your body will be grateful.

Let go of unnecessary tasks or chores

Not everything needs to be done. You can give yourself time to do something enjoyable.  Or do nothing at all.

Imagine yourself as a small child or animal

What feels good? A nap? Free play? Time to just sit and stare? A delicious treat?

Take time to do something you normally put off

Light a candle. Put on music you love. Read for pleasure. One client found that cleaning a drawer gave her happiness — and that counts as an act of kindness too.

Your acts of kindness will be unique to you and your situation, but this practice can be soothing and calming. Aim to do at least(!) one a day; more if you can stay focused on it. The benefits are rich.

It is a challenging season. Kindness to yourself opens the path to offering kindness to others.

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