Let’s Walk Together Through the Emotional Challenges of COVID-19
By Debbie Ciccotelli, Vice-President, Strategic Initiatives
Are you feeling as overwhelmed as I am as the COVID-19 pandemic infection rate continues to rise? Feeling overwhelmed is normal when there is so much disruption to our lives.
We have had enough negativity in 2020 to last a lifetime. I am exhausted by the gloom and doom and disheartened by what is currently happening in our community and world around us.
I believe that it is important to talk about our experience and the reality of what we are going through, so I thought I would share some personal experiences which COVID has had on me and my family.
I lost a cousin to COVID in April this year – he died in hospital alone and only his wife and mother attended his funeral. I have a young niece who has both Parkinson’s and Addison’s disease, which has resulted in a severely compromised immune system, confining her to her home. My daughter is an essential worker and is suffering anxiety from fear of bringing COVID home, as well as for having made the choice to send her 2 children to school. I personally am in the vulnerable age sector and have been working and locked down in my home since March. I have not been able to see my children or grandchildren, whom I love dearly and miss more than can be imagined. My 5-year-old granddaughter is in JK and due to minor cold or flu symptoms has been required to go through COVID testing three times already. Five days prior to finishing this article, my father passed away at home and we made the decision not to have a funeral service and to wait to hold a Celebration of Life when it is safe to do so – it is the right decision but somehow it seems wrong.
Many of you are experiencing similar, if not more difficult, challenges. In these troublesome times, it is important to think beyond ourselves and consider what others are facing. How you respond to stress during the COVID-19 pandemic can depend on your background, your social support from family or friends, your financial situation, your health and emotional background, the community you live in, and many other factors.
I am generally a very positive person and I have tried very hard not to let the impact of the pandemic get me down, but like many people there are times when I struggle to cope, which is a normal reaction. During these periods, receiving support and care from others has had a powerful effect on helping me cope with challenges. Spending telephone or virtual time talking through concerns, thoughts and feelings with supportive family and friends gives me a sense of comfort and stability.
Our world has not faced anything like this in over a century. It’s big. It’s ok, and even appropriate, to not be ok. Allow yourself to feel the reality of what you’re going through. Reach out, if it would help to talk to someone (it probably would). You don’t have to present a brave face to the world, if you’re having a tough time – If negative emotions threaten to overwhelm, find a counseling professional who works with people virtually or by phone, such as ASP’s Employee Assistance Program (LifeWorks).
Connecting on a personal level, extending compassion and assuming positive intent from others may make all the difference for someone who is really hurting, either visibly or below the surface. It is important to understand the power we each have to connect and lift each other up, especially during the holiday season when we cannot be with the people we care about the most. These small interactions can make a massive impact on others.
If you want to be a respectful co-worker during this challenging time, show your peers you care by taking time to understand their world, stay in touch, and find ways to offer support. If we do, we may just come out of the other side of this health crises closer and more connected to each other. But if you’re really struggling as you watch it all unfold, feeling fear as this thing marches closer, or mourning your own real losses, that’s a normal reaction too. It’s better for our mental health to see this time as a collective challenge – one that is extremely difficult but remember: We’re all in this together
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
– Maya Angelou
With a vaccine arrival and the end of this horrible pandemic on the horizon, we will get through this and regardless of how people remember their own circumstances, I am convinced that they will have long-lasting memories of how others treated them.