Keeping spirits up during the pandemic

Below, I offer some positive tips for lifting your mood and/or helping those you care about during this pandemic in this new year.

METEOROLOGISTS TAKE  their best shots at weather  forecasting, but they are not  always right. (photo credit: STOCKVAULT)
METEOROLOGISTS TAKE their best shots at weather forecasting, but they are not always right.
(photo credit: STOCKVAULT)

The holidays are over and as Israelis look forward to the New Year, many people are wondering if this pandemic will ever end. 

Our frustration comes out in common sayings like “Enough is enough,” “I can’t believe this is still around,” “I guess that this is our new reality,” or “Can I believe in medical science?” However, what we can say with certainty is that no one can predict what the course of this pandemic will be. 

We all can agree on this uncertainty. Perhaps it’s a bit like predicting the weather. Meteorologists take their best shots at weather forecasting, but they are not always right. In reality, this uncertainty is the worst aspect of the pandemic. Just when you think you are beating COVID with vaccines, along comes the Delta variant. Although the third booster gives us some hope, we know it doesn’t guarantee that COVID-19 is over for good. 

But as my late mother-in-law, who lived through the revolution and pogroms in Russia, would say, “It is what it is.” 

Now, that school is back, more issues are on our collective minds. Since children are now potential carriers of the COVID virus, COVID testing has become part of the lives of children and their parents. For me, seeing these little kids wearing masks in elementary school and thinking about them going through frequent testing is a painful thing. Yet on a positive note, kids are very resilient, and in the long run, this will all be a fleeting memory for most of them. 

Nonetheless, it is very important for parents to regularly ask their children how it is going and what they are feeling. These types of questions will help children cope effectively with both the need for periodic testing for the virus and wearing masks at school. 

Most of my clients and my personal friends seem more gloomy than usual. In fact, I felt there was a strange feeling in the synagogue during the holidays. The usual joyful atmosphere was not visible and the conversations with fellow members affirmed my impression. People are indeed worried about themselves and their loved ones. 

JUGGLING WORK with childcare during a pandemic takes a toll on mental health. (credit: ING IMAGE)JUGGLING WORK with childcare during a pandemic takes a toll on mental health. (credit: ING IMAGE)

Below, I offer some positive tips for lifting your mood and/or helping those you care about during this pandemic in this new year.

• Reflect on what you did well last year. It is easy to focus on what wasn’t accomplished during the previous year and then get depressed about it. Sometimes a simple accomplishment inventory can keep your mood more positive. 

• Accept the limitations of our situation and this may help you successfully find solutions to problems and new opportunities.

• Don’t dwell too much on the future.

• While crises bring about all kinds of dangers, they also provide opportunity. For example, if you are currently unemployed, don’t lose hope. You would be surprised how many jobs are now being posted online. You may have to consider switching careers or taking a cut in salary, but something good may in fact may come your way. In fact, I have seen some of my unemployed clients land wonderful jobs. 

• Find a new daily ritual that will make you feel good. I recommend meditating or mindfulness exercises. Perhaps, this is the best time to start an exercise program if you are not currently working out. Exercise creates “good feeling” neurochemicals in your brain that can offset depression and anxiety. 

• Pick a personal virtue that you would like to improve like being a better friend and/or parent or spouse.

• Connect to your inner self. Make it a priority. Am I ok from the outside? Am I functioning? How worried do I feel, and am I depressed? Am I neglecting myself? This self-inventory can help you monitor your behavior and thoughts that pose a threat to your emotional well-being. Don’t hesitate to seek professional counseling if needed.

• Don’t let this pandemic completely block you from seeing your family and friends. While we need to take precautions and follow health care guidelines, don’t live your life in such fear that you completely shut yourself off from others. I have seen this happen and it is not usually necessary. 

• Be aware of the addictive crutches. Alcohol and other drugs as well as overeating may feel like they lower stress but they are highly addictive behaviors that will cause more problems in the long run. Instead, try to make a list of healthy coping strategies that you can utilize when you feel overwhelmed. 

• Making room for those around you to share their feelings and help them to be hopeful as well.

• Keep an eye on family members who are isolating. Ask your teenager to come out of his/her room and away from the computer. Do something together and encourage conversation and/or an activity.

• Keep an eye on your children’s moods and behavior. Are they having trouble getting out of bed, eating too much or too little, behaving aggressively? In other words, what are the things that they are doing or not doing that deviates from their usual baseline behaviors? Encourage your kids to talk about what is going on good in their lives and what is tough.

• Check in with older relatives. Are they drinking and eating enough? Listen to their thoughts and feelings and worries. Just checking in helps to overcome the alienation and loneliness that an elder is feeling.

Now is not time to panic, just realize we are all going through something. Stay hopeful. Remember, storms don’t last forever; it is not the way the weather works, nor the way life works either.

Shana tova and a happy and healthy new year! 

The writer is a marital, child and adult cognitive-behavioral psychotherapist with offices in Jerusalem and Ra’anana. www.facebook.com/drmikegropper; [email protected]