SALT LAKE CITY — As the coronavirus pandemic continues, more families are finding mental health issues arising from the ongoing fear of getting sick, the fear of losing loved ones, the social isolation, and the fear of the unknown.
Many mental health professionals say that during this pandemic mental health matters more than ever. There are serious mental health consequences that show up for people suffering from sustained fear. The American Journal of Managed Care notes that you can start to feel a dissociation from your identity, you can find it harder to feel loving feelings, you can experience mood swings, depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive thoughts, and/or learned helplessness, where you give up believing help or an end to suffering exists.
If you read my column on a regular basis, you know my passion for helping people deal with fear — and specifically what I call the two core fears: The fear of failure (which is the fear of not being good enough) and the fear of loss (which is the fear of not being safe).
Right now, people all over the world are battling a more than normal amount of fear that they aren’t safe. We are all afraid of loss. We are afraid of getting sick, losing family or friends, afraid of police brutality, protests or riots, afraid that the election might create more turmoil or violence, afraid of business failures and/or losing our jobs. The entire world is holding its breath to see what unknown problems lie around the bend next.
It might help your family to talk about safety and where a sense of safety can come from. The truth is life will always be uncertain and full of risk. Bad things happen and there is no way to protect ourselves from all of life’s dangers. You could make an argument that fear and stress are even warranted, but there is a high cost to living in fear of loss.
When you feel unsafe in the world, it diminishes your capacity to care for and love other people. It hinders your ability to connect, it makes you feel separated, isolated and alone. It makes you quicker to take offense and see yourself as mistreated, which creates more conflict.
You might have noticed that your family members have been more easy to offend lately, or that there have been more disagreements. Some of this is from spending too much time together, but part of it is also coming from the sustained fear of loss we are all experiencing.
'It's just a story' strategy
It would serve us all to learn a strategy for eliminating fear of loss and feeling safer. I teach my coaches that the best way out of the "I am not safe in the world" belief, is to remember it’s just a story. The way you feel about anything is coming from the story you are telling yourself about it. You might, in fact, be very safe at this moment and there might be good things around the next bend for you. There is no way to know what is coming next. No matter what you believe, it is a story.
This means that standing in this moment you have two basic story choices:
- You can choose the story that life is dangerous and bad things happen, and you can experience fear, stress, selfishness, anxiety and uncertainty, or
- You can choose a story that says God created this entire universe for the purpose of our education and growth (and this is consistent no matter your religious beliefs), and this means that nothing can happen to you here that doesn’t serve the purpose of educating and growing you.
Which story you choose will not affect the outcome or what happens, but it will greatly affect the quality of your life. Choosing a story that gives purpose to your life can actually make you feel safer here. It is also taking control of your life experiences and what they mean, and giving yourself the power to handle whatever comes in a more positive way.
Trust God and the universe
You might want to gather your family and talk about what you truly believe the point and purpose of our being on the planet is. Talk about whether you see this universe is a place of chaos or a place of order.
Go through the following questions:
- Does anything exist God or the universe did not create?
- What does that ultimately mean?
- Does it make any sense that God or the universe would create order everywhere except for with the one thing he cares about most, which is your education?
- Wouldn’t it make sense that we always get the perfect classroom journey for us?
- Could God and the universe work with your choices (agency) and moment by moment co-create the perfect lessons for each soul?
- If you trusted this was true, would you feel in God’s hands every moment and could this make you feel safer?
- Could it help you trust God more?
Start practicing trusting God and the universe that you are safe during the little inconveniences and problems that show up every day. Could you see a flat tire, a canceled plan, or an unexpected mess as your perfect classroom journey today? Could you choose to feel safe in those moments, trusting that God and the universe have you and the setback is a blessing in disguise? Playing with small losses now helps you to have strong "trust muscles" on a really bad day.
Choosing to trust that God and the universe are on your side, and constantly conspiring to bless and grow you, makes a big difference on your stress level. Give it a try for yourself. You can do this.
More tips and resources
Here are some other ways to help your family cope with stress and fear:
- Find a mental health professional if you see signs of increasing depression or anxiety. It is always best to seek help at the first sign of a problem.
- Take breaks from watching or reading the news and stay off social media. Get outside in nature.4. Get more exercise.
- Eat healthy meals.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Create a routine of healthy habits and stick to it.
- Avoid alcohol and drug use.
- Connect with people using technology if you can’t do it face-to-face.
- Seek out community and religious organizations that can help you with additional resources.
Keep these numbers handy:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish
- National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
- Veteran’s Crisis Line 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- SAMHSA Suicide Prevention
- Five steps for talking to someone at risk for suicide
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