For some of us, 2021 has been even worse than 2020.
In my case, both my parents contracted COVID-19 at the age of 88. After an awful three and a half month struggle, my dad passed away from complications of COVID-19.
My mom survived, but had to give up her home and car and move into assisted living.
That spring was the most horrible time of my life. The helplessness, stress and anxiety my sister and I felt during their illness was awful and overwhelming.
Our current world is unpredictable and stressful. Whatever your situation, you most likely have been through a rough couple of years.
Here are thoughts on coping with grief and anxiety.
Find a therapist before you need one. By the time I realized I wanted to talk to a therapist, I was in the throes of stress, depression and anxiety. Looking at a list of names and bios and trying to pick out a therapist who would be a good fit was an impossible task.
If I had to do it again, I would try to establish a relationship with a professional before the darkest times came. You can look or have someone help you look for support groups online or in person if that resonates with you.
Sit with your emotions and observe them. Whether you like to grieve in private or with a friend or family member, be sure you don’t push away painful emotions that need to come out. There is nothing wrong with crying or feeling sad during and after a difficult time.
I like to have a picture of my dad sitting with me during my meditation; it feels like a chance to spend time with him. Remember that emotions are just emotions, they don’t define you. Given enough time, they will begin to soften.
What we resist persists, so pay attention to what you feel. That can include all of your senses: what you see, taste, smell and hear. Be aware of how your body feels physically about your emotions: where do you feel or hold pain, stress, anxiety, calmness, peace?
Music can help. Sometimes we just need to grieve and certain songs can give us a release we need. You may even find you feel a bit better afterward. Or you can use songs that you love and enjoy to make you happy. There is nothing wrong with singing and dancing, even during sad or painful times, and it can help you cope.
Create or perform rituals that have specific meaning to you, regardless if others understand or approve. In the case of someone’s death, it could be rituals that have to do with taking care of the body or meditations, prayers or religious rituals that are important to you. These are comforting and grounding and will give you lasting memories of being able to do something meaningful during a very difficult time.
Write things down. Journals, including diaries and gratitude journals, can help get your thoughts out on paper and allow you to clear your mind and your soul. Whether you show it to others or keep it to yourself, writing out your thoughts and feelings can be therapeutic.
Don’t be afraid to say “no” if you are overwhelmed. I had many offers from friends and family to talk on FaceTime or get together, but when you are dealing with an extremely stressful time, sometimes you just don’t have the time or energy to give to those people.
Others may have the best of intentions, but during a time of crisis people will offer to talk or help partly because it makes them feel better about the uncomfortable situation.
If you feel exhausted and overwhelmed and not in the mood for talking or company, it’s okay to put yourself first and say “no.” You don’t even need to explain your reasons; do what feels right for you. That being said, make sure you have one or two close friends or adult family members who you can lean on and vent to when you need to.
Take care of your physical needs as much as possible. Eating healthy food, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep and exercising are still important, even if it feels like you are just going through the motions for the time being. Remember to be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for not being able to keep up with your normal workout routine and nutrition, just do your best in the present moment.
Our world continues to be a stressful, uncertain and difficult place. Let’s hope things start looking up very soon. In the meantime, hug your loved ones, both humans and pets.
Body Image Fitness, LLC
Editor’s note: Wellness Word is an informational column which is not meant to replace a healthcare professional’s diagnosis, treatment or medication.