If 2020-2021 has taught me anything it has most taught me the necessity to relax. With so much happening that none of us were expecting, I learned to value time with those I love, respect and enjoy being around.
I learned that some things I once viewed as necessary may not have been so important. This also helped me to find more balance in my life, with personal life, work life and my spiritual life. When one part overwhelms the others exponentially, the equation of our lives can lose focus.
Spending time doing nothing, alone or with others, is not a waste of time. I have found a lot of calmness, peace and time to think more clearly in those moments. Relaxing is not a bad use of time. It provides us with more time.
Laughing, dancing and talking with friends and/or family are some of the best forms of relaxing that I’ve experienced over this past summer. Finding who you need in life helps us to stay healthy, happy and living the lives we are meant to live. It also helps to keep us accountable.
Relaxing definitely looks different at various times and can be very different for each of us, but it is so crucial to our mental health. While we should all take care of our physical bodies, this past year has taught us so much of the importance of mental health for all of us. No one is one dimensional. We are multifaceted for a reason.
If you need more balance, make it happen. Value yourself. Value others. Make it happen. You may need to start small, or you may be able to drastically change your life immediately, but whatever you do . . . relax.
I am not a trauma specialist, by any means. In fact, this blog post has taken me longer than normal, because trauma can be difficult to face and be even harder to process.
Yet, there’s no doubt that from the onset of the pandemic, trauma indeed has occurred from the impacts of COVID-19, everywhere. Whenever our lives get hit with a negative, unexpected event it typically causes some levels of distress. However, without a way of knowing when this might end or what may still happen, it makes it hard to gauge what more could occur.
Universal trauma began in waves, until the whole world was feeling it.
This concept is often referred to as collective trauma. The Verywell Mind website explains this as “the psychological upheaval that is shared by a group of people who all experience an event. This type of trauma can affect groups of people of any size, including entire nations or societies . . . . The COVID-19 pandemic is a global event that will result in both individual and collective mental health effects. The social and economic impacts remain to be seen, but it is likely there will be long-term societal mental health consequences of the pandemic.”
While I experienced 9/11 living across the water from where the Twin Towers once were, in a town that lost the most amount of people, I now know that what many of us still share since that day is collective trauma. It’s why even as the 19th anniversary of that day will be here in about 8 weeks, those who struggle with PTSD from the experience still feel parts of the impacts associated with what happened. While that catastrophic event is not like this pandemic, the results of it all lasted for what seemed like a very long time after that nightmare of a day.
I admit that every 9/11, I am not fully myself. There’s no intentional desire to relive any of that time. However, living in the midst of the horrors, grief and sadness of what was occurring then, still impacts me every year in various ways.
Likewise, with this pandemic experience it is likely that we will have portions of this time that impact our current society in ways that stay with us. Whether it’s what happened in our nation, or other lands, this world has had aspects that we have shared and those that are unique to America alone.
One example for us is while most other countries have been wearing masks when asked to wear masks, there are people in our country who have attributed wearing or not wearing one as a political statement in connection to our upcoming election. This has caused major cases of anxiety which can lead to further trauma, as potential repercussions of these decisions involve a deadly virus that doesn’t care what our votes will be or who we are.
I hope that mask wearing won’t always be needed by the general public, once it’s safe, but down the road people may wonder why we may struggle when we see a doctor or nurse wearing one. Going to a funeral in the future may trigger thoughts of loved ones who died by the virus and didn’t have a proper farewell. We will universally share certain parts of this time, years after life has moved on to better times.
As protests have occurred in most cities for our fellow Black community members and for the sake of equality, other countries have joined our protests. With racism occurring in many places of this world, there will be some shared universal trauma significance. Here, in our country, it most definitely is felt.
However, worldwide there will be collective or universal trauma for those of us who have had some level of fear of getting the virus. Being in isolation, may be seen by future generations as some time alone, whereas those who struggled with it now may have traumatic scars from the idea of being alone. Even the situation of life getting turned upside down in a matter of weeks, for us all, is enough to imprint us with some issues we may need to work on overcoming, after life gets more normal.
What we all have been experiencing here in 2020 has been a worldwide pandemic, something that no one has experienced before. That is why my view of the concept is more of a universal trauma. Since our cultures all over the globe are different, there will be parts of this time where the trauma impacted us and not those in other countries. Others, will be ones that relate in many parts of this Earth, universally.
We lost a lot this year and it’s taking its toll on everybody.
Social distancing occurred suddenly and swiftly as we all hunkered down into lockdowns in our homes when the pandemic began. Schools and businesses closed their doors in a hurry, as students adjusted to learning from home, educators shifted to teaching from home and most people were working from home for the safety of all.
Houses of worship closed completely, while their leadership did what they could online or started figuring out how to be online, to connect with those who would normally attend. This left a lot taken from us, nearly all at once.
When in public, social distancing started following a 6 feet apart rule if you had to be around others. We had to learn how to not touch our skin, especially in public. Wearing a mask became a requirement, then a recommendation and lately a back and forth situation depending on government officials and our own choices.
Not knowing how long this would all last, there was mass panic and hoarding ensued as there were mad rushes at the grocery stores. It’s still difficult to find cleaning supplies, and there was even a shortage on meat and many other items.
Then, we came to realize that our essential workers like medical personnel were in a life and death situation, not only for their patients, but also for themselves and their families. That was soon followed by grocery store workers, who eventually got to wear masks and then have plexiglass shields installed around them for their safety and that of customers.
Suddenly, we not only were worried about our physical health, but our mental health became more prominent.
Life shifted even more drastically, causing further tension for all. If you’re not aware of how much stress got placed on everyone at once, let me jog your memory or help you realize what others have been enduring.
TOO MUCH TOO SOON: We’ve all been there where life may seem like a constant spiral of negatives happening in our lives, but this time everyone else has been experiencing it, too. There weren’t others who could tell you how they got through this before. Others were just as stressed, so why burden them further? Then, there has been the rollercoaster of emotions that didn’t always make sense or didn’t feel typical to our pre-pandemic selves.
STAYING SAFE: We became afraid of touching our faces. Using hand sanitizer and washing our hands became a practice that turned into a neurotic type of habit. Wear a mask? Don’t wear a mask? Stay 6 feet away from everyone, except those in your household. In general, stay away from others, as much as you can. Hope someone who has the virus doesn’t somehow pass it onto you. That’s A LOT!
NO MORE TRADITIONAL CLASSROOMS:Educators, like me, are used to planning way ahead and juggling a lot. We know how to adapt quickly to change and that we may need to protect our students from a person who means us harm and somehow gets into our school building. Then, in a matter of weeks, we all figured out how to still teach the best we could through Internet issues, families and pets all being around at the same time, and not getting to make the same type of connections we value so much with our individual students. Suddenly, we were seeing our students in groups through video chat sessions and hoping we were making positive impacts on them, academically and emotionally.
PARENT TRAP: Parents of school aged children were typically working from home instead of at their normal places of employment, while also needing to support their kids with school and handling the pandemic. Issues with the amount of devices needed to be used at one time, the major slowdown of the Internet nationwide and how to manage it all added to the stress. Then, there were so many decisions to make on behalf of our families, as well as handling living at home with families 24/7, with no clue when the lockdown would end. It wasn’t a matter of lack of love, but more of a HUGE shift in the everyday dynamics that once was.
FOR HOW MUCH LONGER: As the lockdowns happened everywhere, nobody believed it would endure for as long as the pandemic has been lasting. Many hoped it would be over or at least better by summer, so that life felt more normal and there was less anxiety. Living with a hardship is always difficult, but many hardships have an end. Lose a job? When you get hired, life’s on the way up. Many hardships have an end in sight or at least the dreams for when it will come. For many, the fears have risen or rollercoastered as COVID-19 numbers have risen, dropped and risen again. Uncertainty on who to trust, for which information, has been difficult. Remember when you were in the car as a kid and kept asking, “Are we there, yet?” That’s all everyone wants to know, but the one driving is a virus.
Of course, there is far more that people have endured to test our mental health. Buying enough food and supplies. Doing enough for safety of self, loved ones and/or others. Doing too much. Not doing enough. All of the politics that can most definitely be a major nuisance on society, but even more so during an election year while a worldwide pandemic is happening. Then, while the coronavirus would be plenty to have to handle and then some, the Civil Rights Movement took on a much needed resurgence this year when George Floyd became the final straw and protests erupted in nearly every city, while many of us are still fighting for equal rights for all.
SOME TRAUMA CAUSES
Fear of getting the coronavirus
Fear of someone you know getting the coronavirus
Fear of a loved one or friend with the virus dying alone, after dropping them off at a hospital
Fear of being asymptomatic and transmitting the virus to others
Fear of a lack of employment, whether you own a business or are an employee
Fear of essential items running out
Fear of making the wrong decisions to stay healthy from the virus
Wear mask vs. don’t wear a mask
Social distance in all circumstances vs. gathering with large groups you trust
Sending children to school, remote learning, a hybrid or homeschool
Returning to your place of employment
Fear of voting for the wrong candidates, knowing how our lives are in their hands should the problems with the virus still exist or worse occurs, in the future
Fear of losing more parts of what was once normal life
Fear of the unknown
These causes are from what I’ve experienced, known others to experience and/or have read or watched information about how others have been responding. By no means is this an exhaustive list of sources for the trauma.
The one aspect that you have probably deduced by now is that fear is the major cause of the universal trauma most are experiencing on some levels right now.
PROS and CONS
Fear can help us or cause harm. During all that 2020 has changed in our lives, it means understanding the power of how fear works in us, for the sake of taking care of ourselves the best way we can. With all of the the possible causes of trauma, how our bodies are reacting, plays a huge role in our lives.
As Adventure Collectionreminds us, that fear can keep us safe, as “fear acts as an internal danger alarm. It compels you to action and helps you make wise and prudent decisions. Without fear, you wouldn’t live very long because you wouldn’t be aware of or care about the threats around you.”
It is good to know that fear of what could threaten us, during these times, can help us to make the best decisions for ourselves and those we love. However, fear often can get out of control when there are so many avenues for fear and so many others feeling it around us. Social media has added another dimension to how often those worries or panic can stare us in the face.
HOW TO HANDLE THIS
A good starting point, always, is to talk to someone you trust so you’re not keeping all of that trauma and possible fear inside of you as you try to appear strong. The CDC has some great help to know when and who to turn to, if you need more guidance or help.
To find how you can help your mental health feel better, I suggest:
Talk About Mental Health: In case you’ve only ever considered your physical health only, know that our thoughts, emotions and a lot of our physical health within us is impacted by our mental health. When mental health isn’t managed well, it can cause responses within our physical wellbeing. What could it hurt to learn more helpful tips for yourself or for those you know and love?
Coping with Stress: There is a lot of options offered here, as well, after some more in depth explanations of what you might be feeling due to the pandemic.
As the CDC shares, “You may experience increased stress during this pandemic. Fear and anxiety can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions.” It’s often hard to figure out when fear is helping us or hurting us. Don’t go it alone.
THERE IS HOPE
Just like in the 1930s Depression, universal trauma was felt by those who experienced those hardships, but so have their descendants in certain ways. It’s why my parents’ generation, who were raised by parents who lived during the Depression, made us eat all of our food. Their parents lived in fear of not having enough.
However, as any situation in life that impacts us on a major scale like this, there is hope. We know that it won’t last forever. While at times we may worry that this time will never end. It will. Life has shown us that, as well.
We have so many resources to help us through it:
Medical people and scientists are working tirelessly to protect us from COVID-19, and possible cures appear to be working. Just type the possibilities into your Internet search to see for yourself.
People have adapted their lives, because we want to survive. Never underestimate the power of the human spirit.
We have mental health professionals who can literally help us through managing what we are experiencing, both online and in person.
If you’re a person of faith, as I am, you know that God is with you, the Bible is full of God’s promises and truth to rely on, and your minister, pastor or priest along with those who share that faith with you, can be a source of comfort, help and support.
Ultimately, while varying levels of trauma may have already occurred in your life or may come, before this time in our lives moves on, I truly have faith in the strength of who we are as human beings. As long as we do all we can to stay safe, make the best choices for our lives and take care of our minds, bodies and spirits, we may very well look back at 2020 seeing it as the year that made us the strongest versions of ourselves.
While we may have lost much in this year, already, I anticipate a greater future for us all. If you’ve experienced trauma, know that many of us have, providing us all with so many more people to grow with and learn from, once this part of our lives is behind us.
As the realities of life happen, I for one, will never stop dreaming, and I will work daily to make those dreams come true.
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Since the earlier months of 2020, we have been inundated with information about how to remain healthy. However, it has also become a very confusing time to know what’s best for us, to stay healthy in a world still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
How do we know what to believe as truth?During this pandemic, we all are looking for wisdom.
There are parts of staying healthy that still apply today.
Ways to stay healthy before the coronavirus still hold true. Eating well, exercising and regularly maintaining good hygiene have always been in our best interest. Essentially, doing those three things should always continue, whether the coronavirus is still impacting our lives or not.
As for social distancing, we normally tend to do certain things to preserve our own health in public or even in our homes when there’s sickness. We naturally keep ourselves away from those who are sneezing and coughing a lot. If it is apparent someone is feverish, we definitely do our best to keep ourselves from catching it.
Then, it stands to reason that social distancing is important with people moving about in public, when too many don’t yet know if they even have the virus. They may be asymptomatic and pass it on to others, never knowing that they were a catalyst for someone else’s ill health.
This is why so many areas of our country are requiring masks again and strongly modifying or temporarily re-closing certain businesses and events. Valuing the lives of ourselves and of others, as well as doing all we can to have more “normalcy,” should cause more people to do all they can for the good of all of our nation’s citizens.
Most definitely, the coronavirus has caused new ways for us to protect our health.
You may be doing some of the recommendations or mandates put in place where you live. There may be times when you’ve gotten lax from remaining protective. It is possible you’re wondering what more you can do.
At this point, you may be thinking that none of the above is new to you. While that may be true, the virus numbers are rising in areas that didn’t have high numbers before and other areas are showing upticks of those contracting COVID-19 again. Why?
Now is not the time to get lazy.
As humans, we too often allow ourselves to get lazy, and in summer this happens often. While we may have done most of the preventable measures even before COVID-19, these times need us all to stay diligent in all the above areas.
Think about it. Which ones of these scenarios have you noticed in recent weeks?
* People going into stores and/or businesses without masks * Large groups gathering together in public places * Those exercising outdoors and not maintaining enough distance from others * Visiting friends and/or family members without social distancing and/or wearing masks
Single experiences like these may not amount too many health problems for people, but with summer, too many are doing the above. Summer is usually when we want to just let loose. No matter the season, the cases in our country rising and governments trying to enforce the precautionary measures once again are occurring, when all we want is for times to improve.
Some aspects of staying healthy are within our control, but there are always unknowns.
I won’t bombard you with all of the possible unknowns that the pandemic has caused. The radio, tv, social media, people we talk to and so many other sources provide us with enough panic of what could or may happen. It’s too easy to allow ourselves to give into fear.
Even if you are not a Bible reader, Matthew 6:27 has great advice: “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” No, it doesn’t. It only worsens our mental health, which impacts our physical health if we allow ourselves to become overwhelmed with the distress that worries instill.
This is not to say that we should not focus on the parts of life that are bad and that we need to know about, but it’s important to not obsess or overload our minds. That’s true any time of the year.
When it comes to our health, it is important to not put all of our attention on only the physical part of ourselves alone.
Most people are better aware of the importance of managing our mental health, but we still don’t do as much as we should. As real as our physical health is, the mental part of us is equally and at times even more essential.
What you feed your mind with the most is what your mind focuses on the most. When the mind has enough true, real and good information to zone in on, it allows the mind, soul and body to boost itself up, both mentally and physically. It provides balance during tough times.
Whether there is a pandemic or not, there are always ways to focus on positive, joyful aspects of life. Need some ideas?
Books so awesome they keep you up all night reading
Feeling like a kid again
The billions of stars on a clear night sky
Remembering the people you have loved
People sharing your stuff on social media
On a final note, it is always better for our health when we live in community with others.
Never forget the power of talking to or interacting with friends or family. If you can’t access those people in person, the pandemic has shown us all the power of virtual meetings online. There are forums like Facebook Messaging which are free to other sources like Zoom which are free for 45 minute intervals or allow for larger chatting or interacting time for a fee.
Whether life is difficult or you’re experiencing something wonderful, having connections with others is good for our health.
What about times, like late at night when it might be more difficult? Never underestimate the power of talking to God, even if it’s your first time or you don’t feel like you’re on good terms with Him.
As this verse in Psalm reminds us, no matter what we are going through, God will always be with us, everywhere we go and at any time. May that provide some peace to your health.
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We can all relate to having an emotional attachment to something or someone and noticing that attachment everywhere. For example, a child wants a dog and is trying desperately to convince their parents to get them one. So, they seem to become obsessed, noticing every dog that shows up on the shows they watch and the ones they see in public.
Were there suddenly more dogs around? Not likely. The child simply has their emotions tied up strongly to their desire for a dog.
With couples, ideas of children and parenthood are common. Maybe they are trying to have their first child. Maybe they’re waiting for a birth mother to choose them as the adoptive parents. Perhaps, the couple isn’t ready for a child yet or at all, but others are pressuring them with questions of when they will have a baby. Whatever the situation, the said couple cannot seem to help but notice pregnant women everywhere or couples interacting with their child/children.
Why? The emotions of the couple are wrapped up on a strong desire to become parents or to remain childless. Either way, situations like these are usually full of emotional reactions.
Imagine you’re walking your dog through the neighborhood. You notice the houses you’re passing by, the way the sky looks, the joggers and cyclists, the sound of kids laughing in a yard somewhere and for some reason, you happen to zone in on one person sitting outside their home looking sad.
Why? Normally, our mind will choose to gravitate to where our emotions are, when too much is around us to focus our thoughts.
It’s likely that a source of sadness that you’ve experienced during the pandemic caused your emotions to pay more attention to the sad person, since you could relate.
Emotions have power.
Take the same scenario of walking the dog above, only instead of a dog you are walking through the neighborhood with your early elementary school aged child. While you go through the same walk, your child who is aware that the pandemic has changed life but doesn’t fully understand it strongly enough as an adult, gravitates to the laughter of kids in a yard.
Your child then says, “Hey, hear that?! When we get back home, can you run through the sprinklers with me? Wouldn’t that be fun?!”
What’s the difference? Whether we are an adult or a child, we have power to control which thoughts and emotions to concentrate on more rather than allowing our emotions and thoughts to empower us in a negative way.
Maybe you’ve gotten the coronavirus or possibly, you’ve lost loved one during these times.
Perhaps you are a person of color, as I am, and your heart, mind and soul keeps breaking over all of the injustices that are still occurring.
You may have felt inadequate in one of your roles at work, home, or in any area trying to navigate the new ways of life since the pandemic became more real for our country.
There may be exhaustion setting in, as you haven’t had a break or vacation for far too long and all you want is some way to temporarily escape and have some fun for a while, but it isn’t possible.
I can go on with a myriad of scenarios that can apply to just about anyone, but the point is that mental health is super important and you have a good deal of power to stay mentally healthy.
This video is Renée Elise Goldsberry from the musical Hamilton, as performed on Broadway and more recently shown on Disney+. Watch this brief video explaining the concept of the power you have within you.
Emotions can lead our thoughts astray or steer us onto the best paths.
That one minute video says a lot. The creator of that musical who also played the main character of Alexander Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, shows this very clearly. In a nutshell, Hamilton was a minority having been born and raised on the island of St. Kitts. He arrived in what would be America, an orphan with nothing, who had also witnessed his own mother’s death. Yet, he saw all of the pain of what was happening in this land and asked himself the questions referred to in the video above.
Rather, Alexander Hamilton said POWERFUL statements like the following:
He could have given into so many negative emotions, wasting away his life and just survive.
He could easily have said, “What’s the use? This is too much. I’m just one person. I don’t even have any family with me.”
Instead, he saw that he was alive, intelligent and resourceful and chose to seize the moments being given to him. To stay focused on the positive emotions that were telling him, “Go for it!”
You can gain control.
I don’t know your situation, but we all have the power to take the reins of our emotions and thoughts, which while clearly different are also heavily intertwined, and decide what will have power in us. Even during a worldwide pandemic that is still shaking up people’s lives, this holds true.
As Galatians 5:22-23 reminds us, we can have these as our points of focus. They can change even the worst of situations:
Use your emotions to be the best you.
Two major themes of both the musical and of the good that many have done during the pandemic is this concept.
As a Puerto Rican Christian woman, a wife, a mother, a teacher, a business owner, I know that my life impacts others. During these times, our lives’ impacts matter all the more.
Whether we like it or not, we are living a part of history. People will look back on these times we are living to see how we handled them. What will they learn from us?
We can be complainers or encouragers.
We can be hopeless or hopeful.
We can be bystanders or world changers.
We can be blind to reality or stand up for those who need us.
None of the above are easy, but it’s up to each of us to rise up!
You’ve got the power!
Maybe you have been already been managing your emotions fairly well. I’m proud of you! That isn’t easy when life is full of so many unknowns.
Possibly, you may have reached this point and wish you had maintained your emotions better than you did. Or you may think you haven’t done enough to help yourself and/or others.
The great fact is that you have power. You truly do!
Moving forward there are still many ways to shift your emotions for your well being and that of those around you. It’s not too late.
And know that this doesn’t mean that you can’t have negative emotions. They are just as important to have at certain moments, as long as they are not where you remain.
With so much ahead of us to accomplish as a people, living in times that are not ones any of us have lived through before, our mental health matters very much.
If you’re looking for reasons to be scared, you’ll find them.
If you’re looking for reasons to be mad, you’ll find them.
If you’re looking for reasons to be encouraged, you’ll find them.
If you’re looking for reasons to be grateful, you’ll find them.
If you’re looking for reasons to be confident, you’ll find them.
If you’re looking for reasons to be pessimistic about the future, you’ll find them.
If you’re looking for reasons to be optimistic about the future, you’ll find them.
If you are looking for a reason to be x, you will probably find it.
YOU have the power. YOU can decide. YOU can act. YOU can make the journey better.
Life is yours, so don’t lose focus.
Whether you believe in God or not, the concepts of this Bible verse still has powerful truths.
Focus on what you are thankful for.
Focus on speaking praise to those who deserve it and need it.
Focus on good when life gets bad; balance is good.
Focus on love. Those you love and those who love you.
Focus on holding on to faith, to believe in what you can’t see knowing that it’s coming, for this generation and for all the ones that will follow us.
Hope is powerful! Though life is hard and often can be VERY HARD, we humans are quite resilient and resourceful.
While New York City still has the most amount of victims of COVID-19 in our nation, and there is still a world of pain there, take solace in this video and maybe find a song of your own that makes you happy and fills you with hope. Then, go and do all you can to make this world a better place.
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