• Robyn Isman, LICSW

It’s 2021 and I don’t feel better

So New Years came and went and it was a big let down. And I don’t mean I had fun plans and they didn’t live up to the hype. What I mean is that New Years was tricking our minds into thinking a big change was looming. We got amped, we got excited, we got happy and then we woke up on January 1st to a pandemic and cold temps.

Not to age myself, but this is the opposite of when it was 1999 and it was about to be the year 2000. There were all of these conspiracies and we thought the world might implode when the clock struck midnight, but then it didn’t! Now THAT was an exciting surprise. 2021, meh.

You might be feeling like you are not okay and that you haven’t been okay in quite sometime. Don’t worry, I would say that is pretty normal right now. “The people are not okay,” has been my mantra for the past 10 months. Below are some reasons people are not okay right now, followed by a few reasons to have hope that we will be okay again!

Why people are (still) not okay right now

  1. Decision fatigue

We are making decisions CONSTANTLY. Whether it be assessing risk, how to get groceries, whether or not to socialize, or what type of work/life balance to maintain, we are exhausted from figuring this all out. There are no more givens and that is just tiresome!

2. Missing connections

The cold temps have decreased/eliminated so many social options. We were out in the Spring/Fall/Summer and now were back inside. We have found many virtual ways to connect with people, but there is nothing compared to being in someone else’s physical presence. Our nervous systems are made to be in relationship with each other. We pick up on eye creases, smiles, tones of voice, hand gestures and so much more that just doesn’t come through on a computer screen. We are missing this true sense of connection and even touch.

3. Absence of our usual coping mechanisms

As a therapist I work with people to highlight coping mechanisms. These typically include the gym, socializing with friends, wandering around stores, or sitting in a coffee shop. The amount of thought that now has to go into accessing these strategies is so difficult that people are just over it. This has led to a decrease in ideas on how to cope. As mentioned above, winter has NOT helped us in this department.

4. Feeling stuck

People are stuck. Stuck within their households, stuck with roommates, stuck with spouses and kids, stuck working from home, just stuck. Even if you’re fine with the situation, we aren’t meant to be so stuck and lack interactions.

5. Barrage of inconsistencies

Lastly, we are riding a roller coaster of leadership changes (even if for the good), news cycling, changes in mandates and more. We are also experiencing vast inconsistencies in how every person is handling the pandemic. Some people are seeing family, some have gone on vacation, some are completely isolating. There has been no one way to handle this situation and that has proven to be a huge pitfall.

6. Inconsistencies also lead to mistrust

We are having a hard time trusting people. This is really unsettling and exhausting. The mistrust weaves through micro and macro leadership, but also within our families. We are not trusting people who we have trusted our whole lives and we are not being trusted by people we would never hurt on purpose. This is so sad and so difficult.

I am a strengths based therapist, so I can’t write a downer essay without some hope!

Why we might be okay someday:

  1. We have adapted and therefore have become more resilient

People have found so many ways to adapt and it is just incredible. Whether it be new ways to go to school, complete work tasks, or just live every day life, we have adapted. Adapting to adversity is the root of resilience. We are going to have a lot more resilient individuals after this pandemic is done.

2. We are learning a lot about ourselves

It will be hard to come out of the pandemic without an increase in authenticity. People have really gotten in touch with themselves in order to become more resilient and survive all the challenges being thrown our way. Some people have begun new career paths and some have changed their entire lifestyle. Whatever it is, people are really finding themselves without all of the noise of prepandemic life.

3. We have honed in our priorities

Similarly, we have identified priorities. There is very little, if no, social pressure right now for many of us. We have to set our own expectations. To do that we have to identify and magnify our priorities. Priorities can bring us so much joy when they are true and meaningful. Whether it be health, love, friendship, creativity, or all of these things or something else entirely. Grab those things and let them bring you joy.

The people are not okay, but we just might be okay again.

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