Living in a Pandemic
For many, New Year’s marks a time to reflect on the past year while setting intentions and hopes for the year ahead. It is often viewed as a celebratory time in our culture. Oh boy, Denver – did we NOT see what 2020 had in store! Most of us did not enter the year believing we would be impacted by COVID and living through a pandemic. You may have experienced some (or all) of the following thoughts – “I never thought I would live through something like this.” “We are social beings; we are not supposed to live this way!” “How LONG can this go on?” And of course we have. We are facing a crisis on a global level, which means there are layers to this – how we are impacted, how our support system is impacted, and how the greater world around us is impacted. Quite frankly, THIS IS LESS THAN IDEAL.
Response to COVID
In living through a global event such as COVID, there is inevitably pain and difficult emotion present. This may be experienced on a personal level, and it may also be experienced in empathizing with the hardships faced by those around you.
As news of the pandemic broke, we were surrounded by messages in response. The messages heard in EVERY commercial: “You are not alone.” “We are in this together.” “We will come out stronger.” There is absolute truth to these sentiments. However, it may also seem we bypassed the natural emotional response to this event in an effort to frantically instill hope and assign meaning to our experience. While these messages can serve as comfort and counter feelings of isolation, they can also leave one to consider, “If we are ALL impacted and in this together, why I am struggling to cope? What is wrong with me???” Nothing! You are a human living through unprecedented times. This is where seeking support and practicing the skill of radical acceptance comes in.
Radical acceptance is a skill founded in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). It is simply the practice of accepting life on life’s terms. It is acknowledging reality for what it is and not resisting what one cannot change. Acceptance does not mean one must approve of or have asked for the current circumstances. Instead, it is a practice of observing reality and not expending energy fighting for it to be something it is not. After all, we need that energy to be gentle with and care for ourselves in a vulnerable time.
So what does this look like in practice?
- Contact with the Present Moment –In order to accept our reality, we must first be present to attend to it. We can do this through present moment skills, such as focusing on the breath, attending to our 5 senses, and accessing mindfulness/meditation practices.
- Observing our Experience – When we are connected to the present moment, we are empowered to observe our surroundings. It is here where we can build awareness of the reality we are facing.
- Acknowledging Thoughts/Emotions without Judgement- Once we are present and able to attend to the circumstances we are living within, there is space to acknowledge our internal process of this. What are we thinking and feeling in response?
- Radical Acceptance – Remember, this is complete acknowledgement of one’s reality without having to approve of it. For example, “I am living through a global event with COVID. I feel scared/sad/angry about this. I recognize I may not have asked for this and I may not be able to control this, but I accept it is the temporary reality we are facing.”
Seeking Support Radical acceptance of COVID is not to be confused with “going it alone.” Introverted or extraverted, humans are social beings. Acknowledging and accepting we are living through a pandemic is sure to come with feelings. This is where reaching out to your support system and accessing healing spaces such as therapy are vital. And the good news is finding the space and time to access these resources is greater than ever in this virtual world! The therapists at Colorado CBT are ready to support you through this challenging time. Reach out to schedule an appointment today.