Know Your Worth: How to walk through the unknown, one step at a time
In these times of uncertainty and separation from family and friends, we are more likely to suffer anxiety, depression, fatigue, and insomnia. As summer approaches, the hope of beach vacations and sunny pool days hangs in the category of the unknown, as any travel may lead to increased health risks for ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities.
Now, more than ever, is the time to give yourself the grace, compassion, and space to process uncomfortable feelings of anxiety, stress, and sadness. For those trying to work from home and homeschool children, the days can feel never-ending and the only escape is sleep. For those essential employees who have to be around other people, the panic can feel paralyzing. For those who live alone, the loneliness can feel crushing. For those with family members far away, the longing to get together can feel overwhelming.
This is not the time to suck it up and put on a brave face. Now, more than ever, we need to be able to be vulnerable and authentic with ourselves and one another to keep ourselves healthy and sane.
The only way through this unprecedented time is to learn radical acceptance for our feelings, so that we may safeguard ourselves from debilitating depression and anxiety.
If you try to repress, dismiss, or avoid your feelings, you will end up with a compromised immune system, low energy, and outbursts of misdirected anger and impatience.
Start each morning with a check-in of your emotional energy. Do you feel dread, anxiety, exhausted, or angry? Whatever the feeling is, embrace it and give it space to exist. If you try to avoid that dread for all the things you have to do, it would be like driving on a highway without your gas cap on – you dump fuel, which leads to a breakdown.
Learn to treat your feelings the way you would a small child, a puppy, or a dear friend. Kindly and gently. If you have difficulty accepting uncomfortable feelings and tend to repress or avoid, get some help. Teletherapy is available to give you the extra support you may need right now.
Here is a quick way to learn how to process your feelings and create peace in the midst of discomfort:
Step 1 – Identify the feeling out loud: “I feel so tired and hopeless, how long can I go on like this?”
Step 2 – Respond with compassion: “I understand, this is really tough, I am here for you.”
DO NOT try to minimize or put a bow around your feelings.
For example: “You are so fortunate that you get to work from home and still have a paycheck. Think of the less fortunate who have lost their jobs and can’t pay their bills.”
While there is a time for perspective, this approach will only lead to seething resentment and inner rage veiled with a thin smile and clenched teeth. You are allowed to feel what you feel.
Step 3 – Do the next concrete thing. Identify one concrete task you can do in the moment that does not feel overwhelming. This could be pouring a cup of coffee, responding to an email, making your bed. Do one thing while continuing to give compassion to the feeling you identified.
Step 4 – REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT.
The best gift you can give yourself, family members, and friends is a safe space to process feelings. The only way through this time is through it. We can’t go around it, above it, or below it; we have to just get through this one step at a time. Use the exercise to process your feelings daily and repeat all day long.
You are worth it!
Meghan Fritz is a psychotherapist practicing in State College. For more information email: [email protected]