At the end of 2019, as you contemplated the year ahead, I bet you didn’t have “seemingly never ending pandemic” in mind. Yet, here we are. Life as we knew it, and as we hoped and imagined it would be, has been turned completely upside down.
Suddenly, our work lives, social lives, and family lives look completely different. We must wear a mask everywhere we go. We must distance from others. Large gatherings are prohibited. Many of us haven’t seen our friends and family — at least under normal circumstances — for many months.
It’s impossible to know when this will all be over. Will it be 6 months? 12 months? Longer than that? The news keeps changing and it can be hard to know which experts to trust. This is a novel virus we are dealing with — meaning that no one has ever encountered it before — so there is no real way to know how everything is going to play out and how this crisis will finally resolve.
As we’ve seen, however, no matter how tough it is to adapt to these strange times, life still goes on. Many of us have had to face major life transitions — starting college, getting married, welcoming a new baby, moving, changing jobs, or mourning lost loved ones — even in the midst of so much adversity.
So, How Do You Manage Major Life Events During COVID-19?
It can be extremely challenging to manage the strong emotions that come with major transitions on top of grappling with the stressors of living during a pandemic. Here are some simple ways you can better handle major life transitions and upheavals during the COVID-19 crisis.
1. Turn Off the News
Yes, we all want to remain informed, and we all want to keep up with what is happening with COVID, but there gets to be a point of inundation where it’s too much for our mental health. Especially when you are dealing with a life transition, absorbing day after day of difficult news can deplete you and be detrimental to your emotional well-being.
So, make a point of deleting news apps from your phone, so the news isn’t constantly being fed to you. Spend a day or two each week without checking the news. Or, if you must do so, limit it to once per day. Your mental health will thank you.
2. Work on Living in the Moment
One of the problems with the COVID-19 pandemic is that many of us are hyper-focused on the past (What could we have done to prevent this? Did I take all the precautions I should have?) and the future (When is this going to be over? Am I going to get sick?) that we rarely just live in the moment. This can be incredibly hard!
In some ways, undergoing a major life transition will force you to live in the moment, which can help you navigate any emotions you may be experiencing as a result.
If you need an extra boost of “living in the moment,” try a mediation app on your phone or try taking a walk (without your phone!). Anything that gets you to focus on the here and now can be helpful and nourishing.
3. Honor Your Difficult Feelings
Even the kinds of transitions that may feel positive, such as getting married, moving, or welcoming a new baby, have their own set of stressors. If you are dealing with a transition that is inherently stressful, such as moving or losing a loved one, you may be flooded with extremely challenging feelings.
Honor those feelings and treat yourself with compassion. Think about how you would console a dear friend if they were going through what you are going through and treat yourself with the same kindness. It can be easy to feel like your feelings don’t matter given the turmoil the rest of the world is dealing with right now — the losses and pain experienced as result of the pandemic — but that isn’t the case. Each person’s feelings matter right now. One kind of suffering doesn’t win out over another.
4. Seek Mental Health Support
Almost all of us need some mental health support right now. Living through a pandemic can have a significant impact on our mental health. Even if we haven’t been personally affected by the virus itself, almost all of us have experienced adversity — whether that be job loss, disconnection from loved ones, worry, or fear. Add a major life transition on top of all that and it would be surprising if you didn’t need some extra mental health support!
One of the silver linings of the pandemic is that telehealth services for therapy have become much more accessible and accepted. There are now so many ways to virtually connect with a caring, licensed mental health professional. Virtual therapy platforms, such as Talkspace, allow you to speak to a therapist in a COVID-friendly way and they offer you flexibility and convenience so you can fit therapy into your busy life.
5. Find New Ways Of Connection
One of the most important ways that humans get through major life transitions is with the support of others. Connecting with our friends and family these days, however, is looking very different. It’s normal to feel let down or lonely by the changes.
Some of us have resisted the new ways of connecting virtually, such as video chatting. But once you open up to the idea, you might discover that it’s actually a really wonderful and vital way to ensure you stay connected with your friends and family. Connecting this way not only allows you to “see” loved ones who live close by, but it opens up a range of opportunities to reconnect with those you may not have seen in years due to geographical distance.
You can also look for COVID-safe ways to connect with your friends and family members, such as an outside meeting with masks and social distancing. Whatever you choose, just know that it’s vital to reach out to loved ones during a time of transition, especially during more broadly turbulent times like this.
6. Know That You Are Not Alone
Perhaps the most important thing to remember, as you navigate this time in your life is, that you are not alone. It sounds cliché, but it’s the truth. Every single one of us is trying to get through our lives during a time like no other. Many of us have had to deal with added stress of a major life transition or disruption on top of the everyday chaos of the pandemic.
Perhaps it will give you some comfort to know that you are not the only one who is finding these circumstances incredibly challenging. But you will get through this — we all will. Look after yourself and remember that pandemics don’t last forever, even when it feels like they will never end.