Anxiety COVID Stress Uncategorized

COVID Advice in 10 Seconds or Less

A few weeks ago I was excited that a few of the COVID related restrictions were loosened and I was able to go to the dentist for a checkup. As I lay in the dental chair trying to make trying to make little mmm-hmm sounds in response to questions, I reflected that the dental hygeniest’s job is in some ways the exact opposite of mine.
As a counsellor, more than anything, my job is to listen, really, really listen. My hygeniest, along with her technical skills, always impresses me with her ability to have a conversation with someone who can say almost nothing back. During this latest appointment, she spoke of current events of the day and she commented on someone who had found the self-isolation of COVID particularly distressing. Eventually, in the small space between a suction tool leaving my mouth and a scaling implement going back in, I mentioned that I was a counsellor. She paused and said, “What is your advice for someone struggling with all of this COVID stuff?” I glanced at the scaling tool in her hand and realized that the socially appropriate answer to this question probably needed to be no longer than about 10 seconds. I used one or two of those seconds to consider what piece of advice could be delivered in a sentence or two and actually still be helpful. I settled on the advice I have given clients, friends, and myself regularly since COVID changed the world.

“Don’t worry about having bad days during COVID. It is okay to be stressed right now.”
I know. It sounds like a platitude. But it’s not.
When clients are experiencing anxiety, often it is their anxiety about their anxiety that becomes the biggest part of the problem. Worrying about being bummed out during COVID, will probably only make the feelings worse. A client once provided me with a thorough description of an anxious response to situation. After all the previous progress and growth, this client was worried about having experienced those anxious feelings. My response was along the lines of, “Wouldn’t it be expected for just about anyone to feel some anxiety in response to that situation?”
Anxiety isn’t bad. Depression isn’t bad. Sadness isn’t bad. Frustration isn’t bad. While these feelings may be unpleasant, one of my goals while counselling is to help clients develop their own processes for tolerating these unpleasant emotions without becoming worried about the emotions themselves.
Don’t get me wrong, it would not be great to experience these unpleasant emotions all the time or even most of the time, but worrying about having these emotions in the first place just tends to feed these emotions and make them last longer.

In an attempt to take my own advice, I have begun referring to those days where the unpleasant emotions take over as “COVID Days”. So, at the end of a day where I have moped around the house, failed to cook a decent meal, and generally wasted all of my time, instead of beating myself up, I chalk it up to being a COVID Day. Instead of mentally berating myself for my lack of accomplishment, I tell myself that my restful day will allow me to work hard the next day. I have discovered that, at least for me, that feeling of self-forgiveness means that COVID Days don’t come twice in a row.
If COVID Days are becoming your norm, it might be helpful to meet with a counsellor to discover other strategies for minimizing those bad days. But, in the meantime, if COVID has hit you hard emotionally, I would encourage you to cut yourself some slack. It’s okay to be having a hard time right now.

2 replies on “COVID Advice in 10 Seconds or Less”

Great post, Sarah! I love that you are now a certified counsellor. You will be amazing! Best of luck with your new business!

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