Amie Eipers-Ponzio, LCSW, C.H., Licensed Clinical Social WorkerAmie Eipers-Ponzio, LCSW, C.H., Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Mental Well-Being in the COVID-19 World

Amie Eipers-Ponzio, LCSW Services

National Customer Service Association, viewed April 2020

The process of managing stress and working through our own personal problems has greatly evolved over the years, often in relation to what we are experiencing in our everyday lives. Seeking help for anxiety and depression, or to manage the stress of a traumatic experience, has become much more widely accepted.  That alone has been helpful in improving the customer service experience for many people, as the employees are better able to focus on assisting customers, rather than their personal troubles. Many events we deal with are related to a small group, for example our family, or our colleagues, so how we behave in response to the event has very little impact on others outside of that particular group. Today, however, we all wake to thoughts of what daunting and disheartening information will be delivered regarding the new coronavirus, COVID-19, and what that information will mean for us. Not just me or you, as individuals, but us, as in everyone. 

As the news of the pandemic has grown, and as we have learned just how dangerous this virus is and can be, people everywhere are feeling the impact. As doctors and scientists of all kinds work diligently to find a way to treat, cure, and / or prevent this virus from wreaking further havoc, it is imperative that we work just as hard to take care of ourselves and each other. There is an abundance of information available on how to take care of yourself physically in regards to COVID-19, but it is equally as critical that we give attention to our mental health. Encourage and support each other to share thoughts and feelings about what we are experiencing and realize that it is likely that someone else is feeling just as you do. Too often we remain silent, based on an unconfirmed belief that no one else feels as we do, and that we are weak or wrong for feeling that way.

We must recognize that everyone is dealing with the pandemic and the new “rules” that have been put in place to “flatten the curve”. No one is exempt from that stress, fear, sadness, and anger, and none of us know, just by looking, how someone else is coping.  The mandatory quarantine that has been implemented in many places is a great way to reduce the transmission of the virus. Unfortunately, that has afforded many people a lot more time to think about what is happening, and it seems we often, inadvertently, become apprentice therapists, only making our fears worse.   Focus on today, plan for those things you can control, and, limit or restrict your intake of news.

We are most certainly going through a grief process, though one unlike any other. We grieve our “old” life, the plans we had, and the familiarity and stability that gave us comfort each day.  With the unpredictable nature of how the pandemic will continue, or how our life will look in the coming months and years, we must begin to create our “new normal.” It is not an easy thing to do, and we will sometimes resist psychologically, as a means to avoid fully accepting this new reality. It’s best to acknowledge and "feel" these negative and uncomfortable emotions, but do not allow them to linger, as doing so will tend to only succeed in hurting you more and yet the changes will still occur.

It is possible to improve your ability to cope with the uncertainty we are facing and you do have the skills necessary to do so.    The difficulty is that we often “forget” our strengths when under such extreme stress. Seeking counseling should be a priority, not just a consideration, as it gives a lot of insight into our behavior and brings to light needed coping mechanisms. We can learn why we make certain choices and gain better tools for managing difficulties in our lives. Some of the best ways to cope with these external stressors is simply to change how you live day to day. Things like having a schedule for your day (even if you’re not working or in school), working out or learning a new skill can truly be enough to change how you view your life.

In a time of so much uncertainty, and many unanswered questions, it is essential that we look inward to find the strength and resolve to do what we must each day.  Only after taking steps to address our own personal struggles, and ensure our needs are met, can we then provide the appropriate level of care to our customers. There is no denying that we are in this great health plight together, so we must look to one another to give and receive the support and encouragement necessary to defeat this invisible adversary. Everyone one of us are worth it.