It’s here. We waited almost a year and now the COVID-19 vaccine is here. In a lot of ways, the vaccine brings more questions than answers: When will I get it? How long will it last? What is life going to be like now? Is quarantine going to happen again?
But the vaccine also brought a lot of hope with it. We may not know the end date, but we know that quarantine restrictions will end. Everyone I’ve talked to about the vaccine is experiencing a wave of emotions as they look toward the future. Some people are dreading resuming their office commute. Others are just thankful to have some stability in their lives again. Many have a long bucket list of friends, family, and things to see or do once this is over.
At the same time, I often hear that people are exhausted and burnt out. It makes sense because the monotony of staying home and never seeing an end in sight wears on your mental health. Many people have told me that they lack motivation to accomplish usual tasks, sleep well or keep up with good habits. In a lot of ways, this is similar to the problems many of us remember having in our final year of high school or college.
We all have a societal case of senioritis and we’re all trying to cope with it in our own ways. Some of us are literally skipping class (or work) while others want to have much fun as possible in their current constraints. This senioritis is a direct result of not knowing what the future will bring, still not feeling like we have much control over anything, and feeling like we’ve been working too hard for too long. So what do we do about it? How do we handle so many unknowns?
You have never experienced something like this pandemic before. No one around you has. This means that we are all trying our best (even when we disagree with what is best). Take the time to listen to your needs and be kind to yourself for needing those things. Needs might include eating more fruits and vegetables, meditation or intentional movement, but they might also include baking cookies and binging TV.
There are some people who will have spent the last year learning, creating, and growing. But even if you did not actively do any of these things, you still learned how to cope with a pandemic, created your own boundaries to keep yourself safe, and grew in your understanding of yourself. Celebrate those things and release yourself of the judgment that you “should have just done more” in the last year. You may need help to remind yourself of these truths, especially as waiting for the vaccine may get old quick. You might lean into the lack of motivation and “bad habits” but you can have compassion for yourself on the days when you really need those things.
Cope with Comparisons
We are entering a new time in our society which will continue to highlight inequalities we face. It is challenging to see people get to experience things we cannot. It is going to be interesting to see how people handle the easing of restrictions while others still have to wait for the vaccine. While you wait to feel safe enough to re-enter society, how can you cope with the comparison to others who have gone before you?
Remember that whatever negative feelings you have about this process and the last year are valid. If you need to stop exposing yourself to certain people or messages to help you find patience and combat jealousy, that’s okay. If you feel resentment, that makes sense. The key is to name your feelings, move through them, and decide how to respond moving forward. The feelings themselves do not get us in trouble, it’s how we do or don’t behave that can cause problems.
These coping skills don’t have to just apply to the pandemic. They can be useful in so many life circumstances. If you find yourself struggling to cope, or just need someone to help you process all the challenges you have faced over the last year, a therapist can help. Start scheduling today!
Written by therapist Elise Champanhet
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