psychology

3 Ways to Punch-Out Pandemic Panic

knockout punch

Is The CoronaVirus Pandemic The Enemy?

Coping with CoronaVirus

Coping with a Pandemic

If you are a living, breathing human being there’s no way it hasn’t affected you.

You cannot escape it.

It’s on everyone’s lips and everyone’s screens.

COVID-19.

The Novel CoronaVirus.

The Pandemic.

And it is–

STRESSING…EVERYONE…OUT!

And while handling the Pandemic is very important, you have an even MORE IMPORTANT OPPONENT to contend with.

Fear and anxiety about the disease can be overwhelming. 

Anger and depression are not uncommon.

And too, some of us are experiencing the extremes of Outrage and Apathy.

Let’s face it–Going through this pandemic can be a lonely road to travel.

It’s easy to feel alone, overwhelmed and misunderstood.

BRAINS ARE NOT MEANT FOR HAPPINESS

brain

As a licensed psychotherapist, I’ve had the privilege of running Groups and Individual Counseling and Coaching for over 25 years. And during that time I’ve been able to help people out of their psychological binds, their ‘mental prisons.’

I’ve been able to do this with a fair amount of success because like many modern therapists and psychological researchers I’ve come to understand that the human brain is not engineered for happiness.

Nope. You heard me right.

The brain, that wonderful complex organ, is built for one thing.

SURVIVAL

survival

And because this modern feat of evolution has kept us alive for this long, it works very hard to predict all of the rotten, terrible, awful things that COULD happen to us. It also convinces us that we cannot tolerate pain or anxiety or any other unpleasant emotion for very long.

BUT THERE IS GOOD NEWS.

There are 3 Proven Methods for keeping your brain SANE–and PUNCHING OUT THE PANIC–even in the midst of a worldwide Pandemic.

woman punching

And trust me, I’m going to give you these 3 Methods to PUNCH OUT Pandemic Panic.

But first…

If you’re going for the KNOCKOUT PUNCH, you’re going to have to study your OPPONENT.

Who’s the OPPONENT?

Why your IRRATIONAL THINKING of course!

So let’s get to know your Opponent.

Let’s review many of the upsetting, disturbing and panicky thoughts that may be causing you or those around you sheer misery during the COVID19 viral outbreak.

So here we go…

Your Friends and Family May Not Be Helping

Get over it Response to CoronaVirus

Friends and Family may try to listen, but sometimes they may not want to continue to listen.

Or they may have a different way of responding to the crisis.

“Chillax, man. You’re overreacting.”

“It’s a left/right media hoax/attempt to take away your freedoms/politically motivated man.”

“It’s the end of the world as we know it.”

Many friends will give you aphorisms, pithy bits of wisdom and cliche speeches but few have the tools to truly guide you on this road.  And too, many friends will tire easily if you don’t ‘get with the program real soon.’

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations.  How you respond to the outbreak can depend on your background, the things that make you different from other people, and the community you live in.

Stress Response to Covid-19

Your stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
  • Feelings of Loneliness and Isolation
  • Feelings of Anger at Others
  • Feelings of Shame towards Self

Here are just a few of the thoughts and feelings that regular people like you and I may have during the pandemic:

Emotional Problems:

Anger over CoronaVirus

Anger and Rage:

You may be experiencing thoughts like:

  • The government should have acted earlier.
  • The left/right should have reacted differently.
  • The news media and social media are being reckless.
  • People should stop exaggerating about this
  • People should stop minimizing this.
  • People should be more cautious.
  • People should be less frightened.
  • Strangers should behave better in public.
  • My friends and family should understand why I’m so upset.
  • God or a Higher Power shouldn’t have let this happen to humankind or to my family.

Fear of CoronaVirus

Fear and Anxiety

  • I must not get the virus
  • No one I care for must get the virus
  • I must not be so scared, vulnerable
  • I must act braver than I feel.
  • I cannot afford to miss any piece of news about the pandemic
  • I cannot die.
  • No one I love or care for can die.

Shame over CoronaVIrus

Shame and Self-Criticism

  • I’m a loser because I’m having emotional reactions  (fear, anger, shame)  over the pandemic.
  • I have little value as an adult because I was not financially prepared for the financial repercussions of the virus and had to borrow or ask for help from others.
  • I’m an awful human being for foolishly exposing myself to the virus/contracting the virus.
  • I’m a terrible person because I unintentionally exposed someone else to the virus.
  • I am worthless and deserve to be punished because I unintentionally infected another person who became disabled or died.
  • I have little value as an adult because I was not financially prepared for the financial repercussions of the virus and had to borrow or ask for help from others.

Depression over CoronaVirus

Depression and Apathy:

  • People must not die, and since they are dying, this world is a terrible, awful place.
  • Life is terribly unfair and people don’t deserve this–there is evil in this world and nothing is stopping it.
  • I know that bad things happen, but they shouldn’t have happened to my loved ones because they are good people and bad things should not happen to good people.
  • I should not be having these financial hardships due to the pandemic. It’s horribly unfair to me. And I’m awful for letting myself be financially vulnerable to this problem.
  • Because Life is allowing this horror to take place, and because Life shouldn’t be allowing this, and because this is causing pain in my life–pain I don’t deserve–because Life is causing my sadness-I must escape these feelings. Through drugs, alcohol, food, sex, gambling, sleeping, scrolling the internet–all to excess.

Real Life Problems

REAL LIFE PROBLEMS

  • Before and during the pandemic, you may be contending with any number of problems: familial, relationship, social, occupational financial

Family Problems

Family Problems:

  • My loved ones should have checked more on my health–they are awful.
  • My loved ones should resolve our relationship because we are in a pandemic–they are terrible for not meeting me halfway in our relationship
  • My loved ones should be more grateful for all that I’m doing for them right now.
  • I cannot overcome my resentments towards my loved ones enough to check on them–feel like they’re a bad person and that I’m also a bad person.
  • I have enough stress. I shouldn’t be in a situation where I have to calm down my overly emotional parents and/or children.
  • It’s unacceptable that I have to deal with childcare while trying to hold down my job.
  • It’s awful that I cannot travel due to the pandemic yet I want to be with my loved ones.
  • It’s painful that I cannot be with my family now that I’ve been infected because we fear that I will infect them.
  • It’s too upsetting that my family fears my contagiousness even though I’ve recovered.

Relationship Problems

Relationship Problems

  • Why did my mate leave me right before I had to isolate/self-quarantine and now I have no one?  I’m all alone.
  • Why did the pandemic happen now, when I want to leave my mate. Now we have to be ‘locked in’ together.
  • I just met this wonderful person. I can’t live with them right now. How can I keep this new relationship going in the face of this pandemic?
  • I just started considering dating and now no one is willing to see me. Now I feel lonelier than ever.
  • My mate is not practicing the same level of caution and I’m furious with them. They are endangering me and others.
  • My mate is histrionic and is overly cautious and they’re driving me crazy.

No Friends

Social Problems:

  • I just moved to this city. I don’t know anyone. Now I have to distance myself from anyone. I’m lonely.
  • I just started getting familiar with some new acquaintances. I really wanted to connect more. Now it’s just me.
  • I am scared of telling my friends that they are acting unsafely. I feel stuck.

Frustrated worker

Occupational Problems:

  • My job can’t be done remotely so they’ve placed me on mandated leave because of the pandemic.  How am I going to survive and pay the rent/mortgage?
  • I work in a driving/delivery/customer service job. I’m constantly exposed to different people. This is awful and I can’t change it right now.
  • My work pals were my only connections in this town. Now I’m home and I have no contacts.

Financial Problems

Financial Problems:

  • My office has temporarily closed and I can’t work remotely.
  • My workplace has downsized/gone bankrupt and I’m unemployed.
  • I’m an entrepreneur and my business was based on live events. Now no one is showing up.
  • I’m in the entertainment business and all production is shut down.
  • My income was based on investments and the stock market. My portfolio has lost much of its value.

Responder Exhausted from CoronaVirus

Are you a Responder?

Responders often deal with STS when helping families and individuals after a traumatic event. STS is Secondary Traumatic Stress reaction. This may include:

  • There should not be this much illness. I have to help all of these people but I cannot.
  • I am having trouble sympathizing and I’m exhausted. I must be a terrible person.
  • I shouldn’t be so concerned about myself. What’s wrong with me?

Whether you are a paramedic, an emergency room nurse, a firefighter, or any other kind of responder to those who are suffering or who have been harmed by the outbreak, you too deserve a place to be heard in confidence.

Senior Female dealing with COVID-19

Reactions to Quarantine and Social Distancing:

You may have different stress reactions to being Quarantined or Social Distancing including:

Anxious over Quarantine
Anxiety, worry, or fear:

  • I’m scared that I may have infected others and I feel awful.
  • I’m scared that I may die.
  • I’m afraid I may not have enough food or supplies.
  • I need to know how long this illness is going to last.
  • I need to know that I will survive this.
  • I am so angry at the people who exposed me to this virus
  • I want to escape all of this and get drunk, stoned, go to sleep
  •  I feel hopeless
  • I don’t feel like eating/I’m overeating
  • I want to sleep all the time.
  • I cannot sleep.
  • I’ve lost someone to the virus and I’m experiencing flashbacks, nightmares, fear.

Release From Quarantine

Release From Quarantine:

If you’ve recently been released from Quarantine, you may have a mixture of reactions including:

  • Relief
  • Fear and worry about your ongoing health and the health of loved ones.
  • Stress from self-monitoring or being monitored by others for symptoms.
  • Sadness, anger, frustration because friends and family are fearful of contracting the disease from you, even after recovery.
  • Guilt about giving up work or parenting duties during the quarantine

So we’ve identified many of the often irrational, upsetting thoughts, and resulting overwhelming emotions.

Now, let’s look at the 3 Proven Ways to PUNCH OUT Pandemic Panic:

  1. STOP TRYING TO BE PERFECT
  2. STOP TRYING TO CONTROL OTHERS
  3. STOP REJECTING LIFE’S TERMS AND CONDITIONS

Let’s review:

hammering head

STOP TRYING TO BE PERFECT

So much of human suffering results from Perfectionism. This nasty belief goes something like this: Unless I act perfectly, or near-perfectly, or up to my exacting standards–I am not a worthy human being and I deserve shame and disgust and banishment.

In terms of the pandemic:

  • I must always act correctly with other people.
  • I must never make a mistake.
  • I must never contract the virus.
  • I must never accidentally infect anyone.
  • I must never let anyone I love become infected by anyone else
  • I must do well despite the economic downturn
  • If I don’t act correctly or perform poorly I must then criticize and shame myself (not my behavior but the fiber of my character).
  • Once I have emotionally beat myself up I may then feel so overwhelmed and depressed that I seek escape in unhealthy ways (suicidality, avoidance of responsibilities, use of drugs, alcohol, food, sleep, unhealthy sexual behavior, gambling, spending, etc)
  • Rinse and repeat

The key to stopping these behaviors is to first IDENTIFY the tendency towards SELF-Evaluation. When you are evaluating and assigning VALUE to your SELF it is a serious thinking error. You can evaluate and assign VALUE to BEHAVIOR but never to your SELF. Why?

Because the brain erroneously assigns value to your Character in a global, all-encompassing manner.

‘You gave change to a homeless person? Wow, you’re a GOOD person.’

‘Oh, you didn’t give up your seat to that old lady? You’re a BAD person.’

Both statements are based on an irrational idea that the SELF can be rated. Only BEHAVIOR can be rated.

PUNCH OUT PERFECTIONISM/SHAME:  Keep a journal and identify the thoughts you have that indicate SELF-WORTH assessment. In particular look for words like “I am a (X)” and “I Must do/be (X)”

Then, write a COUNTER-ARGUMENT as if you were convincing your best friend that they are NOT ‘an (X) i.e. jerk, loser, evil etc.

STOP TRYING TO CONTROL OTHERS

controlling others

The belief that others must behave in a specific, proscribed manner that is universally correct has created much pain on this planet. The belief is essentially this–

‘Unless you behave in the manner I believe is correct, you are a substandard, unworthy person who deserves punishment and damnation.  Because you are acting in a manner I deem as unfair, unkind, immoral, unethical you deserve severe punishment either by God, karma or the universe. If they don’t punish you then if possible, I will.’

Because we believe others should behave themselves or treat us fairly–when they invariably disappoint us it leads to the emotions of anger and rage.

In terms of the pandemic:

  • Others must treat me respectfully
  • Others must act in accordance with proper pandemic behavior (as I see it)
  • Others must be considerate of people outside their friends and family.
  • Others must keep me safe from disease.
  • If others don’t act in these ways I will deliver to them the wrath of the gods in the form of yelling, blaming, criticizing, resentment, retribution and sometimes even resort to violence.

PUNCH OUT BLAME/ANGER: Again, use that Thought Journal to identify when you are saying “She/He/They Should/Shouldn’t behave this way” or “She/He/They is an (X) for behaving that way.”

Then write a Counterargument to Punch-Out the sneaky belief that Other People must do ANYTHING; that Others MUST perform, act, think, behave in any specific way. Argue instead that others have the FREEDOM to act very poorly, selfishly, meanly, cruelly. And you have the freedom to try to INFLUENCE their behavior, directly, indirectly or through the justice system if possible. But you cannot, repeat, cannot CONTROL it. This will lighten your mental load.

STOP REJECTING LIFE’S TERMS AND CONDITIONS

lifes terms obstacles

Let’s be frank. Life is often unfair, unkind and filled with obstructions to our goals and desires. Life often does not flex to our will.

But we often insist, irrationally, that life CANNOT and MUST NOT proceed in the manner in which it clearly IS proceeding.

In terms of the pandemic:

  • This Pandemic cannot be happening. It’s wrong and it must not be.
  • How could God/Life/The Universe let this Viral Outbreak happen?
  • Life is too Cruel so I am opting out. I am going to escape through suicide or simply numb myself to life because I cannot handle the pain of this world.

PUNCH OUT NON-ACCEPTANCE: We do this by consistently and STUBBORNLY CHOOSING Unconditional Life Acceptance. That is, an acknowledgment that Life is OFTEN unfair and that, while we can TRY LIKE HELL TO CHANGE IT, we can ALSO acknowledge that this IS how life is at present. Even as we work toward a better future. Railing against life’s conditions only adds to our emotional burdens and makes us LESS effective at changing them.

IS THAT IT? THAT’S ALL IT TAKES TO PUNCH OUT PANDEMIC PANIC?
Kick Boxer Punching

Of course, if this were EASY to do, you wouldn’t be reading this article, would you?

No, in fact, it’s NOT that easy.

And it’s not a ONE-TIME PUNCH OUT.

You may need to go 9 Rounds with this Thinking Process and regularly PUNCH OUT the PANDEMIC PANIC.

Because your brain is the way it is, you’ll need to practice PUNCHING OUT PANIC regularly.

MORE GOOD NEWS.

You don’t have to do this alone.

You can get others to ‘gang up’ on your irrational thoughts with you.

How?

By using the power of GROUP SUPPORT.

Ideally, you would find a group that understands the principles of Cognitive Behavior Therapy and in particular the concepts behind Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).

By locating others who are trying to PUNCH OUT PANIC during the Pandemic, you gain the power of the group to help zone in on your thinking errors. As you counterargue and counter-attack these panicky thoughts you will experience a deeper sense of contentment–even while using caution and preparation to protect yourself and those you love.

Online Support Groups Can Help

CORES Group online

In addition to individual psychotherapy or personal coaching, an Online Support Group may be for you, or someone you care about, if you are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, apathy, anger, fear or anxiety.

Additionally, if you are feeling isolated and lonely due to Social Distancing or Self Quarantine, these emotional support groups can help you connect with others during this challenging time.

It’s common to feel overwhelmed.

And you may not know what to do next.

In an online, real-time video/audio streaming Support Group, members work together to help you move forward–by identifying the REAL LIFE problems as well as the triggers and responses, the thoughts, feelings and behaviors that are bothering you.

Through rational, evidence-based Group Coaching or Group Therapy  you can gain the tools and techniques to move forward and experience happiness despite the challenges of this pandemic.

A useful Support Group is a place to be listened to, supported and positively challenged.

YOU CAN GET SUPPORT FROM OTHERS RIGHT NOW!

Support From Others

In an Web-based Support Group, you will be surrounded by like-minded people ONLINE who know what you are going through.  In the Group, members can discuss their experiences during the pandemic and support one another.  Some of the issues and feelings discussed include:

  • Sadness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue from caring for others
  • Substance use and abuse in response to stress
  • Fear of illness and death

Mindfulness

Group members ALSO discuss Ways to Support Yourself and Others including how to:

  • Disconnect from media/news
  • Take Care of Your Body–exercise, nutrition, sleep
  • Activities to increase enjoyment
  • Talk with those you trust. Sharing your thoughts and emotions
  • Learn the facts and avoid hearsay.

Online Group members can support one another and learn how to:

  • Connect with Others for Support
  • Identify Triggers (Activating Events) that lead to overwhelming emotions and ineffective behaviors.
  • Identify Belief Systems
  • Identify Command/Demand Thinking
  • Identify Negative Self-Talk
  • Dispute Irrational Thoughts about the pandemic, other people, yourself and your life.
  • Create Effective Coping Thoughts
  • Identify New Goals
  • Practice Guided Imagery
  • Practice Progressive Relaxation
  • Practice Shame Attacking Exercises
  • Practice Mindfulness Exercises

Group Support

CONNECT WITH OTHERS THROUGH A SUPPORT GROUP

Remember, reaching out to people you trust is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety, depression, loneliness, and boredom during social distancing, quarantine, and isolation.

TIPS to help you in the meantime–

In addition to Online Video Support Groups you can:

  • Use the telephone, email, text messaging, and social media to connect with friends, family, and others.
  • Talk “face to face” with friends and loved ones using Skype or FaceTime.
  • If approved by health authorities and your health care providers, arrange for your friends and loved ones to bring you newspapers, movies, and books.
  • Use the Internet, radio, and television to keep up with local, national, and world events.
  • Talk about your experiences and feelings to loved ones and friends, if you find it helpful.
  • Maintain a sense of hope and positive thinking; consider keeping a journal where you write down things you are grateful for or that are going well.
  • Call SAMHSA’s free 24-hour Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990, if you feel lonely or need support.
  • Call 911 if you feel that you may harm yourself or someone else.

Reach out and Contact Us at CORES

REACH OUT AND CONNECT WITH US–

Ross Grossman, MA, LMFT is the Director of CoronaVirus Online Rational Emotional Support (CORES) Groups. 

For More information on Online Web-Based Support Groups go to CORES

or go to

https://www.affinitytherapyservices.com/coronavirus-online-rational-emotional-support 

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