The arrival of the novel coronavirus created a need for a concentration on preventive physical health. More than ever, humans across the globe began paying attention to their diets, taking herbs, exercising and washing their hands for what initially felt like an eternity. However, the pandemic is also taking an enormous psychological toll that may not be as readily recognized. Financial stressors, feelings of isolation, fear of infection, lack of interaction, and over-reliance on less-adaptive coping mechanisms like alcohol and other substances, and social media binging are pandemic-specific threats to emotional wellness. Add to that the pressure to perform excellently due to perceived excess “quarantine time.” March and April were replete with suggestions for how to thrive during these weeks at home. But then the weeks turned into months, and those quarantine goals turned from excessive productivity to survival. It became clear that were facing a global pandemic. We are not on sabbatical. We are not at a retreat nor on a vacation. We are at home for safety reasons. And in the midst of all of this a second wave civil rights movement brews. Bringing with it its own emotional and psychological impact.
So let’s give ourselves a break!
There is a lot out there these days about what we should be accomplishing during this quarantine. In the midst of fear of a deadly virus and struggling through racial trauma, we are expected to lose 30 pounds, learn Chinese, build an extra wing onto our homes and write a book? Though not impossible, that is a lot of pressure.
Emotional wellness during this season can be achieved by focusing on wins rather than losses. As brutal as 2020 has been, most of us have some positives upon which we can focus; some wins that can be celebrated. We have become experts at counting our hardships but need to shift how we define “winning.” A day with no dropped Zoom calls and a decent night’s sleep is a great day. A day where your child was exposed to a new thing in her or his new school environment, is a winning day. If we learn to count our successes and expand our definition of winning, we can experience better emotional health.
Dr. Kanika Bell is a licensed psychologist, specializing in clinical and forensic psychology, in the Atlanta area. She received her undergraduate degree in psychology from Spelman College and received her Masters and Doctoral degrees in clinical psychology from Auburn University. She is co-owner of A.T.L. Psychotherapy and Consulting Services, LLC in Atlanta, GA where she provides therapy to children, adults, couples and families. She is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Clark Atlanta University. Dr. Bell’s passion is assisting clients and students in recognizing and maximizing their greatness. Her most recent project is a co-edited volume entitled Black Women’s Mental Health: Balancing Strength and Vulnerability and is currently working on an additional volume focusing on the particular mental health needs of Women of Color.