Pamela is a Registered Psychologist in Camrose, AB, Canada. She has a thriving private practice and teaches yoga, the enneagram and a variety of workshops on psychology and spirituality.
Thirteen months into the Covid-19 pandemic it seems our world is a daily mix of hesitant optimism and unrelenting bleakness. Perhaps this is how life always is, but a global event of this proportion makes the struggles of human life louder, more highlighted. The drone of the pandemic plays on repeat as if through a megaphone in our days. Whether through overheard conversations at the grocery store, the noticeable lack of choices in our activities or the chatter of our own brains mulling the topic again and again, it is difficult to ever leave the context of covid – 19. Over the last year I have worked with many dozens of different people in my clinical practice as a psychologist and had almost as many private conversations via zoom, phone, text and campfires (note; these conversations are largely localized in a rural Albertan context). Try as we might, it is inevitable that we circle around to pandemic related topics and its effects. What follows is a synopsis of key themes about the effect on wellbeing that have repeated multiple times in these conversations. I offer it hopes that it may identify and normalize some of your current experience.
Grief: That malaise you carry. The low energy. The heavy blanket across your shoulders. In my experience as a clinician, grief presents in many forms and is one of the most subtle causes of depression and other mental struggles. We often think of grief as related to death or loss of relationships but it can be so much broader. This past year we have lost lifestyle, activities, businesses and relationships we’ve cultivated over potentially many years. Importantly we have lost IDENTITIES that we had developed through these very things and the effect of this is tangible. The cloudy sadness is pervasive. And how do we grieve? A funeral for our pre-pandemic world? Soothing sentiments from others who are experiencing the very same loss? Part of the problem is the loss itself, the other part that we don’t have a frame of reference through which to process it.
What you can do: Acknowledge grief for what it is. Name what you miss, talk about it with loved ones. We reminisce about stories of the “good old days” when a person passes why not when a whole way of life passes? There may indeed be a renewal of life when the pandemic ends but certainly things will not ever be exactly the same again. Feel it.
Lack of social mirroring: Feeling more insecure than usual? Unsure of yourself? A bit more self critical? In sociology there is a term called the “looking glass self”:
“The looking-glass self describes the process wherein individuals base their sense of self on how they believe others view them. Using social interaction as a type of ‘mirror’, people use the judgments they receive from others to measure their own worth, values, and behavior.” (https://lesley.edu/article/perception-is-reality-the-looking-glass-self.)
With the expectation of social interactions being kept to a minimum there are many people I’ve talked to who have seen only a handful of close contacts over the last year. We come to know ourselves partly through self reflection but also by how our personhood is reflected by others. It is no wonder people are questioning their worth, identities and value! These things are defined, at least in part, by the social interactions we have – be it through one to one dinners, drinks and coffees but also through larger social gatherings like sporting events, live music and potlucks.
What you can do: Even distanced or masked interactions help! Facetime and zoom conversations can still be helpful and many people find them ok for n