The COVID-19 crisis has wreaked havoc on our world, our country, our communities and ourselves. So far countless people have lost their lives and millions have lost their jobs and cannot pay their rent, mortgage or other bills. There’s no sugar coating it: Many of us are suffering.

The United States has been greatly affected by the pandemic, harboring the most cases and the most deaths. To slow the spread and save lives, most of us have been isolating at home. But according to recent polls, this isolation has had a negative impact on our mental health. Calls to mental health hotlines have been surging. In fact, SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) reported an 891% increase in calls from this time last year.

The pandemic, along with the related social and economic conditions—and more recently, how it’s highlighted our country’s racial inequities—has many of us feeling psychologically defeated. Understandably, we may be feeling a myriad of emotions: anxiety, anger, sadness, depression, hopelessness, helplessness, loneliness, and panic to name a few.

But, being in a constant state of stress isn’t healthy—mentally or physically. In times like these, it’s important to take time to find some good. Recently, one positive emotion I’ve been trying to focus on is gratitude. Thankfully, there’s research to back up the positive effects of gratitude and well-being.

I’d like to take a moment to make a brief disclaimer, which almost kept me from writing this post. I don’t mean to be tone-deaf to people’s hardships. Many of my friends and family members have lost their jobs and are struggling. Others are essential workers and risk their lives to provide healthcare, food, and sanitation. However, I would like to use this opportunity to remind us that there is goodness in the world, even in unprecedented times. Even a flower can grow through a crack in the cement. Similarly, expressing gratitude during difficult times can help provide us with hope and improve our well-being.

During this pandemic, I’m grateful for…

  1. Social connection. Even if it has been virtual, social connection is a vital human need. Within as few as eight days in lockdown, I was starting to feel cabin fever setting in. Many of my friends and family were too, including people I haven’t talked to in years. We got to work and set up virtual video calls. Saturdays at 8 p.m., I fix my hair, turn on my phone, and grab a beverage. Of course, this doesn’t replace in-person connection but it’s useful for now. This may even develop into a new tradition going forward! Other ideas for connecting include joining online groups. For example, on Facebook there are groups that share common interests, like recipes, dogs, cats, politics, TV shows, neighborhoods, mental health, humor and so much more. If you’re struggling with addiction, abuse or other vices, organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous have moved to online meetings. Also, counselors are offering video/telephonic counseling. So, consider giving that old friend a call, joining a support group or contacting your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to find a counselor.
  2. The great outdoors. I’ve always enjoyed walking, running, hiking, biking and other outdoor activities. With today’s social distancing recommendations, I find myself outdoors more than ever. In fact, studies show that nature reduces stress and increases well-being. Also, exercise is good for mental health. For a clearer mind, put those sneakers on and get outside! Just be mindful of the CDC guidelines during this pandemic.
  3. Gaining a new perspective. During these unprecedented times, previously held beliefs are being questioned and new perspectives are emerging. For example, workers are the ones holding up whatever economy remains and millions of us have only recently recognized their value. It’s also led many to question the profit-over-people system and remind us what matters most. While crises are unwelcome experiences, they often lead to welcome changes. The Great Depression led to several changes including jobs programs, policy reforms and Social Security (one of the most popular programs in the country). It appears the coronavirus crisis is already serving as a catalyst for change, especially regarding racial injustices.

While these are just a few things I’m grateful for, there are countless others. Greater Good Magazine’s Gratitude section offers several other ways to cultivate gratitude and their monthly calendar offers daily tips on finding resilience in these uncertain times. In addition, Mayo Clinic has a gratitude page, which offers a free virtual program to improve mental well-being via daily journaling.

 

If you need help finding gratitude, increasing resilience, or locating resources, please contact your EAP. The FEI EAP Services Center is accessible 24/7 to provide advice and referrals.