Well-being and support
Resources to support coping during the pandemic
Resources for UM staff and students from Corey Mackenzie, Ph.D., C. Psych (Professor & Director of Clinical Training, Department of Psychology).
The current situation is scary, disruptive, unpredictable, and leaving lots of us feeling disconnected from people we love and care about. If you’re feeling some or all of that here are some things you might consider:
- Let those unpleasant emotions in rather than avoid them, do your best to bring self-compassion to that experience (it’s okay to feel sad and scared right now), and see what those emotions are telling you. For example, loneliness is a signal that we’re not feeling socially connected. Even in the current situation there are things we can do to address that problem – call a friend you haven’t spoken with in a while, send a letter to your grandmother, arrange time to have a virtual coffee with a friend, etc. Finding those kinds of solutions isn’t possible if you push negative emotions away. Plus avoidance of negative emotions not only doesn’t work – it usually intensifies them (just ask your cognitive psychologist colleagues about thought suppression effects).
- While it’s important to face difficult emotions head on, it’s also important not to get carried away by them. So if you are stuck in fear, sadness, and endless Twitter feeds it’s important to pull yourself out of that experience. There are many ways to do that, including simply naming the emotion you’re feeling (e.g., taking a deep breath, and asking yourself what you’re feeling in moments of distress – is it sadness, worry, overwhelm?), and seeing if you can notice the kinds of thoughts that are associated with strong negative emotions. In moments of distress we might feel like life is awful right now, that things will never be the same, etc. Those are often experienced by us as truths, when in fact they are just thoughts. Recognizing them for what they are gives us opportunities to challenge them, or to just get a bit of distance from them (e.g., by saying to yourself: “I’m having the thought that life is awful right now).