It’s Okay Not to Be Okay: 4 Ways to Cope with Stresses of COVID-19 and Racial Unrest

Remember being in the office and walking to the copier, breakroom, or restroom and a coworker would ask in passing, “Hey, how are you?” And your response in passing would be, “I’m fine.” There was a time when “I’m fine” was the standard answer and everyone would go on about his/her day.

Now, we are amid a major global pandemic COVID-19 claiming the lives of 525,000 globally (World Health Organization). Countless family members and friends are grieving the loss of their loved ones. There is a heightened sense of anxiety around the risk of contracting the virus and spreading it to loved ones. Even a trip to the grocery store can create an increased sense of anxiety. In addition, the rising unemployment rate has created an economic crisis rivaled only by the Great Depression. And if the pot of stress wasn’t already boiling over, the racial unrest in the nation has intensified the flame. The headlines about ongoing acts of racism, police brutality, microaggressions black people face inside and outside of work have impacted the mental and emotional state of black Americans and amplified the racial unrest across the nation.

Right now, we are not fine.

It’s okay not to be okay

Give yourself permission to not be perfect. You, along with the rest of the world, are dealing with a lot of variables- known and unknown. It is okay not to have an immediate positive reaction to them. Pay attention to your genuine emotions. Are you sad, irritable, angry, frustrated, or anxious? Have your sleep patterns changed? Label your emotions and then vocalize them. Research shows vocalizing your emotions lessens the intensity and stress associated with the emotion. You are removing the mask and also taking a weight off your shoulders when you are transparent in your emotions. So, when someone asks how you’re doing, it’s okay not to be okay.

It’s okay to take a break from the news/social media

Pay attention to how social media and the news are impacting your mood. While both social media and the news can be sources for obtaining pertinent information, they can also be drainers of energy and provide an abundance of negativity. Give yourself permission to take a social media fast and unplug from the news periodically. Be informed but not consumed with the messaging that comes from the media.

It’s okay to be still

Increase your Quiet Time/Meditation/Prayer Time. Practicing quiet time is a great coping tool for everyone. It allows you the opportunity to get away from the distractions of life and just be still. It allows clarity and provides you the opportunity to process thoughts and emotions and reflect on them. Try unplugging 30 minutes in the morning before you start your day and then 30 minutes at night before bed. Take time to write down how your emotions, create a gratitude journal, or read and reflect on a devotional reading.

It’s okay to ask for help

According to the Well Being Trust health care foundation, an estimated 68,000 Americans may die from so-called deaths of despair (i.e. suicide or overdoses from alcohol or illicit drugs) due to the prolonged isolation and uncertainty about the future due to COVID-19. There is so much out of one’s control that past traumas are being magnified and mental health care crisis is at an all-time high. It is not the time to shut people out of your life and try to deal with mental health concerns alone. Ask for help. Check out your companies Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or your health plan for mental health providers and get the support you need from trained professionals.

BONUS: It’s okay to eat the cupcake (in moderation!! Please don’t eat the entire pack of cupcakes and blame me for your weight gain 😊). It’s okay to enjoy the delicious cupcake or a glass of wine to just do or eat something that brings a smile to your face. (again, in moderation).

Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying 'I will try again tomorrow.'” --Mary Anne Radmacher, American author, and artist

About the Author: Michelle Glover, CEO of Journey Unlimited, is a talented human resource professional with over 18 years of experience in leadership, coaching, change management, and HR strategy. Known for her creativity and strategic thinking, Michelle knows how to create innovative strategies to help individuals and companies achieve their goals. She has devised her own coaching model dubbed “Purpose to Results” coaching. This strategy views the client holistically. She doesn't focus exclusively on goals and creating career plans. Instead, she pays attention to a client’s spiritual, physical, and general mental health to create a solution for the client's overall well-being.

“Our goal is to help you achieve yours!”-Journey Unlimited

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