In regard to COVID-19, I’ve been seeing so many posts about how “we are all in this together” and “we are all experiencing the same thing”. Yes… to an extent. I would agree we are all in the same storm – dealing with this global health crisis. However, although COVID-19 is affecting everyone’s lives day to day, we are not each having the same experience. Same storm, different boat.
Some of us have lost jobs and have had to file for unemployment. Some are dealing with a large reduction in the number of hours we work each week. There are even some of us whose businesses are completely crashing because of the economy. We are feeling the intense loss of community and extreme reality of isolation and social distancing. And then there’s some of us whose biggest problem is running out of Cheetos in their house and now having to switch to eating Doritos (#QuarantineLife).
The hardship you may be experiencing during this time of transition is most likely effecting you differently than your neighbor, your friend, or even your family. You most likely have no idea what they’re experiencing right now, and they probably don’t exactly know how you’re feeling either. And that’s OK, because we are all different people and we respond to our situations differently.
Something for us to remember when we are struggling to get through this difficult season, is that we are not alone. Having open and honest conversations with others about what we are going through can allow us to relieve the stress and the burden of carrying these things alone. The truth is, there are a lot of people out there who care about you, your well-being, and your mental health during this time.
Below is a list of do’s and don’ts to help initiate a conversation with a friend or family member who may be struggling right now.
Thanks for opening up to me.
Is there anything I can do to help?
How can I help?
Thanks for sharing.
I’m sorry to hear that. That sounds like it’s very difficult.
I can’t imagine what you’re going through.
How are you feeling today?
I care about you.
It could be worse.
Just deal with it.
Snap out of it.
Everyone feels that way sometimes.
We’ve all been there.
You’ve got to pull yourself together.
Just think happy thoughts.
The best thing you can do for a friend or family member who is struggling is just to be there and listen. You don’t need to fix their problems or even offer solutions. Be open and allow them to vent or just talk if they need. Do not be judgmental or cut them off during the middle of their story. Even if you’ve experienced a similar hardship in your life, try not to move the focus to you – you may not have been in the exact situation they are in right now. Acknowledge that you care for them and are a safe person to communicate with.
Right when the pandemic hit the US, I was fortunate enough to be able to keep my same hours and work from home. Lots of my work with implementation planning for suicide prevention in schools was put on hold, but I still have been blessed to work my regular hours. However, that does not mean I haven’t struggled in the past with financial hardships and job losses. I can’t even imagine the financial burdens that some of my friends and neighbors are facing. Aside from everything such as volunteering and delivering meals to those in need, I try to make myself available for friends, coworkers, or family members who simply need to sit and talk about what is going on in their mind that day. When I was experiencing a similar situation about a year ago, all I wanted was someone to sit and listen who would not judge me. However, I found that much of my friends and family either didn’t know what to say or my story would make them uncomfortable and they would just reply “It will get better. Just think happy thoughts.” This was not effective and kept me from opening up to anybody else.
This too shall pass. We don’t know what tomorrow brings, but God has it already planned out. Instead of having anxiety about what the future holds, simply stop for a second and focus on the strengths that you have today. What strengths do you have around you right here, right now, that are supports in your life? Maybe it’s your relationship with God, your puppy, your writing, your music, your kids, your significant other, your exercise routine, your reading, your baking, your best friend, your Netflix… the list could go on and on. I encourage you to acknowledge the strengths you currently have, and act on them. EVERY day. And also remember, be kind. Have compassion. We will get through this.