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Like any other disaster, we will get it through it

By Dr. Walter L. Frazier, PhD, LPC-S, NCC, lives in Vicksburg is Director of Academic Quality, School of Counseling, Walden University and Director of Grace Counseling.

 

Several people have told me they expect I have been busier lately due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Given their comments, you would think I work for Amazon or sell personal protective equipment. But as a professional counselor, I have had very few clients come to me and suggest that the concerns they want to address are specifically related to COVID-19 and the pandemic.

Surprisingly, I get the same comments any time there is a disaster. Floods, tornados, hurricanes, fires, shootings and accidents all create a crisis moment for people. For me, it is rare that a person comes to me for counseling based upon a specific disaster they have experienced.

Instead, people tend to seek counseling because of other concerns such as marital discord, debilitating anxiety, intense grief or anger management. In most cases, these issues were already present before the disaster, but the person tended to keep things manageable for the most part. The disaster simply pushes things past the limit.

That is the definition of crisis, the point at which a person’s normal coping capacity is exceeded. A person is in a state of crisis much like a pot is boiling over on the stove. Everything may be simmering at one moment, and then seemingly without warning the pot spills over creating a mess.

Schooling children at home, converting all kinds of social activities into Zoom meetings and wearing face masks and washing hands everywhere we go has brought a simmering pot to the boiling point for many people.

I wish to offer some hope and optimism during this pandemic. Remember, like all other disasters, this too shall pass. Although, this disaster is unfolding as slow as a South Delta flood!

We will find a new normal, and our coping strategies will once again manage most of the stressors we encounter as before the pandemic. And like other disasters, the vast majority of us will come out of this experience without lasting negative emotional and psychological impacts.

In fact, many of us will experience post-traumatic growth, a condition where we experience positive outcomes, even personal or spiritual growth, because of a disaster. The key to finding positive outcomes during a disaster is to seek positive outcomes. We do this by talking to others about our experiences and learning we are not alone albeit socially distanced or even gathering virtually. We can celebrate the positives such as where have we learned something new or discovered a quality in ourselves or others that we did not previously experience.

Finally, we should pay attention to ourselves by recognizing when we are exhausted or stressed. Find ways to offset these moments. We can plan to use positive diversions that tend to help. Take a brief walk around the block or read a devotional or an inspirational message. Find ways to laugh occasionally by reading or listening to a joke or telling someone else a funny story about yourself.

A pandemic is yet another disaster, and like past disasters, we will get through this one day at a time.

 

Walter L. Frazier, PhD, LPC-S, NCC, lives in Vicksburg is Director of Academic Quality, School of Counseling, Walden University and Executive Director of Grace Counseling.