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  • Mary Tate, LCSW

Corona, Covid, Control

The world is in a bit of panic since the outbreak of COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus. As a behaviorist, I pay a lot of attention to how people think, react, and cope with different situations, people, and now, crisis.


There tends to be a lot of negative stigma surrounding the characteristic of “being controlling” or being a “control freak.” I like to ask people to think about how many times a day they exhibit control of their life.


Oftentimes, you don’t realize how much control you do have of your day-to-day activities. For example, here is a basic morning routine that you may follow:


Wake up:  Do I get up or continue to lay in bed?
Brush teeth: Do I want to eat before I brush? Should I floss first? Should I try that new toothpaste? Do I want to do a quick brush or brush for the full two minutes?
Shower: Should I wash my hair? Should I shave my face? Do I have time to relax in the shower or am I in a rush?
Get Dressed: Which color pants should I wear? Should I try on that new dress? Do I want fancy shoes or comfy shoes?
Breakfast: What do I want to eat? Do I want coffee from home or the coffee shop? Do I have time to make a meal, or should I grab a quick snack?

These are five simple actions that the majority of us do on a daily basis, which show that there are many different ways to exhibit control for yourself.


While you may not sense it, when something completely unexpected happens in your life, it can become harder to recognize control. Our minds shift into overdrive and focus on the things out of our control. Think of a breakup, the loss of a loved one, a car accident, or a broken bone. What did your morning routine look like on that day? Were things a little different? It probably was.


When you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, grief becomes the power within you. While you may have enjoyed a bowl of cereal and coffee every morning, grief tells you that you aren’t hungry. This is because the emotion you felt from that unexpected event took power and control of your situation.


Imagine that control and power are a married couple. Most of the time, they meet in the middle. Sometimes, however, they like to do things their own way. I like to say that our feelings often come to visit power and control and tell them what to do and how to do it.




Let’s think about a lot of the feelings that are being expressed by many people around the world right now:


Fear

Anxiety

Sadness

Panic

Hopelessness


When I look around, I see these feelings taking complete control over many of us. However, I’m here to say that there’s nothing wrong with that. There is no right or wrong way to feel about a pandemic. For me, just saying the word “pandemic” gives me all kinds of feelings.


What I do worry about is that with many of us, these feelings become too controlling. Rather than the feelings making a visit to the married couple, power and control, they decide to take ownership of everything in your mind. When this happens, that morning routine is going to look a lot different. You may realize that you’re not making any decisions that keep these feelings (anxiety, fear, panic) away. In fact, you may find that you aren’t able to stop doing things to keep yourself feeling okay.


Does this sound like something you are experiencing? If so, here are some tips and resources to help take some of that control and power back.


  • If you find that you are doing something that is “feeling heavy," challenge it by doing the opposite. For example, if you usually eat breakfast every morning and all of a sudden you don’t feel like eating, try to eat a little something, even if it's just a banana or a piece of bread.

  • Find 3 things that you can take control of during your day. An example that I often use is to move your body for 30 minutes, even if all you want to do is stay on the couch or crawl into bed.

  • Say NO. Say no to people who make you feel overwhelmed, sad, mad, or anxious. Say no to media content that leaves you feeling worried or upset. This is a great time to start practicing saying no and creating a boundary for yourself. I believe that all people want to be good, and this is one of the hardest things for human beings to do.

  • Be silly. All of us were a child at some point in our lives. When that negative feeling appears, turn on your favorite childhood song, or bake your grandma's unforgettable brownies. Be still in the moment and take in the comfort.

  • Talk to a therapist. There are many ways to speak with a professional counselor via video chat. Connecting with friends and family is very important, but if you need a separate space just for you, there are many different options.


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Sending peace and comfort to your heart, mind, and body.


MT

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