This holiday season, hope feels elusive for so many. Ten months into the COVID-19 pandemic, health care professionals and other essential workers are exhausted amid fears that they will bring the virus home to their own families. Many of us have not seen our parents, aunts and uncles, or grandparents in person for what seems an eternity. We are all experiencing grief, often over intangible losses such as the loss of normalcy and security. Add to that those tangible losses – loss of work, loss of loved ones – and we are in a precarious place of unimaginable grief.
Change Is the Only Constant
We are starving for human touch and left with impossible decisions, exposing ourselves to too much risk for a morsel of social interaction. Infections, hospitalizations and deaths continue their upward trend, and we are left wondering, Will things ever go back to normal?
The short answer? No. Our lives will probably never return to what was before the biggest public health crisis of our lives. Change is the only constant, and our lives will never be the same. So, if it is not an option to return to what was, where do we find hope?
Coping During a Pandemic
If you are feeling hopeless, it is important to acknowledge that. Not everyone is an optimist, and it can seem impossible to have hope during a global pandemic, no matter your typical outlook. Writing down your feelings and the steps you are taking for any desired changes in your life can be incredibly empowering, reminding you what you do and do not have control over.
If you do not already have a self-care routine, there is no better time to start one. My isolation well-being checklist includes showering, brushing my teeth, drinking water, taking my medications, moving for at least 20 minutes every day, and getting in at least one good laugh. While these may seem like small tasks, it is easy to overlook them when we are struggling.
Start Close to Home
If you are a dreamer like me, you may be struggling to find hope in the big picture. Nothing squanders one’s hope faster than hanging onto unrealistic expectations. When I am overwhelmed and spiraling into pessimism, I bring my thoughts closer to home.
As I walk around my neighborhood, I extend lovingkindness to my fellow walkers with a smile and greeting. I recognize my own fears and uncertainties in their eyes. I remind myself that very few people are not struggling currently, and that it is our job – our duty – to embrace them (metaphorically). When you have lost hope and do not know where to find it, you may have a sign to create it for others.
Hope is sometimes as simple as presence. For me, there is no higher calling than to see others – really see them – and recognize their pain without trying to fix it or diminish it.
Hope is making someone else feel less alone in this world.
Let Us Build Something Together
Alternatively, hope is a sign of resiliency. It can be found in the belief that we can build something new, something better, and come out of this with more empathy for our neighbors and loved ones. Perhaps we should not hang our hope on a specific event or outcome in the future. Our hope must come from a deeper place.
Do you want to be the same person when this is all over? What lessons will you take into 2021?
Alissa Paolella serves as board trustee and secretary for the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties. If you are struggling, you are not alone. For support and local mental health services, call the NAMI Ohio helpline at 800-686-2646 or text HOME to 741741 to reach at crisis counselor. For resources in other areas, visit www.nami.org.