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5 months later, what has COVID-19 taught you about yourself?

when will the pandemic end

Just five months ago an epic learning opportunity presented itself. COVID-19 became a reality and it was obvious lives would never be the same. Sure, I was afraid. But I believed there was good to be had. What have you learned about yourself?

Simply, that means I follow-up on my ‘catastrophizations’ and see if disaster really struck. 99.9% of the time it didn’t…

I really don’t want to write about COVID-19. Even having it in the title makes me uneasy. I mean, people have had their fill. And who wants to hit a mood and anxiety disorder relief site – and get moody and anxious?

How ’bout this? What if we use COVID-19 to facilitate learning? Will that work?

Let’s do it…

Catastrophizing: Defusing the Disasters

Catastrophizing, with its “What if’s?” and expectations of disaster, is an extremely troubling cognitive distortion. Historically, I’ve been pretty darned good at it. And I’ve worked with plenty of people who can match – even surpass – my talent.

When it comes to my catastrophizing, I’ve never called on myself to quit doing it. Like you, I have my leanings – my knee-jerk reactions. Instead of creating even more stress by demanding I stop, I go the route of stripping it of its power.

The best way I know to do that is by using empirical evidence – information acquired by means of observation and experimentation. Simply, that means I follow-up on my “catastrophizations” and see if disaster really struck. 99.9% of the time it didn’t, so I make a mental note for the next knee-jerk.

10 Random & Scary COVID-19 Thoughts & Feelings

On April 1, I posted “17 Random & Scary COVID-19 Thoughts & Feelings: Understandable, but Disposable.” The COVID-19 hubbub had begun not long before and hundreds of millions of people were scared out of their minds. Understandable, given how little we knew about it.

In an effort to calm some nerves, I put together a list of some of the worst possible COVID-19 catastrophes. Of course, my point was “My gut says it ain’t gonna’ happen.”

how to manage covid-19

“Catastrophizing is a dead-end. Take your life back, okay?”

Well, I was thinking about the piece a week or so ago and reflected upon how things “non-catastrophically” turned-out. And I knew I had a great article on my hands.

We’re going to take a look at 10 of the original 17. I’ll include the catastrophic statement from the April 1 piece and make a comment. But what matters most is whether or not you now believe catastrophizing was at play.

Before we dive-in I want you to know I’m aware that some of you may not have avoided catastrophe or a poor outcome regarding one or more of the following. If that’s you, I’m sorry for your suffering.

Here we go…

  1. When is this madness going to end? I can’t take another day, let alone be stuck at home until April 30th. And I’ll bet there’ll be an extension. When” is up in the air, but it will end – just like it did with the 1918 pandemic. With rare exception, nobody’s “stuck at home” now.
  2. I feel fatigued and icky. But I don’t think it’s because of my depression and anxiety. It has to be COVID-19. Were you tested? Was it COVID-19?
  3. What if there’s a run on grocery stores and they can’t restock? I could starve to death. My belly’s full. So are my neighbors’. Grocers, suppliers, and transporters have done a great job.
  4. I went through the drive-thru at McDonald’s and the guy who handed me my food looked sick. I ate the burger, but maybe I should get tested. This happened to me. Never got tested, nor did I get sick.
  5. I live so far from my family. What if I get sick and die? You mean the last time I would have seen them would be the holidays? Visited with my out-of-town daughter several weeks ago. Son and his wife are up in 10 days.
  6. What’s really going-on? And how did it really start? They say it’s a pandemic caused by a virus, but you know how that goes. What aren’t they telling us? I’m sure there are things we don’t know. I’m also sure conspiracy theories can be just as distorted and harmful as catastrophizing. 
  7. I really miss the way things were. What if we never return to normal? Short of a conspiracy theory, why wouldn’t we?
  8. I’ve been clean and sober for so long now. But I know I won’t be able to get through this without using. I was going on 36 years sober when this began. Still am.
  9. If I get sick I know I’ll need a ventilator. But there won’t be enough. And I’m sure they’d pick me to do without. Yes, things were tense in the beginning. As far as I know, we’re in the clear now.
  10. Truth really is this virus is airborne. I’m going to get it whether I distance myself from people or not. Not true (ah, those conspiracy theories).

So what do you think? Were the statements soaked in catastrophizing? So you know, if you’re comparing what’s going-on today with the statements, you’re using empirical evidence.

And if you’ve decided the statements really were about catastrophizing, you’ve taken the first big step in learning how to defuse it – strip it of its power. Just make sure you remember for the next knee-jerk.

Time to Move Forward

Again, this piece wasn’t intended to directly address COVID-19. Let’s just say we used it for a higher purpose.

In the face of the scary unknown, learning opportunities are bountiful. This catastrophizing exercise is but one example. Speaking of which, if you’re an expert “catastrophizer,” has the road to management become clearer? Yeah, it’s important.

So tell me, what else has COVID-19 taught you about yourself?

Be sure to read the whole piece: 17 Random & Scary COVID-19 Thoughts & Feelings: Understandable, but Disposable

Hey, if you’re up for some light and calming reading, please consider my eBook, Feelings & Rhymes Through Treacherous Times.

And then, of course, those almost 800 Chipur articles. The titles are waiting for you.