new york city skyline

On March 21, 2020 NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo addressed the people of his state on the COVID-19 pandemic.  While emphasizing the inherent strength and courage of New Yorkers, he described in clear, stark terms the virulence of COVID-19, the harsh probabilities of its impact on us, and the guidelines needed to slow down its spread and flatten the oncoming curve.

He said that “If ever there is a time to practice humanity it is now….the time to show kindness…to show compassion….New Yorkers are tough, but we are also the most courageous community that you have ever seen.”

Do you remember the feelings experienced when you thought about those early communications?   What were your reactions to the numbers, the endless numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths of people?  It was all so much more than numbers, it was lives altered or lost forever. How did you process the numbers of hospital and front line workers worn out from practicing medicine in a manner most had never before encountered?  Although it was almost incomprehensible, we had to digest it and figure out how we were going to get through what felt like a Twilight Zone experience.  Does this sound familiar to you? 

man wearing mask

How often did you wonder how you would get through this, let alone if you could do this?  The refrain that would become indelibly imprinted in our minds was to be tenacious in doing what the science and the numbers indicated was effective in flattening the curve.  Each of us was part of an army fighting an enemy that had no distinct face, but rather was seen in the faces of those suffering, those who died, those who cared for the sick, and those who mourned the losses.

Perhaps you are musing as to how you did it! Today you are looking toward an incremental transition, where the guidelines will be lifted gradually, as driven by science and good judgment. Are you feeling like you just want to pick up where you left off in early March?  Do you want to shake yourself free of what feels like a numbing bad dream?  Are you feeling as though you want to say “Enough already!  Haven’t we been through more than enough of the social distancing, face masks, isolating at home, and going out only for essentials?”

unhappy woman in maskAnd what about dealing with all of the feelings that the pandemic and the accompanying isolation triggered—feelings of fear, anxiety, depression, our own and family members vulnerability,  and perhaps the guilt if you could not help loved ones in need due to restrictions set upon visiting.  It has probably been difficult to process the abundance of feelings across the spectrum.  Perhaps you are having difficulty identifying them or even bringing them to mind.  Are you feeling numb?  Perhaps your overwhelming feeling is just wanting to get out, be with others and put it all in the past.

The last few months have been disturbing at a minimum and traumatic for many. Studies of the effects of quarantine or self-isolation note the increases in feelings of depression, anxiety and even hopelessness.  Have you noticed that you were more irritable and angry?  It is not uncommon for there also to be increases in irritability as well as anger.  You are not alone, you have been in good company.   Everyone’s feelings have run the gamut from one end to the other.

The pivotal question is what you do with these feelings and how they impact upon your life and those of others.  Remember, if we take care of the ME and are cavalier about the WE, this disregard can have devastating effects on all.  Thus, it is important to learn how to identify your feelings, be aware of how they drive your behavior and learn how to meter them as needed.  While you may feel like you want to get out of the corral and run free, you must be mindful that you may run into an unyielding wall of the COVID-19’s second wave!

As someone recently said to me, this pandemic has truly shown us what people are all about.  It has pushed most of us to a place which has been until now unimaginable.  Laurie Garrett, who researched and wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning book THE COMING PLAGUE, said in an interview that our world five years from now will in no way resemble anything that is familiar to us today.  That’s quite a statement, even from a researcher!  If only half of what she’s saying will prove to be on target, it behooves each of us to put time aside for introspection.

Traumatic events, both personal and global, impact upon you and everyone you know in significant ways.  They often trigger questions regarding your own history, priorities in life, responsibilities to your family, your community and your world.  The accompanying feelings can be disconcerting.

Have you at times felt as though your feelings have been catapulted out of a food processor? You may be feeling unnerved and unhinged, as reflected in an increased or excessive consumption of food and alcohol, or use of drugs.   While these behaviors can take you down a destructive path, they also can lead you to a growth-producing re-examination of your tangible, ethical, emotional and environmental impacts on our world.  They can prompt you to change the direction of your life. The ME can have a powerful influence on the WE so long as you become aware of the ripple effects of your choices!  Some refer to this as the butterfly effect.

clouds ripple

When we are in the middle of a pandemic, even if it is the first wave, we are generally preoccupied with keeping our heads above water.  Has this been the case in your experience?  However, during the hiatus, if there is one, examining these questions and formulating adjustments to these variables can be growth-producing and strengthening. 

We do not learn when things are smooth and easy; we learn from the challenges, the traumas and the pain.

Please know, I am not suggesting you invite these obstacles into your life. But, since you have no control over the COVID-19 virus, but can control your behaviors, your current challenges can provide opportunities to grow and ideally to make your life and the lives of others more meaningful and more stable and our world safer.


If you would like to explore the above questions or related ones, call Dr. Maryann Schaefer at 516-627-1145 to schedule a complimentary consultation.