Have you found yourself feeling somewhat numb in regard to the coronavirus pandemic? It’s come up a few times at Sanvello now. We’ve noticed our members talking about this feeling that lands somewhere between exhaustion and apathy, like our empathy is overloaded. This experience is completely natural and we’re here to help you understand why you might be noticing a mental shift.
“Six months into the pandemic, you may be experiencing a certain level of desensitization,” explains Sanvello Chief Medical Officer Dr. Monika Roots. “Many people are likely entering into a learned helplessness phase.”
When the threat of COVID-19 was fresh in all our minds and in our lives, many of us were obsessively ingesting news alerts and living in a perpetual state of fear. As the months have gone on, the human brain has had time to adjust to what was once a novel risk and is now shifting to what feels like a chronic risk with no clear solution — and we’ve become somewhat desensitized. We’re still grieving the loss of the year we should have been living, and that only contributes to the feeling of numbness.
Know that this numbness is completely normal.
While it may seem alarming to feel emotionally disconnected, we’re here to reassure you that this is a completely natural phenomenon. We are living through unprecedented circumstances and it is understandable that our brains are adapting to the emotional overload.
Experiencing numbness at a time like this can feel disconcerting, but it is not an indicator of your character as a person. Try reassuring yourself that it is completely acceptable and normal to feel numb during this time.
Try to make time and space to connect with your feelings.
Journaling or simply taking time to regularly check in with your feelings can be tremendously helpful during challenging times. Making space for both grief and gratitude and giving yourself permission to acknowledge what you’ve lost due to the pandemic can help you to stay connected to yourself.
Many of us may hear the phrase “what you’ve lost” and immediately do a type of grief comparison, where we compare our loss to the loss of others and deny ourselves the right to grieve. But even small losses should be grieved and processed, like the loss of a routine or the loss of just being able to see your friends whenever you like. Acting tough because “it’s not that bad” just represses feelings that are more easily managed simply through acknowledgment.
If you’re not sure how to connect with these feelings, many find it comforting to create rituals during unpredictable times. Lighting a candle each morning or sitting quietly with your breath can help you to feel more tethered and attuned to your emotions. Remember, these feelings don’t need to be joyful. Toxic positivity is a real thing, and always being told to “look on the bright side” can minimize and invalidate how we’re really feeling.
Look for opportunities to show up for others.
During a time when it’s easy to feel helpless, it can be rejuvenating to connect with and give back to those around us. A simple act of kindness can help to remind us that we’re not alone in this frightening time and we can still make a difference in the world.
When we’re inundated with statistics, it’s easy to lose touch with reality. Whether you’re able to donate time or other resources, the human connection is powerful enough to reinstate hope. If you’re not sure where to start, try engaging with some posts in the Community tab in the Sanvello app, or just text a friend to say you’re thinking about them. Connection can be a great salve for numbness, and it can help bring vibrancy and purpose back to our days.
Remember the importance of preventative action when it comes to the virus.
Emotional numbing can oftentimes lead us to take situations less seriously. It’s not because we’re ignorant or selfish, but because we get tired. Changing every routine is exhausting, especially when it’s difficult to understand and see the results. If you don’t know anyone directly affected by COVID-19, it can feel like you’re not making an impact by wearing a mask. But as Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infection Disease, said, “if it looks like you’re overreacting, you’re probably doing the right thing.”
Remember that while you may be feeling disconnected from the threat, it is still important to stay diligent in your preventive actions. Even if you’re feeling less afraid, wearing a mask and socially distancing remain essential in keeping the virus in check.
Continue to normalize your experience at every turn.
You’re likely experiencing a great deal of emotional exhaustion at this point in the pandemic. From the isolation of quarantine to the fear of the unknowns, remind yourself at every point that you’re adapting and doing what is necessary to get through this time.
As a society, we’re rapidly adjusting to everything from wearing a mask to constant medical updates, and it’s human nature to have less of an emotional reaction to a threat we’ve been exposed to for an extended period of time. Try to be gentle with yourself by meeting these feelings of numbness with acceptance and understanding.