Peter Getoff was recently invited to write for This Month with Bruin Professionals. His article is reprinted here, with permission.
By this time, I imagine just about all of you have had your fill and been exposed to-pardon the term-dozens of articles, podcasts, and newscasts about the negative effects of Covid.
As Bruin Professionals, you fall within a cohort characterized by high IQ, intellectual curiosity, and a certain degree of motivation for self-improvement, expanding your awareness and mindfulness about how your “psychological insides” inform your external behavior and reactions to the world.
That being said, it is my desire to provide you with a brief positive learning experience related to the subject of the pandemic, its effect upon us and our loved ones, and our reactions to it.
In preparation for writing this piece, my research introduced me to a term that I surmised might exist, but I found empirical proof that it did – epidemic psychology. The conceptual framework of epidemic psychology is instructive and useful because it reminds us that the first natural human response is fear. The model also reminds us that another natural response is wanting to reduce our fear, which can translate into taking action. The trick is engaging in effective action.
It’s been seven months since the “official” identification of the pandemic and there’s no end in sight. How can we continue to manage our fears and take effective action to cope with the change in routine, the uncertainty, and the disruption caused by the pandemic?
Since March 2020, I have had dozens of opportunities to converse with family, friends, clients, and colleagues about coping mechanisms that are effective for them, especially in reducing fear and taking concerted action to combat the draining and debilitating effects of the pandemic. And of course, I have “data” from my observations of my own successes and failures in coping with Covid’s psychological effects.
Many “coping lists” have been promulgated and I don’t wish to be overly redundant nor does the one I offer need to be exhaustive.
What seems to standout are the following ideas: “acceptance of the new normal”; “embracing self-imperfection,” “social connection,” and “community connection.”
Below are brief elaborations for each one of these psychosocial activities:
- Acceptance of the New Normal: Acceptance of reality enables us to take action to adapt to it. Every one of us is subject to defense mechanisms such as denial and avoidance in our efforts to protect us from what can be the scary reality of “what is.”
- Embracing Self-imperfection: This in my professional opinion may be the most critical one. It is a key building block. Excessive self-criticism and rigid perfectionism can wreak so much psychological damage. Supportive self-statements are indispensable in this regard.
- Social Connection: I must sound like a broken record to my loved ones, clients, and business associates with this one: Reach out. Please don’t isolate. Share your feelings, thoughts, and listen to how others are trying to cope. Use the phone, email, and text. We are social creatures and we need vital, healthy human connection.
- Community Connection: Decades of empirical and applied research give overwhelmingly support to the theory that one of the most effective ways of boosting our sense of worth and belonging and counteracting depression and anxiety is through helping others less fortunate than ourselves. The classical dictum is that we help ourselves by helping others. There are a myriad number of examples of this concept-too many to list here.
The point is that you provide care for yourself by providing care for the community in which you reside.
Peter’s business is called the Human Equation and he has over thirty years experience in guiding, motivating, and leading individuals, groups, and organizations to find the answers when they are “stuck.” He has an MSW in Social Work Administration and Community Organization from UCLA and an MA in Clinical and Community Psychology from SUNY Buffalo. For more info please visit his website: https://thehumanequation.net/.