As I write this newsletter, we are entering our third month of COVID-19 in Alberta. To say that our current situation was unexpected is an understatement, yet here we are, navigating this storm and the damage it has caused.
You have probably heard the quote (attributed to Damian Barr; Noonan, 2020), “We are not all in the same boat. We are all in the same storm.” I love this statement because it acknowledges that while this storm is affecting everyone in the world, it is affecting each of us differently. However, when I hear people make reference to this idea (same storm, different boats), the commentary is usually regarding socioeconomic status alone (e.g., do I have a yacht or a leaky boat with one oar). The discussion often fails to acknowledge that the storm has truly hit people differently, and also that the social-emotional-spiritual resources each one of us have are highly variable. For people with pre- existing mental health challenges, this storm can be particularly challenging.
So, what can we do to increase our chances of navigating this, and other unexpected storms, well? Some excellent recommendations are already out there, including a list of 25 tips by Margie Donlon (2020) that is exceptionally thorough and wise, and I encourage you to read it, and apply it, if you have not already seen it.
However, something that I think is critically important to understand is that many of the excellent strategies we use can actually be forms of avoidance. For example, sticking to a routine, looking after our bodies (sleep, diet, exercise), connecting with others, working on projects, and doing activities, while all healthy and good, can distract us from the storm we are experiencing and not afford us opportunity to work through the complicated thoughts and feelings we have regarding the impact of the storm. That is, these strategies can bring temporary relief, not resolution. The result can be that we become experts at managing our emotions, but not experts at processing them, leaving us with anxiety, sadness, or anger that has not been adequately worked through. Further, this can catch us off guard, as we think we are doing all the right things to support our mental health, yet we are left with feelings of angst.
Thus, we must also take time to consider the storm, and acknowledge its impact on us. We need to ‘sit in the ick.’ So how do we do that?
Donlon (2020) provides a few ideas that invite the opportunity to release emotions, such as play, expressive arts, and talking to others (therapist, friends, family, support groups). Other ideas include journaling or prayer. Whatever method you choose, I recommend devoting an hour per week (or more if needed) to intentionally sit in the ick, reflecting on things such as…
How has this unexpected event, this storm, negatively impacted me? What have
What am I feeling? (sad, angry, hurt, disappointed, jealous, worried, confused,
When I have these feelings, what physical sensations do I notice in my body?
What concerns me most right now?
What do I wish for, long for, or need?
By being present with our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations, we create the perfect environment for our brain to work through the experience, allowing for natural healing, learning and growth…for resolution.
Then, once we have taken time to sit in the ick, it is a great time to exercise all of our other strategies, like:
Counting our blessings
Acknowledging what is in my control and what is not, and taking action on those
things within my control
Focusing on positive and uplifting topics
Going for a walk
Cuddling with a pet
Or any of the 25 or more tips that we can easily access on the internet
COVID-19 is just one of the many unexpected events we each have experienced in the past, and will experience in the future. In fact, for some of us, this storm feels mild in comparison to some of the hurricanes that we have weathered, whether that be loss of a child, bankruptcy, abuse, divorce, neglect, addiction, chronic pain, or countless other storms. No matter what unexpected storms await us, we need to remember to practice healthy behaviours, but also to take time to acknowledge the storm and its impact. Sitting in the ick is never fun, but it is essential to allow natural healing to occur. If you need help in navigating this or another storm, our team at Eckert Centre is here for you. We are available for phone, video, or in-office sessions. Just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donlon, M. (2020, May 8). 25 Mental Health Wellness Tips for Quarantine. Retrieved
Noonan, P. (2020, April 23). What Comes After the Coronavirus Storm? Retrieved from
Susan is a Registered Psychologist providing assessment and counselling services at Eckert Centre. Susan makes a unique contribution to the Centre as a Certified EMDR Therapist, counselling those dealing with the effects of big and “little” traumas in their life, including adoption, accidents, loss, abuse, neglect, bullying, infertility, academic challenges, imperfect parenting, phobias, addictions, etc. She also provides faith-based counseling services to our clients seeking counseling from a Christian worldview.