University of New Mexico psychologists encouraged people to know their feelings of pandemic-related loss are valid and to focus on what they could control during the UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center’s virtual seminar regarding the aftermath of COVID-19.
“Fear will tend to drive avoidance,” said psychologist Christopher Morris, the clinical director of the UNM Health Sciences behavioral health clinic in Rio Rancho.
He, along with fellow UNM psychologist Jaxcy Odom, emphasized the validity of different levels of loss and stress during the pandemic.
The virtual event took place June 25 and was an open discussion on mental health and helping people not just cope with loss stemming from the pandemic, but also readjust to social interaction.
“Now we have this opportunity to connect socially in more ways,” Odom said. “It is very challenging, and in some ways, I hope that this normalizes it for everybody. We’re all feeling a lot of that anxiety.”
Viewers who streamed the live Zoom feed were encouraged to share their experiences with COVID-19 and their concerns involving how to deal with life moving forward. All comments and questions were posted anonymously and only the panel moderators were able to see the chat.
Morris and Odom addressed each situation presented. Re-acclimating children — especially of ages unable to receive a vaccine — to public settings was a general concern, as was social reconnection for adults.
The psychologists stressed there should be no comparison or guilt toward what an individual considers a loss. Loss is relative: It could be the death of a loved one, a job, a business or even one’s freedom of choice or access to activities that created anxiety, grief and trauma.
Morris said, “Sometimes we feel like it’s bad to feel bad, or it’s wrong to feel bad, or we shouldn’t. It’s a natural feeling, and it’s actually a reflection of how much you value that which you’ve lost.”
People asked questions about the expectations of returning to normal and how others view it differently, damaged personal relationships, adjustments to previous health issues and the emergence of sleep deprivation and minimizing social connections.
“We’ve all lost so much,” Odom said before discussing the assurance of organized support groups. “I’m just hoping we can meet the need as it’s presented.”
The seminar offered general skills to battle the disruption brought on by the pandemic and cope with an individual’s emotions, using the acronym FACECOVID:
• Focus on what is in your control.
• Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings.
• Come back into your body.
• Engage in what you’re doing.
• Commit to action.
• Open up.
• Identify resources.
• Disinfect and distance.
Morris challenged individuals to find a connection to their values.
“We talk about perspective and that begins to tie us back into what’s important for me to focus on, what’s important to me to do in this time of change and turbulence,” he said.
SRMC provides various resources on its website, and a link to the recorded seminar can be found on its Facebook page.