Article by Don Laird, NCC, LPC, DCC
You’re doing everything you can to protect your family during the COVID-19 pandemic: staying at home, wearing a mask, social distancing, and washing your hands until they are raw. You’ve done more virtual playdates, online classes, and work meetings than you can count, and your immediate family has more colorful cloth masks than underwear. You understand it’s not fake, it’s not the flu, the numbers are real, and the long-term health consequences are still not understood. You know people who have been infected or who have died. In short, you’re mindful, and you follow the science.
Yet even with all the preparation and precaution taking, you still find yourself worrying. Because with all the evidence and the skyrocketing numbers, there are those family members and friends you know who refuse to social distance and wear a mask. Will they get sick, perhaps die? Will they get someone else close to me sick? How can I convince them to stay safe? In short, you may not be able to do anything as they feel their opinion, fed by misinformation, is fact. You may have already lost friends and things are chilly with family members. You’re not alone.
Worry and anxiety leads to catastrophizing. The conclusion is usually a worst-case scenario, and it is typically based on those things we have no control over. Instead, try focusing on the present moment and those things you do have control over. Breaking your day down into two or three-hour increments can be helpful. Overthinking your plans or setting unrealistic goals will create inner-chaos and you will be disappointed or upset with the results.
Finding a way to engage your loved ones in a mindful and calm fashion can be tricky.
When it comes time to talk about COVID-19 and your concern about their lack of concern, try referencing information from resources your loved one is more likely to trust. This may be difficult if much of their news comes from unreliable sources that have fed much of the misinformation that we now know to be dangerous.
Is there a TV or radio personality they like who has given sound advice for mask wearing or social distancing? For instance, your loved one may have a dislike for the news media, but they like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson or Arnold Schwarzenegger (both of whom have conservative views). Each of these individuals has advocated for social distancing and mask wearing. Are their articles available from resources your family member follows? While you may not agree with the political leanings, it may be a resource you need to reference. When possible, talk with each other and not at each other. Be curious about their perspective but be confident and firm with your perspective.
While you may be feeling frustrated or angry with your loved one, lecturing them won’t do any good. Remember to speak with kindness, care, and empathy. Show them that you care. If they do not reciprocate, there is not much you can do but be patient. Remember, you only have control over what you have control over.
Additionally, instead of focusing on their health and safety, encourage them to think about others. Wearing a mask and social distancing will help prevent the virus from spreading to someone who has a pre-existing condition and is more vulnerable to serious illness. As we know, COVID-19 can sometimes cause no symptoms, someone can easily spread the virus without knowing it.
Try to think of someone your loved one knows who may be at risk. Explain that the simple action of wearing a mask can help keep a diabetic relative, a pregnant friend, or a neighbor who has been diagnosed with cancer safe.
Even with all these approaches, you may not be able to convince someone to wear a mask or practice physical distancing. If this is the case, it’s okay to move on. Ultimately, they are responsible for their own health and actions. BUT you will need to draw a firm boundary that you will not be seeing them in person for a while. It may mean taking other steps for childcare, etc. However, it is far better to be alive than to roll the dice because your loved one has opted not to follow safe practices. It may even be best for your emotional wellness to break off communication for a little while. When you are ready to resume communication, try suggesting that you stay connected via phone or video chat. Schedule a call where you agree not to discuss COVID-19.
When it’s time to move on, you’ll probably find yourself feeling worried about the future. Learning how to navigate uncertainty can be tough, but you don’t have to do it alone.
Talking with one of eTalkTherapy’s caring and experienced professionals can help you learn how to cope with your fears and anxieties about the future. We offer private and affordable therapy sessions via video or phone in the comfort of your home. Contact us today for details.
In good health,