Adjusting and Readjusting to COVID-19

As many communities have been directed to revert to schools closing, quarantine, lockdown and a step back to the conditions which we thought were safely behind us, distress is bound to mount. Your internal or subjective distress is very connected to the external stress in your immediate environment: the more objective pressures are out there, the more a person will experience fear, worry, and sadness. Right now, in our community, we are confronting more illness r”l, more restrictions, and vivid shades of the challenges which surrounded us for the last half-year. That is the outside reality. Inside, people are experiencing their personal reality of dread, apprehension, panic, and even feelings of despair.

In our thinking, too, when trying to concentrate and focus, a chorus of intense thoughts arise – “How can I deal with this again? I cannot handle this! Why is this happening again? I have absorbed more than I can manage!”

Deeper within, when we try and struggle to envision this as a nisayon – another test so soon after Yamei HaDin, many are left with questions. Sadly, because there is so much going on and so many plans each person needs to be making, it is difficult to step back and formulate a hashkafic perspective. We know full well that this is not just about doctors, medicine, or politicians; we recognize that this is HaShem in charge, and He alone knows best. We accept that this is His plan. But the mind and heart still struggle with “why… and why again?” People wrestle with how to cope and are anxious about surviving this. We are desperate for guidelines, for ourselves and for our children.

At some point soon, Project Chai, Chai Lifeline’s crisis intervention department, will provide a fuller model for self-awareness, self-care, and perspective building. Those are all important tools for coping with crisis. This more concise information sheet is for now. Please consider the following tools to aid in your initial adjustment. This is for you, and to support your being there for your family during this phase of readjusting and adapting to current stresses.

ADJUST: SIX TOOLS FOR COPING AND FOR RESILIENCE

A – Attitude formation. Your outlook shapes your experience. An attitude of hopelessness breeds the experience of despair. Remind yourself that you are a resourceful person and that hopefulness is a catalyst for positive perception. You will access your resourceful coping skills with an attitude of hope, optimism, and faith. You can form the attitude which will generate hope to cope.

D – Delegate tasks and Designate roles. Coping with change and pressure requires taking charge of our home and family environment. Determine the individual needs and devise as close to a steady routine as is feasible. When needs are identified, when tasks are delegated and shared, and when each person’s role is normalized with a schedule and a structure, there is less chaos. Life is more manageable when a mother can be a mother, when a father can be a father, and when the family feels secure about this.

J – Just let it be. We have our roles and our tasks and we cover as much as we can. The current situation and its demands mean that there are some factors that we cannot fully control. Know your limits, as well as your strengths. Approximate normality, but it will take time before you recover your momentum. So, meanwhile, there are things which you will accept and just let them be.

U – Understand. Amidst the commotion and the chaos, you and your spouse and your children are going to have a range of very normal emotional reactions. Talk them through. Listen to them. Validate that this is a rough time. Avoid reacting critically. Hear them out and show them understanding.

S – Social connection. We learned from the first pandemic phase that isolation is not good. We also know that regular interaction is now restricted. Balance the two extremes by making time to connect with those whom you care about. A phone call, checking in, sharing and confiding, giving chizuk, and encouragement to those who turn to you are essential parts of mental hygiene. Honor those connections for your sake and for theirs.

T- Trust. When all is said and done, turn to your faith. Despite the demands on our time and energy, our connection with HaShem is vital. It can be hard during eis tzara yet it is during these times that HaShem kavayachol pledges to us that “Immo Anochi.” Make time, take time, create time to invest your trust in Him through your bakashos and tefilos. Model this for your children as well.

When the going gets tough, it is normal to seek guidance. Please contact Chai Lifeline’s Project Chai crisis line at 855-3-CRISIS or email crisis@chailifeline.org with any questions or concerns.

We will get through this b’ezras HaShem. We will ADJUST.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Dovid Fox is the Director of Interventions & Community Education at Project Chai, the crisis intervention, trauma and bereavement department of Chai Lifeline.
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