Accepting a new reality

Drew Butler

People across the country are feeling the stress from dealing with both the direct and indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of fears of the virus, they may be worried about their financial security. This stress can then be easily intensified by the social distancing measures requiring people to stay at their homes.

Counselor Kristi Crutchfield-Cox, MED, MS, LPC said one of the most important things families can do to help deal with the stress is to keep the lines of communication between household members open.

“Families need to keep open fluid communication amongst themselves and all household members so that everyone can feel they have a voice in discussing their feelings in the home,” Crutchfield-Cox said. “We also have to accept that the timeline of when we get to go out and see other people or go have a meal at our favorite restaurant may not happen within the next few months — and we’re going to be okay.”

She said one of the other major problems people are facing is the lack of clear information about the situation combined with social media rumors and the over consumption of media.

“I’ve been hearing that people are confused by the information they’ve been given, and they don’t completely understand how to apply the guidelines,” Crutchfield-Cox said. “They are talking to their friends from out of town who have to have a permit when they leave the house or about a whole neighborhood that has been struck by the virus, and then they try to apply it to our reality here in Ardmore or Wilson.”

She said as people try to research more information about the reality of the situation and try to look into when this all might be over, this can lead to even more stress and worry.

“Understanding that we may not have clear cut answers on the timeline is one of the biggest challenges we face on top of keeping ourselves safe and worrying about family and friends who we may not be with,” Crutchfield-Cox said. “When we’re in that place of a lack of control and also a lack of clear information we can start to seek out all kinds of information which can cause more confusion and more stress. One of the first things we can can do is turn off the news or set yourself a limit at 10 minutes and then turn it off. Don’t follow every story down the rabbit hole.”

She said it’s okay to be confused at the moment and pointed out we can only personally control what is immediately in front of us. Even things in our immediate control can also be challenging during times of stress.

“Be aware that during this time you may not have clear thoughts, and you may forget a few things,” Crutchfield-Cox said. “If you’re studying, it might be harder to remember all the material or things that were easy at work a month ago, now you might have to look at it two or three times.”

In addition to interpersonal relationships within the home, people may also be experiencing strained relationships with friends or extended family members. This could be coming from unique challenges the pandemic is creating for every individual.

“Even though we’re all going through this together, we need to remember that the situation for every family is totally unique,” Crutchfield-Cox said. “If someone suddenly snaps at you, it might have nothing to do with you and everything to do with their worries at home. They might have several immune-compromised people living at home, and maybe they were just laid off. Maybe they have to go to work in an essential job and they’re scared they might come home and get their family sick.”

Crutchfield-Cox also pointed out that all the crisis hotlines for domestic violence are still taking calls and shelters for those dealing with the issue are still open.

“At this time families may be experiencing a higher level of stress due to economic insecurities, fear of illness, or fear from the lack of control. This could increase issues of domestic violence between family members,” Crutchfield-Cox said. “If domestic violence is a problem in the home, those family members need to seek help immediately. Those services are still out there, and they are still available.”

The number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline is (800) 799-7233. Locally, the Family Shelter of Southern Oklahoma is a certified domestic violence and sexual assault program offering services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. Their 24 Hour Crisis Line is (580) 226-6424.