Stress

Turning Pain Into Purpose During COVID-19: How To Take Control of Your Mental Health

October 2, 2020

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It is one thing to have experienced loss of a job during this pandemic and the consequent financial strain that it puts on individuals and their families. It is another thing to undergo a loss of self-worth as a result of living in a culture that places great value on career and equates it to an individual’s identity and meaning. 

Many people are dealing with traumatic events and experiences right now, whether they have been directly or indirectly affected by the virus, or are struggling with their mental health more than ever. It is safe to say that everyone is struggling in their own way or experiencing pain to some degree during such trying times. 

It is important to remember, however, that pain can actually bring about purpose. Steps have to be taken and attitudes may need to be adjusted greatly in order to truly experience this, but at the end of the day, there are great benefits to an individual’s mental health that will be crucial for moving forward and bouncing back. 

What Does It Mean To Be Emotionally Avoidant and How Does That Apply To the COVID-19 Pandemic? 

It is our natural instinct to avoid discomfort as much as possible, so it is not unreasonable to do everything in your power to avoid emotional breakdown during a time like this. 

In response to any sort of trauma, emotional avoidance is actually quite a common reaction. Interestingly enough, it is actually part of one of the symptom clusters for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In this way, people will utilize emotional avoidance as a method to escape difficult or painful emotions

Thus, if you’ve experienced any pain or trauma during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has maybe been a natural reaction for you to use various methods to avoid any difficult emotions. Often, people will dissociate or even turn to substances like drugs or alcohol in order to do so, which is obviously not ideal for mental or physical health. 

As a short-term solution, emotional avoidance usually is capable of providing some temporary relief. However, avoidance behaviors are not beneficial in the long run, as they can cause much more harm than good. This type of coping mechanism can actually end up increasing the severity of a person’s symptoms over time, as the painful and difficult emotions are continuously avoided and never really directly addressed. 

But addressing emotions can be really hard, and a person can obviously feel really reluctant about doing so. Our emotions provide us with a lot of important information and insight about ourselves as people, as well as the events going on around us. As we mentioned, avoiding emotions that we find inherently difficult to experience will only result in them growing stronger over time. In a way, the avoidance kind of “backfires” and we have a progressively harder time ignoring our feelings as time goes on. This, in turn, causes some people to turn to more drastic ways of avoiding these emotions such as substance abuse. 

The good news is, there are healthier ways to cope. We’ll go over some ways you can turn your pain into purpose (no matter what type of emotional pain you are experiencing) as well as take more control over your mental health.  

A woman sits with her laptop looking extremely upset and stressed, possibly from an event such as job loss.
With painful events such as job loss or illness, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of people financial and mental burden. Emotional avoidance is one strategy that is natural to turn to, which only results in temporary relief. In the long run, our emotions will only grow stronger if we continue to avoid feeling them. 

How Can I Turn My Painful Experiences Into Purpose? 

There are ways you can emerge from your hardships with a better sense of identity and more control over your mental health. 

As we have mentioned previously, a lot of us have grown up in a culture that equates self-worth to career and productivity. If, for example, you have experienced job loss during the COVID-19 pandemic, you are likely feeling a whirlwind of emotions. Not only does job loss mean major financial burden, but the effects it has on you mentally can be so widespread. 

Even if you haven’t lost your job, there are likely other situations that have taken a toll on your mental health and have caused you to experience difficult or painful emotions. Either way, this might just be the time for you to take a step back, breathe, and rediscover who you are and what your real purpose is. It may seem difficult and you may be unsure how to go about this. However, there are actually a lot of simple attitude adjustments and coping mechanisms to allow you to do this, as well as have a better hand on your mental health: 

  • Accept the things you cannot change. A lot of what has occurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic is out of our control. No matter how painful it may be, accepting your reality in the present moment is the first step to gaining personal freedom and moving forward in a more positive direction. Though it may seem grim now, there are new discoveries you can make about yourself or new opportunities ahead if you can learn to accept what you are unable to control. 
  • Embrace your curiosity. Now is the time to learn more about yourself, and to be grateful for the opportunity to come out stronger from adversity. Explore other passions or paths, and be curious about where your life could potentially go next. 
  • Self-reflect and grow as much as you can. Do some exercises where you set a timer, close your eyes, and simply allow yourself to think. Let whatever thoughts pass through your mind, then consider writing them down and reflecting upon them. You can also try some other mindfulness exercises that will allow you to ground yourself. 
  • Identify your values. Write down all of the things you value. Not only will this help you learn more about yourself, but it can also help you decide where to go next. A next step that aligns with your core values, whether it be finding a new career or doing something to take care of yourself, will benefit your mental health greatly as well as your overall outlook on your future. 
Finding ways to turn your pain into purpose can have great benefits for your mental health. Though it may be difficult to experience these difficult and painful emotions, addressing them through self reflection and finding ways you can somehow grow from the situation will give you a better attitude toward your future. 

How Can I Further Address My Mental Health In Times of Pain and Adversity?

Strategies like self-reflection and mindfulness can be extremely helpful solutions, but you shouldn’t be afraid to seek medical treatment if you are still struggling mentally.  

Adapting your mindset and working to find new opportunities for self-growth can benefit your mental health greatly. However, it is possible that you are still struggling greatly with conditions like anxiety or depression.  

One option for dealing with your mental health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic is to further build your support network. This may mean simply talking with friends or family who can support you and listen to your concerns, or potentially seeking a therapist or counselor who can provide talk therapy for you. This is still possible now, as a lot of mental health services are embracing telehealth and offering virtual appointments. 

Medications such as antidepressants or anxiolytics are also options, which you can ask your doctor about. These options are something that you may have previously tried or are currently using, but your symptoms may no longer respond as well. 

TMS therapy is another option, often used for those with conditions such as treatment-resistant depression. It is a non-invasive, FDA-approved treatment that utilizes stimulation of certain areas of the brain involved in mood and emotional regulation. This therapy has allowed many patients to take back their freedom and feel like themselves again, which could be highly beneficial for some people during such a troubling time. 

When you are unable to combat your depression or anxiety symptoms on your own, there are still many treatment options and ways you can take control over your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Talk therapy and medications are some common options, and some patients benefit more from treatments such as TMS therapy to start to feel like themselves again.  

All in all, there are plenty of ways that you can take your painful experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic and give them purpose. Finding ways you can turn your hardships into self-growth will allow you to have a better outlook on your future, as well as take more control over how you feel mentally. Whether you find the most benefit through personal exercises or professional treatment, there are ways you can overcome the adversity you are facing.

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