Work/life’s pandemic disruption

As Year 2 of COVID-19 closes, people are struggling with ripple effects.
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Jessica Roberts, a counselor with Brave Grand Rapids, has been giving therapy sessions since 2018. That’s put her in a unique position — with about half her professional experience coming before COVID-19’s American outbreak, and about half of it after.

And since the virus arrived, it’s changed everything about the way she and her clients live and work. Roberts has worked with clients who disagree with family on pandemic policy — think masks and vaccines — and with people who feel isolated working from home. She’s also heard, increasingly, about more “existential” issues, like people whose dissatisfaction with their job has been thrown into sharp relief by the stresses of the pandemic.

“I would say 80% of folks that I see or have reached out more recently are starting to deal with the aftereffects (of COVID), those ripple effects of the ways the pandemic has changed their life,” she said.

As of this writing, the virus’ omicron variant is surging, leaving things unlikely to change in the near term. Hospitals, for the foreseeable future, likely will be stressed; workers will be isolated at home offices; family and friends will disagree about how to stay safe. The stress isn’t going anywhere.

But Roberts said there are a few exercises that can help.

One of the most important is letting some things be “good enough,” she said. It’s a way to reframe the pressure to meet high expectations that can be much harder during the pandemic. If the gym is closed, it’s not a crisis; it’s an opportunity to score a smaller but meaningful victory by walking around the block. If you can’t meet up with friends at your favorite restaurant, it’s still good to schedule a phone call and relax with friends long-distance.

“I usually go practice yoga at the studio, but I’ve been doing a lot more practices at home,” she said. “Again, that’s not my favorite. Because I do miss out on the community feel. But I’ve reframed it as, ‘Oh, this gives me an opportunity to try some yoga poses that I’m a little embarrassed to do in a group setting.’”

And as working from home drags on — for many, toward the end of its second full year — it’s helpful to make sure there’s a clear line between work and home. Try a ritual like putting away your laptop to mark a clear distinction between work time and personal time, or making sure that there’s a work space and a personal space within your home.

And, Roberts pointed out, if you’re struggling — or if you think it would be helpful to talk — it’s never a bad idea to try counseling.

“I’m a proponent of counseling, and I encourage anyone to seek that out. I know a lot of people think, ‘Oh, I have to have it really bad before I reach out,’ and that’s absolutely not the case,” she said.

This story can be found in the March/April 2022 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox, subscribe here

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