This year two overlapping events created monumental stress and anxiety throughout the country and across the nation. At the beginning of the year we learned of the coronavirus (COVID-19), which at that time we had no idea how severe its impact would be. By mid-March, we were sheltering in place and only going out for essential needs. By late May some states were relaxing the quarantines and allowing businesses to reopen and people to reassemble as long as they adhered to physical distancing guidelines and wearing facial masks. Some felt the danger was over, while others felt we were trying to return to normal too soon.

As the country sorted out its feelings about the status quo of COVID-19, another event occurred also having national and international reach. George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis was killed by a white police officer while being arrested for allegedly using a fake twenty-dollar bill in a store. Floyd’s death detonated a series of protests as people of all ages and races reacted in anger to another police killing of a black person. The protests, which started in Minneapolis, quickly spread to Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta and Washington D.C., and internationally to various European and Middle Eastern countries.

It became almost impossible to ignore the barrage of media coverage of the constant coronavirus updates and protests eruptions. The only way to escape was to turn off all access to the news!

Shutting out the images of volatile behavior and constant reporting of illness and death is not a bad idea! We can choose to find a place to regroup and create some happiness. Choose not to be an auxiliary piece of the horror surrounding us…in other words, don’t fuel the fire! Work to extinguish it!

The “fire” we are speaking of has external and internal components.  The external, is the volatile events themselves while the internal is the angry response it stirs within us. Dowse both fires by taking control! Limit the amount of news you watch or listen to and create ways to be happy.

There are many ways to generate happiness. Though physical distancing remains a safety concern, you can find ways to be around others. Talk to your neighbors from a safe distance and wear masks. Drive by your friends’ houses and wave or blow kisses to them…signaling that you miss them.

Businesses are getting in the groove of lighting these dark times.  A Walgreens store in Georgia gave a free greeting card to all its customers. As other businesses reopen, they are doing so cautiously. Some hair salons did away with waiting areas. Instead clients wait in their cars until their appointment time. Only one customer at a time is serviced and all supplies and equipment are sanitized before the next person enters. The same practice is being used in some doctors’ offices. This requires patience on everyone’s part, but it allows in-person interaction.

As for the civil unrest, one protester in Atlanta likened the rallies to that of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. She paraphrased Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., by stating that lightness drives out darkness. It may feel like we are living in dark times, but there is always light. Choose to keep your morale uplifted by watching movies, learning a new craft or enjoying nature to name a few. Do whatever you need to find or create your happy place! That’s the place where you find the light you need to shine on these dreary days. Remember, this will pass. Or as the character Annie sings, “The sun will come out tomorrow!

Frances Goddard, LCSW, BCD
Diane Harvey, LCSW