Guest commentary: One year into pandemic, remember it’s OK to swing from frustrated to hopeful

Jackie Skramstad
Guest commentary

It is hard to believe that it’s been a year since COVID-19 entered our lives here in Colorado. The virus first entered the state March 5, and we truly did not understand the impact it would have on all of us. As our state and the rest of the nation went into lockdown to help stop the spread of the virus, we watched its overwhelming toll on our entire world.

Here we are a year later, and we know a great deal more about the virus. Now, vaccines are being distributed, new cases are decreasing, and there is a sign of hope that we will once again be able to embrace, at least a small bit of, our former sense of normalcy — possibly as early as this summer or fall.

With hope on the horizon and progress being made, why is it that we may not be feeling any different, despite the the challenges of the past year diminishing? The collective exhaustion we feel is often referred to as “COVID fatigue” or the “COVID wall.” It feels as if we are running a long-distance race, and the most challenging part of the race is that we have no idea where the finish line might be.

It’s easy to get stuck in the “all or nothing” thinking, that we are either hopeful or exhausted. I think the trick is to realize that we can be both hopeful and exhausted at the same time.

As we move forward from this one-year mark, it’s important to acknowledge how you are doing at any given moment or time. It is OK to not be OK. It is OK to be hopeful. It is OK to go back and forth between the two.

Honor where you are and when you are not OK, focus on giving yourself grace and permission to be sad, frustrated or angry. When you’re not OK, focus on the basics: eating healthy, getting enough sleep, connecting with others, limiting social media and the news, get outside or engage in the activities you love that help you recharge your batteries.

Looking to the future, we must remember that we will never go back to how life was before the pandemic. For example, telecommuting is likely here to stay and a new way of working will continue to shape how we work after the pandemic. The lessons we have learned in the past year will help shape and form the future, just as the Great Depression, Civil and World wars and the Spanish Flu helped shaped generations before us.

What would you like to keep from this strange year? Perhaps it’s your focus on what is important and a more simplified life. Or the deep caring for others, as we took care of each other in times of need.

Communities stepped up and looked out for one another. We all learned we are stronger and more resilient than we ever thought we could be, and we came through all of this together. And for that, I am grateful.

Jackie Skramstad, LCSW, is the clinical operations manager for Mind Springs Health, overseeing programs throughout a 10-county services region. With more than 30 years of experience in community mental health, she is a longtime resident of the Roaring Fork Valley.