“Have a good and sweet year.”
Many of us can recall saying this to our friends and loved ones each year with smiles on our faces and warm feelings in our hearts. Last year, we said this same phrase with hope — and some gnawing uncertainty — that the devastating pandemic would end in the new year.
What about this year?
None of us can deny the impact that 18 months of virus disruption has had on our emotional well-being. Rates of depression, anxiety, violence, substance abuse and suicide have all increased during this pandemic.
And although teletherapy has made it much easier in a socially distanced world to access help when it is needed, a computer screen cannot completely substitute for a physical shoulder to cry on, a warm embrace or a heart-to-heart chat while shooting hoops with a friend.
During the first year of the pandemic, my goal was to “get through it,” believing that the coronavirus was a temporary situation that would soon pass. But I needed to pay more attention to my own emotional thermometer, recognize when my stress or mood was off and then do things to help myself feel better.
This year, on the other hand, I’ve been trying to figure out how to adapt more fully to this new environment, realizing that I can’t just put my life on hold indefinitely. I had to push my reluctance to embrace virtual get togethers whenever in-person gatherings aren’t safe. I needed to truly disconnect from work on a regular basis and do fun things with my friends and family — even if they are not the same things that I would have done pre-pandemic.
I am the first to raise my hand and say, “This year has been emotionally exhausting.”
The first, but not the last.
In fact, our team at JFCS literally spends every day figuring out how to best help members of our community who are struggling with life challenges, many of which are related to or exacerbated by the pandemic.
The feelings and experiences of the past year have been a tug of war. I saw staff heroically connecting people with food and rent payments, psychological counseling, safe housing and jobs. And I know that every time the staff are successful with their clients, they are also fighting back against the heavy sense of frustration and helplessness this virus keeps spreading across our planet.
We all need next year to be a “good and sweet year.”
But what can we do to guarantee a successful and sweet year ahead?
I think we all need to make a resolution to help each other. To take that extra step and give each other a hand.
It is okay to admit that we all need help.
Our parents need help.
Our grandparents need help.
Our kids need help.
Our grocery employees, nurses and all of the other essential workers need help.
I need help.
You need help.
You can give help by volunteering with organizations, advocating for causes you care about, checking in on longtime neighbors and welcoming new neighbors.
You can get help by reaching out to me at email@example.com.
There has never been a time when the need for connection and support has been greater, despite the many, very real barriers that exist today. Part of successful pandemic coping is the knowledge that we each have the ability to help others get through this coming year with dignity and with sweetness.
Have a good and sweet year. PJC
Jordan Golin is president and CEO of JFCS Pittsburgh.