By Nancy L. Johnston, MS, LPC, LSATP, author of Disentangle

I am not writing about preventing the loss of your life in this pandemic. That loss would be tragic and is exactly what we are all working together to prevent.

I am writing about not losing a healthy connection with yourself that keeps you balanced in the four areas of self—thinking, feeling, body, and spirit—as you live through this crisis.

How would you know if you have lost yourself in this pandemic? Here are some questions to ask yourself. As you do so, think of your responses on a continuum, and using a scale from 1 to 10, indicate the extent to which the question is true for you:

  1. Do I watch/listen to the news most of the time?
  2. Do I think about the pandemic most of the time?
  3. Is my tolerance for information about the pandemic increasing such that I am often seeking new sources of information at all hours of the day?
  4. Am I constantly preparing for what may be coming my way?
  5. Is it hard to talk or think about anything other than the pandemic?
  6. Do I have catastrophic thoughts about the pandemic that are adding to any anxiety and/or depression I may already be dealing with?
  7. Am I upsetting my self so much that my sobriety is being challenged?
  8. Are my family and friends tired of hearing me talk about it?
    • Do they leave the room when I come in?
    • Have they asked me to tone it down?
    • Am I less available to them because of my preoccupation with the pandemic?
  9. Have I asked my self to spend less time and thought on the pandemic and been unable to stop my self?
  10. Is this list disturbing you?

Having a healthy self involves maintaining an active, kind, observing, and responsive connection with your thoughts, feelings, body, and spirit. It is easy to be drawn away from these connections that provide a base for self-care and improved relationships. We can lose ourselves in our relationships as well as in work, technology, shopping, and eating—to name a few of many examples. As we become preoccupied with a particular activity of life, our connection with self declines.

One reason we are drawn away from self-connection is our tendency to be more external than internal in our focus. We notice what is going on outside of our self. We notice what others do and say; we gauge ourselves by others; we are reactive rather than responsive. Increasing our internal focus is essential to good mental health.

The current COVID-19 pandemic totally invites our external focus. We are under attack and must defend ourselves as best we can. This is primal and imperative, no doubt. But we don’t want to lose our self as we defend our self.

As you read the questions above, I suggested you rate your responses on a 1 to 10 scale rather than give a yes-or-no answer. The use of a numbered scale is because the behaviors in question are not necessarily problematic; they can become problems if we carry them too far. It is important to have information about the virus and how to take care of ourselves. It is important to prepare so we have the food, shelter, and supplies we need for our health. It is important to stay connected with others.

And it is important we stay connected with our self so we don’t drive ourselves and the people around us crazy.

If your self-rating numbers are higher than you wish or if you don’t want your preoccupations and anxieties to increase, in my next essay I offer ideas for keeping a healthy connection with yourself as you live with your concerns about COVID-19.

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