If What You’re Feeling is Malaise, How Do You Overcome it ?

Our new normal includes malaise:

That unpleasant sensation, rumbling around in our psyche, that so many of us are feeling these days? It’s called malaise. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “malaise” as “a general feeling of discomfort, illness, or unease whose exact cause is difficult to identify.”

These days, many of us are walking around with a feeling of malaise without realizing it, but it’s evident in our poor sleep; in our tendencies to over-indulge in comfort food and alcohol; in how cranky and short-tempered we’ve been.

It’s safe to say that many of us have been feeling this vague sense of discomfort or unease for several months, without knowing what it is. It makes sense, though, because we’ve all been experiencing a lot of loss: loss of income, loss of security, loss of social connections, loss of loved ones, and loss of any sense of certainty about the future.

We feel overwhelmed and out of control:

And significantly, we’ve lost any sense of agency over our lives. Our usual feeling of having things under control has been replaced by a growing sense of uncertainty. Many of us have gone from feeling generally stable and confident to feeling mostly lost and insecure.

The social restrictions are getting to us; the financial strain is a huge burden; the uncertainty about our future is a heavy stone hanging from our neck.

The fact is that Covod-19 isn’t going away any time soon. The second wave is here and the only question is how bad it will be. We’ve only just begun to recover — emotionally, physically and financially — from the first wave and now we’re all bracing for more bad news.

Not surprisingly, our rates of stress, depression and anxiety are at an all-time high, but even for those of us who aren’t experiencing actual mental health problems, there’s still that nagging sense of malaise.

Parents are worrying about the fate of their children; workers are concerned about how safe they are at their jobs; singles are coping with profound feelings of isolation while at the same time trying to navigate dating during a pandemic and divorce rates are going through the roof as long-term couples are breaking apart after months of too much togetherness.

The new normal isn’t easy:

The new normal is not easy to get used to. Many have lost loved ones to Covid and are still grieving. Many have fallen ill and a number of these are still reeling, with lingering symptoms months after supposedly recovering. Many are terrified of getting sick or of a loved one succumbing to the disease.

Entrepreneurs are losing businesses they’ve spent years building up; people are losing their jobs, their medical insurance, their savings and their homes. For millions, it’s an ongoing financial catastrophe.

And what’s more distressing is that we don’t know how long the pandemic will last or how things will unfold. We don’t know when life will go back to normal, or if it ever really will. Will a vaccine be available any time soon? Will it be safe, effective? Will it really prevent us from catching Covid? Will the people in our community be willing to take it? All these questions add to our unease.

We can’t come together to comfort one-another:

In the past, when faced with major crises, people would band together to support one-another. We’d offer each-other comfort in the form of shared meals, town hall meetings and warm hugs. These things are discouraged nowadays. Many people are without much comfort.

So what can we do when malaise is the prevalent emotion and uncertainty is our current state of mind? We have to first of all, recognize what we’re feeling. We have to tune in to our emotions and ask ourselves how we’re doing.

I call it, “taking your emotional temperature,” and if you find that you’re running a fever, you need to stop and attend to your emotional needs.

Malaise on its own can lead us to make bad choices. We become more careless, irritable, impulsive or apathetic, and these attitudes carry over into our self-care at a time when good self-care is more important than ever. Dealing with our malaise, then, is not only important for our emotional well-being but for our physical health and safety.

People with malaise can become so despondent and irritable that they begin to ignore the realities of the pandemic and carry on as though everything were back to normal. Of course, this puts them and all the people in their lives at jeopardy. It’s a dangerous effect of living with malaise.

How to overcome your malaise:

Once you’ve acknowledged your own malaise, it’s a good idea to look at what specifically is bothering you. Is there grief that you still need to process? Is the constant uncertainty getting to you? Is your sense of isolation becoming more than you can bear? Whatever is bothering you, you need to deal with it if you want to feel better.

And if you find it difficult to do it on your own, you can talk to someone. Sometimes, even minor mental health issues can benefit from being looked at with the help of a skilled, compassionate professional. It’s likely that a short course of counseling will bring a lot of relief.

No-one is saying that we should all be walking around feeling cheerful these days. These aren’t cheerful times. But, if we put our attention onto our emotional well-being, we can let go of a lot of the malaise we’re feeling and have a better chance of handling this crisis in the best possible manner.

Sign up here for my free monthly wellness newsletter. I’m doing a special every-two-week series on Moving into Autumn with Good Self-Care, where you’ll learn simple tips for taking the best care of yourself and your loved ones this fall season.

And tune in to my ongoing YouTube video series on Coping With Covid.

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