The Anniversary Effect — One Year of Covid

Feeling unsettled lately? Perhaps a little more anxious? Trouble sleeping? Or perhaps you feel like you are in a funk. Like you are walking around in a fog.

You might have seen the posts popping up on social media: Hang in there everyone. You are doing what you can. Is anyone else having a really strange week?

We are coming up on what’s known as a trauma anniversary. For most of us, it was one year ago when we last went out to dinner with friends, or traveled, or went to a concert. It was one year ago that we watched the news from Italy, from China, and then, from America. Whether the pandemic has affected you in big ways or small ways (or both), we have experienced a collective trauma, which often happens to people in communities after a disaster or a traumatic event.

We have grieved as a country for the lives that were lost, for the businesses that have closed down, for the people who have been laid off of work. We have grieved for the long-haulers, for the nurses and doctors who have helped patients say goodbye. We have grieved for our children, who have lost a year of sports and graduations and summer camps; conversely, we have also grieved for their increased hours of screen time- more hours than any of us care to admit.

We have grieved for our country, as the pandemic, coupled with a contentious election, nearly tore us apart. (Thank goodness for Bernie Sanders and his mittens which was a healing moment we didn’t ask for, but all needed).

There are no more firsts. March 2020 was all about flattening the curve and looking for toilet paper. April brought cheers for our healthcare workers and sourdough starters. As the months wore on, we told ourselves that we could survive this “one” time. One 4th of July without a parade and a BBQ. One Thanksgiving without a table full of loved ones. One school year…one Christmas…one New Year’s Eve…one …one…one…

But now we are coming up on TWO. Where are my March babies at? My son spent his 13th birthday without friends, and it’s looking like his 14th will be spent that way too, or at least a much smaller gathering than the kid would like.

Personally, I am experiencing more pandemic fatigue now than ever before and I’ve been feeling a little “flat.” This is getting old, right?

Here are some ways to make it through.

Reflect and share. One of the best ways to deal with a trauma anniversary is to reflect on the past year and then talk about it with others. What were some of the accidental positives? What were the negatives? What did you gain and what did you lose? By acknowledging this crazy year and sharing stories, we can collectively heal.

Be kind to ourselves. Try to lessen stress or take a moment to yourself. Self-care looks different for everyone. For some, it’s exercise; for others, it’s watching a Netflix series or baking. Finding activities that help you feel grounded and increase your quality of life will bring you some joy in a time of stress.

Focus on your resilience. It helps to think about all the ways you showed strength and grit in the past year. Whether you were on the front lines or working from home or furloughed, you have adapted and survived. Remember the time you successfully led a Zoom meeting, while overseeing your son’s remote learning session and still managed to do laundry? (Okay, that’s stretching it, but someone out there must have done it.) We can do hard things, and we have done hard things. Resilience means the ability to withstand difficult conditions. I’m fairly certain this year counts as difficult.

The proverbial light is at the end of the tunnel. People are getting vaccinated. Cases are falling. But make sure to give yourself a break; you’re doing better than you think.

Amy was a teacher for 22 years and now spends her time teaching fitness classes, training for marathons and triathlons, and trying to raise two teenagers.

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