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Psychotherapist: Right Now, It's OK To Not Be OK

Courtesy OSF HealthCare

More people are dealing with negative emotions during the COVID-19 pandemic, but OSF psychotherapist Bernice Gordon-Young says it's not only OK to feel that way, but you should give yourself permission to do so.

"It's OK if you feel sad, or if you feel angry, or irritable," said Gordon-Young. "It's OK. But to move through that, we can't fix what we won't acknowledge. So acknowledging it, sit with it. And then, try not to avoid the discomfort."

She said COVID-19 is adding new stressors to many peoples' lives, whether it's a job loss, college students unable to return to campus, or parents homeschooling their children.

Gordon-Young said it can help to write about your own emotional state, or to backtrack and figure out where a good day went wrong to use coping skills to manage those negative emotions.

She said many people may try to help others cope by using "toxically positive" messages like "it could be worse," "positive vibes only," or "pull yourself up by the bootstraps."

"When we make reductive statements, we basically invalidate the way a person feels, and dismisses them, and often, [it] makes things worse," said Gordon-Young.

Instead, she encourages people to allow others to freely express what they're feeling--and listen to them.

"We can ask, 'Do you just need me to listen? Is there anything that I can do?' But most importantly, to validate the person's feelings, versus saying things like, 'You shouldn't cry', or 'It'll be OK,'" she said.

Gordon-Young said it's also important not to offer unsolicited advice.

"Often, we want to fix it for people. And it's just not that simple. That person has to acknowledge where they're at, and then go through that process themselves," she said. "But also, encourage support."

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Tim Shelley is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.