Have you felt like an outsider in recent months? Maybe you assumed that everyone would be following the CDC's guidelines on social distancing. But the scenes playing out on social media and in your neighborhood may be saying something different. It turns out people have lots of different perspectives and interpretations regarding suggestions to "stay at home."
You're not wrong to have some pretty strong feelings welling up if you feel like the odd person out while watching people around you gather with friends or go about business as usual. Let's talk about making sure you're taking care of your mental health when you feel the divide between strict and relaxed COVID-19 behavior.
How the Great Divide in Social Distancing Could Be Impacting Your Mental Health
Unfortunately, people who have decided not to practice social distancing may consider your decision to follow this advice an overreaction. Friends or family members may make you feel as though you're "over the top" in your cautious behavior. As a result, you may be feeling anxious or judged that you're careful. It's only natural for a feeling of defensiveness to kick in.
This isn't the time to compromise your beliefs to "fit in" with the crowd. However, you may be looking for tips for dealing with feelings of anxiety or isolation related to the fact that you're practicing social distancing and related precautions. Take a look at what to do when the COVID-19 divide has you feeling resentful, confused, or angry.
Ditch the Fear of Judgment
Fear of judgment is not a weakness or character flaw. It's built into the fabric of human existence. Everybody likes to be liked. However, that desire to be liked isn't worth risking your health or principles. Here's a rundown of some ways to cope when caught in a second-guessing cycle during COVID-19.
Self-affirmations can be beneficial when that second-guessing voice pops into your head. Research shows that self-affirmations and reminders of self-worth can effectively "flip the script" when you feel defensiveness cropping up—merely reminding yourself that your opinion is valid or that your health matters could help to stop feelings of defensiveness that could impact your mental health.
Realize That You Will Be Judged Either Way
What if you did decide to fling the mask aside and gather with some friends for a drink in a crowded room? Close to 50 percent of the people you know would now be upset with you. You're likely focusing on the 50 percent who are not practicing social distancing right now because that's where you feel the tension. However, the reality is that you will be judged regardless of what you do. Focusing on this can help to bring some perspective into the picture.
Remind Yourself This Won't Last Forever
A day will come when you'll sit down and realize you just enjoyed a busy, whirlwind weekend filled with friends and activities. It is all coming back again! Ask yourself how you'll look back at yourself when all of this is a distant memory. Will you be proud that you played it safe to keep yourself and others safer?
Confront Your Own Judgments
Yes, you may be spilling over with rage as you see other people act casual about going out in public without masks or gathering with friends. However, the reality of the situation is that you cannot control the behaviors of others. It's essential to do your best to let go of the judgment you're placing on others, even if you feel that it is justified. Focus on your self-care until the time comes when you feel comfortable joining people in what looks more like "ordinary life" again.
The Bottom Line
You can't be responsible for the actions of others. Unfortunately, dwelling on what others are doing could harm your mental health. Focus instead on speaking positive words to yourself and looking toward the brighter days that are certainly coming!