When will life return to normal?
Right now there is no clear answer to that question. The uncertainty creates feelings of dread, anxiety, and grief among all of us.
It’s getting old.
While some of us have lost family members and friends, we have all lost a feeling of safety.
And at the same time, for some, there have been a few positive aspects in the midst of the crisis.
Some clients report that they have let go of FOMO (the Fear Of Missing Out).
Others are discovering the pleasures of walks.
Many people are reawakening to what is really important in their lives.
Below are a few tips to help you manage the struggle and stress. And I will suggest how you might allow yourself more room for more pleasure, joy, and yes, even sex during Covid.
Some Tips for Getting Through the Stress of Covid
Many LGBTQ people have learned to be self-reliant. You learn that fast when you are different from all of your classmates. We often deal with challenge by getting prepared and getting active. That can be great for solving problems but it doesn’t always help us manage our underlying feelings.
The people who tend to do better emotionally during a crisis approach it with what Victor Frankel ,a psychologist who survived the Holocaust, calls “tragic optimism.”
These are people who accept that bad things happen. They are realists who understand that they can’t control all the bad things. They take difficult situations and ask questions like “What is the lesson here?” , “How will this change me?” , and “Where is the benefit in all this?”
Could this crisis be an opportunity to slow down a bit and allow more acceptance of the difficult truth that life is hard but also has meaning?
At the same time, I want to caution you about doing too much work, including personal growth work, during this crisis.
This blog post has suggestions about growth. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that now is the time for you to focus on that. Just getting through the day while you are unconsciously spending a lot of energy managing the uncertainty is a big achievement in itself.
Psychotherapists know that if you name a feeling you can better manage a feeling. Just saying “I’m stressed” isn’t enough. It’s good to know what specific emotion or thought is causing the experience of stress. Is it fear, sadness, loneliness, anger, or grief? Putting words to your feelings is the first step in moving through a feeling.
Once you identify the feeling, you can adjust your thinking and respond with a true statement that is more helpful, comforting, and self-supportive. For example, once you realize you have been feeling grief, you can remember that you have had past experience with grief, and that it eventually lifted. You didn’t get stuck in it.
You may need to stay at home but you also need people. Self-care is great, but we find meaning when we interact with others.
The good news is that there are a ton of opportunities now to interact with others and it is all free. It has just moved online. There are online AA groups, film clubs, dance parties, gay yoga, concerts, exercise classes, men’s groups, women’s groups, spiritual groups, online therapy, etc.
Look through your list of contacts. Who can you reach out to? Can you email a friend and invite them to an online exercise class so that you’ll both have some accountability and show up for it?
And by the way, moving your body and sweating is the number one best way to reduce anxiety.
Does your family have any stories of adversity, perhaps going back a few generations? Stories can be a source of strength and resiliency. Is there a family member who can share these stories with you right now?
Some Tips for Having Pleasure During Covid
Yes, you are allowed to feel joy during the crisis even as others may be suffering. That’s one of the rights that come with being alive.
Right now you can’t have an adventure on the outside but can you have one on the inside?
For many people pleasure means connecting to eroticism and the body.
You might be separated from a sexual partner but that doesn’t mean you need to give up sex.
Imagination is the freedom from confinement. The mind is infinite. Have you ever experimented with phone sex?
You might not be able to enter your partner’s body at the moment, but you can enter their erotic mind.
Sometimes in-person sex can become tarnished by models of efficiency, performance and accomplishment. Phone sex may help you move beyond that.
In fact, there are elements of the confinement that can add to eroticism. The famous sex researcher Jack Morin found that the following equation is a universal equation for sexiness:
Attraction + Obstacles = Excitement
And there sure are a lot of obstacles right now.
I’ll never forget the scene from the play Bent, which was about gay men in the concentration camps of the Holocaust. As they are standing at attention, 6 feet apart, hands at their sides, they are having orgasmic sex together just with their words. There’s a funny moment when one of them scolds, “Ouch, you always are so rough!”
Phone sex is intimate and revealing, perhaps even more so than in-person sex.
To do it you might need to soften your inner critic. Reducing your inner critic is a form of erotic self care.
Yes, LGBTQ people are dating during Covid. And there are some new opportunities to meet people.
You now have permission to talk to strangers again. Previously that was lost to the smart phones and dating apps. Standing in a line to enter a grocery store is now an opportunity to try some Covid-related small talk with that cute person six feet in front of you. The shared experience of Covid makes the scary step of talking to attractive people much easier.
You can go on an online video date. There are even new opportunities to flirt through technology. When your date leaves the screen to get something from the kitchen or go to the bathroom you can ask their Alexa to play them a flirty song. This actually happened.
And 6-foot-separated walks and bike rides are totally okay. Remember, obstacles and longing is super hot.
Are you feeling guilty about being okay during the crisis? That guilt may guide you to support someone who is more shaky. Are you feeling quite shaky during this disaster? That shakiness is telling you that it is time to ask for that support.
Take good care, everybody.