Holding opposing thoughts at the same time is called cognitive dissonance. As a mental health counselor throughout this pandemic year, I have witnessed my clients, colleagues, friends, and my own family experience a repeated barrage of changes and challenges that have contributed to ongoing experiences of cognitive dissonance.
“I enjoy working from home BUT, I miss my colleagues and the energy of the work environment.”
“I love the extra time I’ve had with my kids BUT, I’m worried about the long-term effects of them not being in school.”
“I’m healthy and not at risk BUT, others just like me have died from this virus.”
This internal conflict takes a toll on our mental health. We’re weary from the ongoing battle of thoughts, and angry that there is still no clear path back to something that might feel normal again.
We find ourselves needing to repeatedly evaluate each set of conflicting thoughts when they arise. We are often unable to align them in any way that brings peace of mind or lessened anxiety, and so the conflict continues. Over time, this thought cycle creates anxiety. As a result, many of us are living in a perpetual state of anticipation and hypervigilance.
There is no easy solution for coping with dissonance of this magnitude. It’s a day-to-day challenge for all of us. Tolerating internal conflict requires mindfulness and consistent self-care. These efforts can help us develop an internal strength that will endure long after the COVID pandemic ends.