I thought 2020 was tough, but the first week of 2021 knocked the wind out of a lot of Americans.

No wonder people feel stressed, anxious or depressed.

Many were hopeful about 2021. A COVID-19 vaccine brought with it anticipation that life would begin to feel normal again.

Then came the events of Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol.

I imagine most readers were heavily impacted by what they saw as rioters invaded the hallowed building where Congress was fulfilling its constitutional duty to certify the vote of the Electoral College on one of America's darkest days.

Five people are dead, including a U.S. Capitol police officer who died in the line of duty. More than a dozen Capitol police officers were hospitalized. I wince every time I see video of a Capitol police officer crying for help as he was being crushed when the building was swarmed.

At a time when so many are feeling down – or worse – we did not need a violent trauma to deal with.

What now?

Mental health professionals urge us to talk about it. Hotlines are available 24/7. So are warmlines, where those who are struggling can speak with someone who has lived the same struggle – a sort of “been there, done that” approach that has great appeal for many. Perhaps the most effective call of all is to your own trusted “someone.”

Some may need to act rather than talk. This is where I tend to land, partly because it is a habit I developed decades ago. When I feel my thoughts going in a negative direction – whether driven by fear, anger, frustration – I get up and do something. When a walk with the dog taking in the magnificence of nature doesn't get it – and there were/are times it doesn't – I get into a project. There is something in forcing my mind to organize and work on a project that helps me shift mental gears. The added benefit is I feel good about being able to check it off my “to do'' list.

This fall, at the request of my brother whose son and wife are expecting their first child this month, I organized a family photo album. There were times I went a little crazy as I looked at photos spread all over the dining and family rooms. The end product is stunningly beautiful and traces back to family born in the mid 1800s. I also did smaller projects like cleaning out the garage cabinets. Granted, there are still a few old paint cans in need of more kitty litter before I can toss them into the garbage, but I still feel accomplished for having tackled a job with 15 years’ accumulation of stuff.

We probably have some more rocky times ahead. However, I believe sometime this year we will be able to have picnics, parades, festivals and holidays together. We'll hang out at restaurants, slowly browse our way through stores, go to movies and travel. All of this will get Americans back to work. Till then, please take care of yourselves physically and emotionally. Actively seek out the ways that keep you healthy. Look for the glimmer of hope because it is there and you are so worth it.

Michele Murphy is a regular West Life columnist. Contact her at avonlakemurphy@gmail.com.

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