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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Perry

The Anniversary Effect

As we round the anniversary of the upending of our lives by the Covid19 pandemic, many of us are feeling its toll, subconsciously or consciously. CEO and executive vice president of American Psychological Association states, “We’ve gone through a collective trauma.” So if you are having a hard time sleeping, concentrating, noticing increased distress in your family, etc., it may be what psychologists call The Anniversary Effect, The Anniversary Reaction, or Grief Anniversary. Our bodies and brains store painful memories which can trigger distressing feelings on anniversaries of traumatic stressors.

While we share a collective experience of the pandemic, we also have our own personal, unique experiences that we hold. I’ll be honest, I cried when we moved to tele-therapy. I wanted to support clients in a way that I thought could only happen in person. I missed my clients; I felt concerned about them. I still remember seeing my first client who showed up on my screen and how exciting it was to reconnect. Eventually, I wiped my tears and realized through research studies and by felt experience that for many people online therapy can be as effective as in-person therapy. I learned that tele-therapy enhanced treatment in some essential areas. I learned how to do my job in an entirely different, yet meaningful way. Creating the online option in order to continue doing the work I love eventually felt empowering. We all react differently to stress. I witnessed colleagues lean into the new challenges and create great workarounds at a pace that did not seem humanly possible. Whatever your initial response, I hope you take moments to appreciate that you eventually figured things out under exceptionally difficult circumstances. Honor your experience through this journey without harsh judgment. Honor your ability to think flexibly about expectations, muddle through disappointments and intense fear while somehow taking care of others, finding new interests, experiencing growth, gaining new skills, taking on new challenges, or just getting through it.

Your child’s experience

As pandemic restrictions continue, kids (and grown-ups) are struggling to regulate themselves. Children are processing disappointment like all of us. Youth tend to view time through their group games and practices, dance recitals, or parties. Many of the pandemic restrictions are abstract, which makes it difficult for children to understand. Younger kids may not know how to name or process the way they feel. Adults can help their children by acknowledging the situation honestly, then listening in a way that provides them a chance to respond honestly. Asking your child about their specific experiences, then listening patiently, may encourage them to process in a meaningful way. Therapist tip: Asking questions about feelings while playing a game together may allow the conversations to flow gently and authentically.

Let’s take a moment to give a shout-out to our brains for adapting so we can survive! This humorous, satirical video captures the beginning of the pandemic and illustrates how much sorting through information, decision making, stress, and processing (aka cognitive overload!) our brains had to work

Now let’s give our hearts some love. You’ve probably heard about the importance of Self-Care, but what do you know about Self-Compassion? Self-Compassion is a way to address our own stress in a gentle, mindful way while maintaining a tone of acceptance towards ourselves and reminding us that we are not alone. To learn how to take “Self-Compassion Breaks” and lower stress, please watch this short video

Take good care.


If you ever feel you need urgent emotional support, please don't hesitate to reach out to any of these crisis lines:

Suicide Prevention Lifeline-1-800-273-8255

California Parent/Youth Helpline 855-427-2736

Marin Mobile Crisis Unit 415-499-6666

Crisis Text Line text: 741741

Center for Domestic Peace 415-924-6616

Marin Crisis Stabilization Unit 415-473-6666

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