Feeling Envious And Irritated Lately? Try This One Thing

feeling envious

Not EVERYONE you know is struggling in COVID-19. Far from it.

It isn’t hard to be envious of friends and neighbors who seem to be weathering life a bit easier than you. And that envy isn’t helping you fend off irritability – in fact, it could be making it worse.

Your social media feed seems full  of vacation-taking while you are feeling trapped at home…

Your friend’s college student is  actually going back to school while your college student is at home feeling lonely and bored…

Your family member keeps talking about their home improvement projects and stock market success, while you’ve had a hard time just opening your mail…

Your college friend keeps talking about how great her family life during COVID has been while you can’t remember a night you didn’t raise your voice to your kids…

Your neighbor has spent COVID getting in shape and losing weight, while your clothes are too tight and your body aches from all the sitting…

I could go on, but you get the picture.

Feeling envious is something I’m hearing more about these last months. You can get exposed to it, and feel triggered, before you even realize what’s happening.

No matter how used to this new COVID normal you get, it still is only human to long for something good, something better, something like someone else has…this is envy.

Our grief sets us up for longing, as if grief weren’t hard enough. And longing is no picnic either, noted as a human vice for millennia.

“It is in the character of very few men to honor without envy a friend who has prospered.”
― Aeschylus

Surfing real estate or VRBO sites for a bit of fun can feel harmless enough, but when it morphs into longings and wanting far beyond your budget or inconsistent with your goals, the longing isn’t helping anymore. It’s hurting.

While COVID has been a time of reassessing everything, and geography and life goals have been high on the list for many. It can be challenging to keep dreams and desires in balance when jealousy takes over.

Envy can be a fleeting feeling, “gosh I wish we could have gone on a beach vacation this summer” or can run deeper, and trigger existential  concerns, like “why do I have the life I have, why can’t I have theirs.” 

Envy can also spark jealousy, and knowing the difference between envy and jealousy can be important when it comes to sorting things through.

It doesn’t take much to feel envious these days with so much uncertainty, so much loss, and so many unpleasant and difficult circumstances. We don’t like feeling without, and in our depletion it is all to easy to envy others.

People are frustrated and irritable, and they are sick of being frustrated and irritable. They are tired of everything being so hard. They want things to change for the better. They want an easy fix. They wish things were different and easier.

The trap here is wishing… and longing for a reality that just doesn’t exist.

While this might be a normal fantasy life aimed at soothing today’s disappointments, it can quickly spiral into frustration and hopelessness if it goes too far.

In other places I talk at greater length about the wish trap, but for simplicity’s sake I will say that wishing for an alternate reality is a formidable anxiety accelerant, and of course a trap. There’s no productive outlet for anxiety when what you are battling is accepting reality. All anxiety can do is escalate your conflict and leave you feeling disappointed.

When you next catch yourself feeling envious, instead of wishing things were different, try to focus instead on how to make them different.

That is how you take control, and channel the anxiety imbedded in your envy to the good.

You might not be able to afford to retire now, but when you can, what do you want it to look like? How much will it cost? What kind of savings plan are you practicing? Do you need some financial planning advice?

Those are the action steps that channel your angst and frustration into choice and solutions.

It’s ok to want, it’s lovely to dream, and it’s human to wish. The trick is to harness those thoughts into the parameters of your reality, and use that motivation to start making it happen.

And most importantly, be gentle on yourself… This is hard, and you are human.


To access more COVID-focused coping resources, opt-in to the free course I created to help by clicking here.

Photo by Tim Bennett on Unsplash

Alicia H. Clark, PsyD