Across the country, what oftentimes has been called the “American way of life” has been upended because of the potentially deadly COVID-19. Not only does the COVID-19 pandemic pose a physical risk to people from all walks of life, but it is also taxing the emotional wellbeing of people as well. Psychologists have started to weigh in with strategies that can help us emotionally get through the COVID-19 pandemic more generally as well as to deal with more specific elements of it like social distancing and stay at home directives. Indeed, psychologists have identified nine key strategies that can help us all cope with COVID-19 pandemic:
- Understand that feeling anxious about COVID-19 is to be expected and is normal
- Limit media exposure
- Take reasonable steps to protect yourself and your loved ones
- Focus on what you’re grateful for rather than what you can’t change
- Breathe… just breathe
- Establish and maintain a routine
- Eat healthy
- Reach out to loved ones
Understand That Feeling Anxious About Coronavirus Is to Be Expected and Is Normal
Let’s be candid. Not only are we all threatened by a novel (virus) that is highly contagious but ominously deadly in a yet precisely known number of cases, but we are confronting other very real tribulations as well:
- Rising death tolls
- Massive job layoffs
- Orders from governmental leaders to stay at home
- Reports about vital personal protective equipment and other supplies running low at hospitals and other locations
- Faltering economic indicators
- Shortages of basic necessities
- Isolation and loneliness
The bottom line: You have every right to feel anxious and you’re not alone for doing so. Approximately 80 percent of the U.S. adult population is very concerned or at least concerned about the coronavirus and related issues, according to a comprehensive poll by Axios/Ipsos. You absolutely do not need to compound your very understandable feelings by “kicking yourself” because you feel the way you do. The stark and yet simple reality is that as a nation we’ve never been through anything quite like what we are experiencing at this time.
Limit Media Exposure
Blaring headlines have been the order of the day at media and news outlets of all types in recent years. This has only become more pronounced since the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yes, you need to keep yourself reasonably well informed about the state of affairs around you. However, you absolutely do not need of overdose on media. For example, the head of the World Health Organization recommends that we tune into some type of news media twice a day for updates. This doesn’t mean spend an undue amount of time watching cable news or reading a newspaper two times daily. Tune in enough to get a general idea of what is going on but not so much time that you unnecessarily rile your emotions and trigger otherwise avoidable anxiety.
Take Reasonable Steps to Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones
A main reason why many people are experiencing anxiety, depression, and other emotional and psychological reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic is because of another understandable feeling. We are all experiencing a lack of control as a result of what we face because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
One strategy you can employ to gain at least some semblance of control over your life is to take reasonable steps to protect yourself and your loved one. There are a number of tactics you can employ – indeed, should undertake – which not only protect you physically but guard your emotional and psychological wellbeing as well. These include:
- Washing your hands as recommended
- Maintaining a six-foot distance between others outside of your immediate family at home
- Staying home except for essential errands and appropriately physically distanced exercise (walking, bike, jogging)
If you have concerns about the “health” of your home because someone has been in it that later was confirmed to have COVID-19, you can also protect your physical and emotional health by ensuring that your residence is properly cleaned and sanitized. You truly enhance your overall personal safety and that of your family, and garner solid peace of mind, by calling upon a reputable, experienced coronavirus cleanup company to restore your home to a fully livable, disease-free condition.
Focus on What You’re Grateful for Rather Than What You Can’t Change
On some level, this is harder said than done. However, another key strategy to better cope with the coronavirus pandemic is to focus on the positive, be grateful for the good and divert from those negative realities that you simply cannot change. You may be confined at home more than you ever imagined, but you will also never have such a unique opportunity to spend time with your family. Perhaps there is some sort of project that you’ve longed to do but never had the time.
More than few psychologists are recommending that people prepare gratitude lists that set forth in writing the truly good, positive things that exist in your life despite the state of the surrounding world. You might even develop an “at-home bucket list,” an itemization of those things you’ve wished you had time to do and can do from home.
Breathe… Just Breathe
Some psychologists recommend yoga. Others suggest meditation. The reality is that these practices aren’t for everyone. With that said, practicing deep breathing exercises has proven effective at lessening anxiety and making a person feel better overall. A simple breathing practice you literally can do almost anywhere is a perfect option. Dr. Mimi Winsberg, the co-founder and chief medical officer of Brightside, recommends the 4-7-8 method. You simply breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for seven, and exhale for eight seconds.
Establish and Maintain a Routine
A primary reason why many individuals are ending up suffering from anxiety, depression, and other challenging emotional responses is because their lives have been upturned. Daily routines and activities have crashed down around them.
The reality is that even during the COVID-19 pandemic you can establish and maintain vital, healthy routines. These can include setting times to get up in the morning and to go to bed at night. If you’re engaged in distance working, establish specific work-related schedules. If you’re staying at home with the family, schedule family meal nights. The structure associated with establishing and maintaining a routine provides a sense of normality even during these truly “abnormal” times.
The internet is awash with memes picturing the so-called end result of the stay at home period of the COVID-19 pandemic. The heart of these memes is images of people having gained tremendous amounts of weight as well as illustrating the results of a myriad of other unhealthy practices.
The reality is that spending more time at home actually provides you with more time to eat healthy. Planning, preparing, and eating a healthy diet not only buttresses your physical health but enhances your emotional wellbeing as well. Moreover, a healthy diet betters the immune system which is vital during the coronavirus pandemic.
On a related note, regular exercise is also a strategy that benefits you physically and emotionally. Like a good many people, you may have been diligent about hitting the gym. That is not possible during the stay at home phase of the pandemic. But, that doesn’t mean you lack options.
There is an abundance of different types of exercise and fitness routines you can do from home, even without any equipment. You also can safely walk, jog, or bike provided you follow the physical distancing and related guidelines.
Reach Out to Others
Finally, you don’t have to be alone during this health crisis. Yes, you need to be physically distant from others, but the idea of social distancing is something of a misnomer. Thanks to the grand technology of the 21st century, we’ve never had better ways to connect with others.
Social media and other digital resources also offer you the opportunity to connect with people you have yet to meet. One of the positive results of these challenging times is an increase in remarkable cyber communities that provide support, encouragement, information and friendship.