COVID-19 is challenging all of us in different ways. The key to trying to manage any stressful situation is to recognize what we can control and what we cannot not, with the emphasis on making changes to the things we can and accepting the elements of powerlessness that exist.
Obviously, we cannot control that we are in the midst of a pandemic. We cannot change that there is this virus out there and that we have to adapt our lifestyle to try and stay physically and mentally well.
Staying mentally well is an area that we can have a positive impact on. I think it is important to understand that we are going to experience all kinds of feelings, and that a” feeling “is never right or wrong. However, it is what we do with it that may determine ones” emotional destiny.” I believe the first step is to acknowledge and validate our emotions and then move on with an action plan as to how to modify or change our feelings if they are negatively affecting us.
Some helpful strategies may be to try to manage our negative thinking. Try to flip the negative thought to a positive one. Ask yourself;” What would I say to a friend?” and then put that thought in your head. Generally, it will be a more positive and kinder thought than your own inner voice. It may be that you may struggle to fully embrace the healthier thought immediately but inserting it into your brain may help you access it at another point in time.
Other helpful strategies may be to try to distract yourself from the negative emotions you are experiencing. Take a break by getting out of your own head. Count everything you see that is green in the room, list all the foods that start with the letter “ A.”. Recite the lyrics to a song. Make sure the mental exercise challenges your brain so that the other negative thought cannot still play at the same time in your head. Maybe the negative thinking will stop or at least subside for a while, giving you some much needed relief.
Isolation is also a challenge during this time which can certainly lead to the negative feelings of loneliness. Adapt the way you fulfill your socialization needs. Video chat, visit outside of a window, watch a show together virtually. Make sure you make this a routine. Have a set schedule. Get outside so you can be in the company of others. Fresh air and a change of scenery can help combat the difficulties imposed by the need to socially distance, not to mention the positive outcomes of moving about.
Perhaps you are feeling anxious with all the information out there. Take a break from the media. Set up a plan to only watch the news, or look at your social media at certain times during the day. Replace this with a good show to binge. This is not the time to judge yourself for watching a lot of TV. Expect to have less motivation and do not measure your day on what you associate with “being productive.” Instead, redefine “productive” to mean successfully staying home and emotionally surviving another day in quarantine.
You may also find yourself feeling more irritated by the people with whom you are now spending a lot more time. Mange your annoyance by taking time outs from each other. Set a designated area to retreat to for an escape. Remind yourself that being cooped up may bring out the worst in people. Try to have a more forgiving attitude toward yourself as well as others.
Other helpful strategies may be to remind yourself that this is all temporary. Try to find a lesson in all of this madness. Now is a great time to find humor throughout your day. Laughter can be a great coping skill. Lightly and gently make fun of your outrageous over grown hair, your inability to have any recall of when you took your last shower or wore zip up pants.
How we think really does directly correlate to how we feel. If you find that despite all your efforts, you are really struggling, then consider reaching out for professional help. This is a time to give ourselves access to whatever it may be that minimizes the struggle. As always, you are worth it!