Feeling stressed about COVID-19? This extraordinary pandemic has inevitably caused strong emotional impressions for people. You may be feeling fear, anxiety, or depression which may be quite overwhelming. You may be struggling with fear of the unknown, anxious about the future and how this will impact your family, depressed due to isolation or about personal finances, or a combination of all of these difficult emotions. During these hardships, it is more important than ever to come together as a community. Everyone reacts differently to stress and people cope in very different ways, however, one common approach that we can all embrace is to become stronger together.
Managing stress is imperative to you and your loved ones. There are several ways to modify your day to maintain and improve your physical and mental health:
- Step away from technology. Stop watching the news, get off social media, take a break from video games, and get off your phone. Do something to unplug, such as read a book, listen to music, reorganize the garage, get some projects done around the house, put a puzzle together, declutter your home, play a board game, dance around the house in your pajamas to your favorite song or just try something new. Whatever you choose to do, take a break from news stories and technology. Do something calming and peaceful every day.
- Get some fresh air. Step outside and let the sunshine on your face. Take your dog for a walk, ride bikes with your kids, go for a jog, play with your animals, take a hike, go for a drive, or sit in a chair in your backyard. Be sure to spend daily time in the sun. If it is cold outside, then sit in front of a window that has the sun shining in where you can feel the warmth of the sunshine on your skin. Think about things you enjoy doing and do them. We can honor social distancing and still practice good self-care techniques. Do something energizing and fun every single day.
- Connect with social supports. Yes, we must honor social distancing, but we can and should connect with friends and family daily. Try reaching out to someone you usually cannot connect with due to busy schedules. Facetime a friend, talk on the phone with your family, text, email, send a letter or a funny video recording . . . just connect with one another. Social distancing does not mean we cannot connect. Take care of your emotional health. Be intentional, reach out, shout out, show love, connect, and lift each other up.
- Take care of yourself. Eat, exercise, sleep, and practice personal hygiene. Continue to go to bed and wake up at the same time. Maintaining a schedule is important for your overall health. Wake up, shower, relax, do yoga, take a run, meditate, take a deep breath, or anything else you enjoy doing to maintain your health that helps you feel good.
- Focus on what you can control. Stressing about things we cannot control does not change the outcome. Focus on what you can do in the here and now. You can choose how to respond to this unusual situation, how to engage with others, you can control your part in this pandemic, self-care practices, how you spend your time even within the limits of society right now, and limit your exposure to the news. Focus on one day at a time.
- Focus on the small things. Try to focus on the little things we can be thankful for during this time. Perhaps that focus is time with your family that you usually are not able to have, having a meal as a family, learning more about your kids, connecting with your spouse, or perhaps it is a break from the hustle and bustle of seventy-hour work weeks. There is always a take-away in every situation. Many communities are coming together, offering meals, daycare alternatives, local support and business modifications through take-outs and deliveries. Take a deep breath and pause, there are gifts interwoven through this challenging experience.
- Seek professional help. Do not feel as though you are in this alone. If you do not have social support or someone you can trust to lean on, please reach out. Mental health professionals like myself are here to help. Most mental health professionals are set up to provide services through telehealth (phone and video conferencing). Do not wait, make the call if you need someone to lean on. You are not in this alone.
We all have different opinions and emotions about this quarantine. Just as politics should not divide us, this should not divide us. It is okay to be angry, frustrated, and sad, or to feel a mixture of these emotions. The struggles people are experiencing is real. We need to love each other through this difficult time. We can extend emotional grace, empathy, and understanding throughout these heavy circumstances. We are all in different situations, some people are not working at all while others are being overworked. Remember, we are all interconnected and have the ability to rise and grow together throughout this shared experience. Coming together makes us stronger as a community and our strength will help keep us connected.
“We all have an unsuspected reserve of strength inside that emerges when life puts us to the test.”- Isabel Allende