Coping with COVID-19

Right now we are in a pretty stressful time period. The stress of the current lifestyle changes linked to social isolation, as well as the uncertainty of how long this is going to last, plus the unknown outcomes for our futures are among the current concerns of this time in history. The situation is also very ambiguous in that it lacks a concrete, identifiable fear or frustration. Plus there is a great deal mixed information in the news and media.

This kind of situation leaves a person searching for answers and solutions that aren’t likely available, and thus adds to strain of living with ongoing uncertainty. It is not unusual for an individual (self or a loved one) to start showing signs of depression, anxiety, phobia, or to have physical signs of distress.

Stress warning signs can show up as cognitive, emotional, physical or behavioral symptoms.

So what can you do to help you or a loved one manage the stress and ambiguity of the situation?

  • First things first. You have to acknowledge the lack of concreteness of this situation, as well as accept that you’re having feelings about it. If you’re worried, it’s okay to admit it. Don’t make yourself feel bad for feeling bad with telling yourself you don’t have a right to these feelings.
  • Identifying what is at the base of this worry, sadness or anger? Are you upset about a lack of control? A fear of the unknown? Are you afraid of death? Pain? What’s the deeper issue?
  • Limit your exposure to media, news, and social media. It’s good to be informed, but but don’t overload with too much information. Also, there’s a lot of fear mongering out there – so make sure you’re selective and obtain information from trustworthy and well informed resources.
  • Reach out to friends and/or family who know how to be supportive. You need someone who understands where you’re coming from yet doesn’t add to the stress anxiety you’re already experiencing. If this isn’t available in your immediate circle, consider finding a therapist who can be objective and help you process your feelings. Right now there a large number of therapists offering online counseling and would love to help you (self included).
  • Find ways to get outside of yourself and away from worrying about things you can’t control. Clean your house, bake cookies, plant some flowers, go to the store for a neighbor who has difficulties or shouldn’t be getting out and about – these are just a few concrete things you do have control of right now.
  • Don’t forget the basics. Make sure you’re getting adequate rest, keeping up with adequate nutrition, and engaging in moderate exercise regularly.

For more specific coping strategies consider the following:

  • You Tube – this is a great resource for recorded meditations for anxiety, depression and motivation.
  • Meditation apps on your smartphone – Insight timer, Smiling Mind and Headspace are a few to check out. But there are many others. Some are free, some are not.
  • Engage in mindfulness exercises. Mindfulness exercises help you increase your awareness of the present moment. There will soon be a video on mindful breathing to go with this entry. Stay tuned.

Know when you need more support. Getting help can come in the form of finding an online support group, finding a counselor or therapist available for individual sessions – either in person or online. If you are in need of medication to help manage anxiety, depression or other mental health issue, reach out to your physician or a psychiatrist.