Coping with our COVID-19 pandemic is challenging in many ways. In addition to understandable concern about becoming ill, we may be concerned about transmitting the virus to someone else. Changes and losses are involved in order to stay well and help others stay well. Here, I offer some tips on coping.
1. Make some space for the anxiety and grief you may feel, and do the same for others. Fighting feelings only gives them more power over us and lets tension accumulate. Try to let yourself feel your emotions so they may do their jobs: inform you about your experience and your values, motivate your actions, and enhance communication with others. Emotions have functions. A nice article on grief related to the experience of this pandemic may be found here: /userfiles/2932564/file/HBR grief article.pdf (shared with permission of HBR)
2. Practice a "light touch" with your emotions. A light touch neither indulges nor suppresses emotions. So, we can make space for emotions and also keep them in their place. We can validate our emotions and more easily experience them dissipating after they have done their job. Emotions are like waves. Imagine yourself surfing them.
3. Disclose some feelings to trusted others and be open to comfort others extend to you. If you find this difficult, consider taking a risk with someone who seems trustworthy or open and friendly.
4. Minimize vulnerability to negative emotion by taking good care of yourself. Attend to adequate sleep and good nutrition. Aim for some daily flexible structure that helps you include and balance work/studies, self care and leisure. Here's a template to help you create some helpful structure to your days and balance work, self-care and leisure: /userfiles/2932564/file/Weekly Schedule with work, leisure, self care.pdf
If insomnia or nightmares are a problem for you, consider checking out this app: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/appvid/docs/CBTiCoachFlyer_508.pdf
5. Practice accepting what you cannot control and try to shift your attention to what you can control. Call to mind daily a few things going well or that you feel grateful for. Could this be a good time to start a gratitude journal?
6. If you are feeling agitated about loss of independence or space due to the "stay at home" ordinance, consider safe ways to experience solitude and independence and talk about your needs for alone time with those in your household. A roommates or family meeting for discussion about coping may reduce interpersonal misunderstandings or friction. Each member of the household may be encouraged to share wants and needs, make requests, propose solutions for problems or conflict. Make an agreement to air conflicts rather than permit them to fester unaddressed while acknowledging that everyone is under stress and probably coping as best they can. If you are feeling too "hot" to express your feelings without insult or attack, take a time out. Breathe, self-soothe and catch a break before interacting. When you are cooler, re-connect to address the issue. Here is nice handout on family communication skills that really applies to all relationships: /userfiles/2932564/file/FAMILY COMMUNICATION SKILLS.pdf
7. If interpersonal tensions are progressing to violence, reach out to these resources:
WA State Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-562-6025
National Dating Abuse Helpline for Teens: 1-866-331-9474 or access confidential chat online
Crisis Chat! is a joint service of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in partnership with CONTACT USA. It is a full service online crisis site.
8. Stay informed about what's happening in our world without over-exposing yourself to difficult news and images. Watching news or updates on the virus once daily rather than repeatedly will both meet the need and help prevent overwhelm or despair. Choose credible news sources to steer clear of being influenced by myths. For a nice article on COVID-19 myths versus facts, check out this article from The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/fact-check-debunking-10-myths-about-the-new-coronavirus-that-causes-covid-19/
9. Try something novel, pick up a new hobby or past-time, look for a creative outlet or "workaround" of obstacles created by the pandemic. These endeavors remind us we can always grow, learn, enjoy and celebrate no matter what our experience.
10. Stay connected to others through online resources. Video chats such as Zoom gatherings and FaceTime will help you feel more socially connected to others than will texting. Our nervous systems are calmed by open and friendly signaling from eyes and faces of others. Here's a nice video by Stephen Porges on the importance of connection to coping with social distancing: https://relationalimplicit.com/porges-social/
11. Recognize unhelpful thoughts and practice willingness to shift your attention to more helpful ones. "I can't stand this" is less helpful than "I don't like this and it's a challenge to cope."
12. Reach out to others for support if you are not coping well, especially if you are becoming unsafe. Please read my resources under "S" for suicide on this website's Resources page if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or urges, or try Crisis Chat!
13. Remember that this event is stressful for anyone -- you and others. Adjust your expectations of yourself and others and give people the benefit of the doubt. Permit time and space for the numerous adjustment demands imposed by the pandemic. Let kindness dominate in your interactions and -- as much as possible -- let it be your stance with yourself.