The Stress of COVID-19
The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has been stressful for many people. Fear and anxiety about the disease, quarantine, and the financial ramifications can be overwhelming and cause strong fears in adults and children. Some of you have contracted the disease. Some of you fear contracting the disease because of health preconditions. Some of you have jobs or own businesses in industries worst hit financially. Some of you fear for grandparents and other vulnerable loved ones. Others feel cooped up with small children and have few outlets with lockdowns on your movement. Some of you are going to work every day on the front lines as doctors, nurses, police officers, grocery store workers, and many other crucial roles. Regardless of your situation, this is impacting you and causing stress.
Coping with Stress Through Action Steps
In coping with this stress, it is crucial to keep perspective. It is crucial to stay aware of the facts, as they develop, using reliable sources. It is crucial not to panic. The fact is a great majority will survive this situation both with their health and eventual economic viability intact. Meanwhile, as we all are seeking ways to cope, an important question can be helpful in maintaining the right focus. What action steps do I need to take today? The best remedy for anxiety is appropriate action steps. Make a list of basic action steps and begin implementing them. You might even include simple things like bathing, exercising, cleaning up the kitchen, creating an activity for the kids. This assists us in focusing our mind on the task at hand as opposed to ruminating about future circumstances beyond our control. It also assists us in attending to those factors in our life today that we have influence over and protects us from focusing on factors that we have no control over.
Don’t Emotionally Own the Outcomes
As part of coping, it is crucial not to own the outcomes of our situation. If we're honest, even before the COVID-19 situation, many of us did not have ultimate control over the outcomes in our lives. Many circumstances were beyond our control. This is why it is so crucial to focus our energies on those aspects of life that we have some influence over.
This psychological truth has been well captured by the Serenity Prayer. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Regardless of your philosophy, the three components of this prayer capture an important truth in regard to how we can identify the best way to focus our mental energies. Taking action steps focused on the things in our sphere of influence that we can change is the best use of our time and energy. Focusing on the things outside our influence that we can’t change drains our energy and can lead to depression.
Maintain a Perspective of Gratitude
One of the most important tools that you can utilize in coping is gratitude. For each of us, regardless of our specific circumstances, there is usually a multitude of things that we can find to be grateful about. This could be gratitude about our current health, food on the table, warm shelter, having our family around us, and the ability to communicate with others due to technology. Doing a gratitude list each morning can be a powerful tool in combating the onset of fear and despair during this difficult time.
Create a New Routine
Start adapting a temporary new normal at home with your family. Make lists and have planning meetings with your loved ones on next steps. Think of creative family options for entertainment. Create a temporary new normal for your work life if working from home. Try to have a separate work space in the home away from the family so that you can concentrate and then disconnect from work during times spent with your family.
Take Care of Your Health
Eat healthy and try to cook some of your own meals. Make sure to get plenty of sleep. Take time to exercise daily in some form. Even if your gym is closed, there are online options for routines that you can try. Keep your body moving. Take walks outside with safe social distancing. Lastly, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
Look for ways to get outside of your own concerns in order to help and encourage other people. If you're not under strict isolation rules yourself, and you're in a position to do so, find ways to support those in need by offering to run errands and collect supplies for them.
Reach Out and Stay Connected
Reach out to other people during the day and touch base with them and make sure that they're okay. Use technology and stay connected with colleagues, friends and family via phone calls, texts, social media and video conferencing. Send others encouraging messages. Such positivity will lift your own mood and will assist others who may need to be uplifted.
Limit News Intake
Stay informed about the situation via reliable sources, but limit your news and social media intake to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Watching the news for major portions of the day can create despair. Most news media sources focus on the negative. They generally don’t cover positive stories of people's survival and resilience during these trying times.
Keep Support in Place
In addition to family, stay connected with your support people. Mental health providers are offering telephone and video sessions to make it easy for clients to receive needed care. Psychiatrists have also been given freedoms to assist their patients in this time of need via technology. Continue to take prescribed medications and maintain an appropriate supply. If you experience heightened mental health symptoms, such as severe anxiety or depression, contact a local mental health provider to help. Stay connected to your faith communities. Many are offering online services and zoom meetings for small groups. It is even more important now to maintain these supports given the additional stresses that COVID-19 has introduced to our lives.
Take It One Day at a Time
An old adage has never been truer for us today. Take things one day at a time. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, things are changing daily in regard to closures, government guidelines, facts about the illness, and quarantines. It is crucial to stay in the day that you are in. You can plan, make appropriate preparation, and try to anticipate what will be needed tomorrow. But, emotionally, it's important to not carry the concerns of tomorrow during today. This will cause stress and waste crucial energy on things that you have little influence over today.
Take Care of Yourself Emotionally and Spiritually
Take care of your heart and spirit. Be gentle on yourself and family members as tensions may arise in close quarters. Lean on your faith and allow God to give you the comfort you are seeking. Meditate, pray, read, journal, and listen to inspiring music and videos that can lift your spirits and nourish hope. Share love, kindness, and compassion with others. We will get through this together. Like the great generations before us, people are often surprised by their resilience in difficult times when they stay connected with faith, hope, and love.
Lastly, continue your self-care during these trying times. Some of us can often get caught up in helping others and neglect ourselves. Self-care is not selfishness, it is stewardship. In order to thrive, you need to take care of your needs appropriately to be of best service to others. As they instruct in airline safety protocols, put your own oxygen mask on first before you can help others with theirs. It is important for all of us to remain calm and maintain safety and healthy coping as we face these difficult times together.