By Michael Rose, Clinical Mental Health Counselor
In times like these, we tend to have increased concerns for our own health. We also have genuine fear about the well-being of our loved ones, especially if they’re already at increased risk themselves.
Concern(s) about the future may contribute to us feeling lonely, angry, frustrated, or even hypervigilant. With our routines interrupted, especially effective stressor outlets like going to the gym, church, or social events, our usual means of coping are essentially unavailable, as well.
Perhaps most importantly, we know depressive symptoms can surge in times like these.
In response to the uncertainty and anxiety brought on by COVID-19, here are some healthy ways we can cope with all of this.
1. Stay educated. Learn as much as you can, but commit to using only reputable sources. Manage and limit your information intake. Even when searching for or reading updates, consume your news only from trustworthy agencies; being healthy means that we find those news sources that are being factual, positive, kind, and solution-focused.
2. Stick to a healthy daily routine. Set reasonable, yet lofty and achievable short-term and long-term goals for yourself. Eat appropriate and healthy foods. Fill your day with healthy positive activities – work, walk, exercise, or volunteer. Then again, maybe you can use this time to get smarter! Take a free online class. Learn a new skill you’ve always wanted to try. Push yourself to better yourself, even when/if you’re feeling down.
3. Practice mindfulness. Do your best to relax. Meditate. Pray. Deep breathe. Stretch. Try your hand at yoga (there are really good educational videos about yoga online). Explore them all. They can only help.
4. Stay connected to those who are supportive and accepting. Set-up a FaceTime or Zoom meet-up. Call your friends. Spend time catching up with family. Reach out to your pastor, priest, teacher, or old friend. Start an online book club. There are 60,000 free ebooks at Project Gutenberg (https://www.gutenberg.org). If reading is not your thing, Audible is offering hundreds of audiobooks for free right now (https://stories.audible.com/discovery). Do anything to keep your mind focused on the “good” and stay connected to the world.
5. Speaking of “good,” do your best to find the “good” in the world. My grandfather used to say that it’s easy to find the bad things in this life; finding the good requires effort. Now is the time to seek out the “good.” So, make a list of the things you’re grateful to have in your life. Search for things you consider beautiful and consider why you find them aesthetically pleasing, meaningful, or significant. Tell others why they mean something to you. Stay connected to the positive.
6. Journal, write, or come up with some way to record your thoughts, feelings, and/or emotions. What we’re going through right now, individually, as a community, and even globally, is not our norm. Being forced to deal with the unexpected is inevitably stressful. Putting a pen to paper or fingers to keys may help you release whatever it is you may be holding back. If writing is not your strength, push yourself to find new ways to express your thoughts. Draw, compose, sculpt, or paint what you feel, even if you’re using words to color/cover your canvas.
7. Use that smartphone you can’t be without. There are plenty of apps out there that can help you navigate these challenging times. Some, like ACT Coach (developed by the VA for PTSD), Breathe2Relax (mindfulness based), SAM App, Stop, Breathe & Think, and Mindshift CBT, are free. These apps may help you process your thoughts, learn more about the challenges of anxiety, fear, and depression, and even provide you some relief.
8. Lastly, don’t wait to reach out if things become completely overwhelming.
Friends, this WILL get better. It will take some time, though. Until then, let’s agree that we should do our level best to stay calm, maintain our focus on the “good,” take care of ourselves, and be helpful to one another. There may be a time for assigning blame, but that time is not now. We don’t need the negativity. It is counter to being healthy.
This, my friends, is the time for us to be positive, practice kindness, and demonstrate community-minded values.
If you would like more information about our individual counseling services, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.