By Julia Rubinshteyn, PhD.
The current pandemic has changed all aspects of our daily lives seemingly overnight. These changes can be accompanied by a great deal of stress. Perhaps you are a parent and are now juggling parenting/homeschooling and working from home. Perhaps you are an essential worker and you are experiencing fear related to contracting the virus from your work. Perhaps you are living alone and feeling lonely and isolated being physically separated from family, friends, and your community. Perhaps you are facing uncertainty about what the future holds. Below are some tips that can help you cope with COVID-19.
Stay Informed, but Know When to Walk Away
It is important to stay informed about the latest important updates and recommendations related to the pandemic, but too much news can become overwhelming. Try to set aside some time each day to learn about the latest updates, and then shut off the TV, apps, and electronics. Easy access to news can be helpful for learning new information, but it can become overwhelming and contribute to feelings of sadness and anxiety if we spend too much of our day focused on the news. Designate certain times of day as “news free” times in order to give yourself a break.
Focus on the Things That You Can Control
It can be easy to get caught up in the things that are currently out of our control related to COVID-19. By intentionally re-focusing our attention on the things throughout our day that we can control, it can help us feel empowered in our daily lives. Here are some ideas of daily choices we make that can help us feel in control:
- Wellness: Maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, keeping a regular sleep schedule
- Follow the Recommendations: Although we can’t control choices made by others, we can each choose to do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19 by adhering to shelter-in-place and social distancing measures, washing our hands, and wearing masks in public
- Leisure: Enjoyable activities you choose to do to help pass the time when you are home
- Helping Others: Choosing to reach out to family, friends, neighbors, and other community members who may need help during this time
- Taking things one day at a time: When it feels overwhelming to think about what the future holds, try to focus on getting through the day. Ask yourself: what can I do for the next few hours to get through today?
- Maintain a routine: Keeping a regular routine can help us regain a sense of normalcy during this time
Physical distancing does not mean social distancing. Remaining connected to important people in your life is a key way to help cope during this time of physical distancing. In addition to speaking on the phone , you can get creative! Below are some ideas of ways to virtually connect with others:
- Have a game night with friends or family via video chat
- Netflix and other streaming services have a feature that allow you to watch movies and shows with others
- Join a virtual book club
- Call a friend or family member that you have not heard from in a while. Chances are they will be glad to hear from you!
Part of coping with COVID-19 can involve noticing and focusing something you are already doing—breathing. Our breath is one of our most powerful tools to keep us grounded, even when we are under a great deal of stress. It can be common for our minds to fill with worries about the future. When we focus on our breath, it allows us to bring our attention into the here-and-now. Take a moment a few times a day to take a few deep, slow breaths to ground yourself back into the moment.
Be Kind to Yourself
Above all else, it is important to be kind to yourself during this difficult time. Coping with COVID-19 is challenging enough—there is no need to add self-criticism and harsh judgement into the mix. Maybe you haven’t mastered a complex new skill while on quarantine. Maybe you haven’t had the time or energy to cook elaborate three course meals. Maybe you haven’t had a chance to come up with a new art project worthy of Pinterest for your kids. Maybe you feel like it is hard just to do the bare minimum each day. That’s okay. Your situation is unique to you. You might be missing the supports in your life pre-COVID and might be constantly trying to multitask. Remind yourself that you are doing the best you can under these very unusual circumstances. Kristen Neff’s book Self-Compassion is a great resource for building the skill of self-kindness, and so is The Compassionate Mind Workbook .