By: Savanah Kite, MS
Unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetimes, the Coronavirus, otherwise known as Covid19, is here for the foreseeable future. So, what are we going to do to help us stay safe and healthy during this time?
Locus of Control:
To begin, we can look at things that are in our control and things that are not. We cannot control state or federal mandates, how much toilet paper is available at the store, or what our friends and family members are doing in their homes or communities. Sure, we might be able to influence our friends and family, urging them to take the recommended precautions set out by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), but their actions are their responsibilities. What is in your control are your actions, your choices, your words, and even some of your thoughts. I like to say, “We’re not in control of our first thought, but we are in control of the second.”
One thing most of us tend to do in times of stress is what mental health professionals call Catastrophizing. This is when we think we can predict the future, and that future is much more bleak, dangerous, or scary. Think about a time when a friend didn’t pick up your phone call. If we are already feeling anxious, we might think, “She must be angry with me. Maybe she hates me!” or “He might be hurt or WORSE!” In these moments, try to pause, take a few moments to breathe, and remember all of the times you’ve not picked up a phone call for entirely mundane reasons. If we are aware that we sometimes go down these spooky thought paths, we’ll be more in control of them in the future.
Practicing Mindfulness is a great way to take control of your thoughts. Instead of having a running list of “the dogs need their annual shots soon,” “I should really call my mother,” and “remember that time in the 4th grade when that teacher made you feel stupid?”- take a few moments to breathe deeply, allowing your thoughts only to be on the present moment. Ask yourself how your body feels, what does the air smell like, what sounds do you hear, what textures are you able to feel with your hands and feet? This takes practice, but I believe in you.
It might help to limit time on social media, which tends to bombard us with news and media that is anxiety inducing. It is okay to take a step back and be present in your life, rather than be caught up with things that are not in your control.
Get enough sleep! I know we like to think that getting enough sleep is optional, but it is a necessary part of maintaining physical and emotional health.
While we may want to take this time to stay in our pajamas, binge watch our favorite shows in bed all day, and let our nightstands get cluttered up with coffee cups and bags of chips: try instead to maintain a routine. Getting up at regular hours, taking a shower, putting on actual clothing, and making your bed may help to maintain a sense of calm and normalcy in this hectic time.
If we live with other people, but still need some alone time, it’s okay to ask for and arrange a time where we can be by ourselves. Take a moment right now and ask yourself if maybe you’ve lashed out at a loved one because you’ve just had a little too much “together time.” If the answer is yes, find a way to get some private time to read, listen to music, nap, or take a walk.
Get outside! Although we are asked to maintain distance from others, that doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to have a cup of coffee on your front porch, wave to a neighbor, take a solo bike trip around the block, or kick a ball with a family member in the back yard.
Exercise, inside or outside, is a great way to keep your body healthy, blow off some steam, and help declutter the mind. Exercise also doesn’t have to be jumping jacks and pushups, it can be as simple as walking your dog or dancing around your living room with your family.
If you have the opportunity, now might be a great time to catch up on some things you’ve been meaning to. Do you have a book you’ve been looking forward to reading? What about that garage that you said you’d organize three months ago? Did you buy that guitar but never had the time to learn to play? Didn’t you always want to start journaling?
Maintaining closeness when we’re asked to be separate is easier than ever thanks to technology. Whether it’s video chatting with old friends, calling your grandparents, or emailing your kids, you most likely have everything you need at your fingertips. Offering support to others not only makes them feel better, but if might also make you feel better too.
And if you’re still feeling stuck or need to maintain therapy with your therapist, give them a call to see if Telemental Health sessions are right for you. There is something comforting about being able to speak to a trusted professional from the security of your own home.
As always, if you are in crisis, call your local crisis access line. Here in Georgia we have the Georgia Crisis and Access Line which is open 24/7/365. The number is 1-800-715-4225. On the website you can also find means to text and chat with support personnel.