Let's just say this, first and foremost: this is a crazy time. This is truly a crazy, unprecedented, scary, is-this-really-happening? kind of time. No one can deny that. The entire world is battling this virus. When I first heard about the Coronavirus, never could I have imagined that it would come to this. I think it's safe to say most of us are shocked and completely taken aback by what has occurred. The past two weeks have felt like whiplash, going from relatively normal life to everything changing.
That being said, just because this is a crazy time does not mean we have to feel crazy. And just as we are all being encouraged to take care of our physical health, our mental health will be just as important.
So here are a few things I've been discussing with my clients, as well as reminders I need to give myself, for how to cope with this difficult time.
Accepting that right now, this is a hard time and life will look very different, for the indefinite future. For many of us, our daily lives were turned upside in a very short amount of time. That change and challenge will vary for each person. But unfortunately, this is our reality for the moment. We do not know how long this will go on for. But instead of jumping ahead (more on that later) try bringing your focus to the now. The more we resist the moment, the worse it gets.
Part of accepting the present is acknowledging the feelings you are having in the moment. Maybe that's anger, sadness, annoyance, fatigue. Whatever it may be, accept this difficult moment and be honest with how you are feeling. It can be as simple as saying "I'm terrified and furious that I won't be getting paid this week" or "I'm really frustrated that I can't leave my house." Acceptance may not sound like much, but it can be the difference between taking a deep breath in, or holding your breath for hours.
Limit Your News Intake
This can be a controversial one. Yes, staying informed and knowing the restrictions that apply to your national and local government is important. Do what you can to stay informed about those changes. Some states are offering text message updates with the latest information. However, once you have that information, most news focuses on content that we may not need or just increases anxiety. Try to notice how you feel after watching the news. Do you feel on edge, anxious or depressed? If so, consider taking a news detox or putting a limit on how much news you will watch each day.
If there is any guidance I could give at this time, it would be this: try your best to stay present. Take this pandemic one day at a time. That means not jumping days, weeks or even months ahead. Right now the future of this virus and it's effect on all of our lives is still very much to be determined. Yes, there are estimates but the future is still unknown. And when that's the case, try taking it one day at a time. If we try to take it all in at once, we will become overwhelmed. Ask yourself, what do I need to focus on today? What truly needs my focus today and what can wait? Am I focusing on things that are out of my control? Try to let go and release anything that is too far ahead or is out of your control.
It cannot be stressed enough what a difficult time this is. When we are in a difficult time, it's easy to become consumed by it and see everything in our day as bad. This is our brain's natural tendency: when you tell it what to focus on, it will. If you go into a room looking for blue, you will find blue. That's why during this time it's important to focus on the things you are grateful for. What is something in your day, in your life, that you can give appreciation for? It doesn't have to be anything big. It can be as simple as being grateful for a having a roof over your head or your family.
It may not seem like much, but focusing on gratitude takes you away from a negative mindset. And the more you practice gratitude, the more you will see things in your day that you do appreciate. As the saying goes, "happy people aren't grateful, grateful people are happy." I recommend starting up a gratitude journal, and every night write down three to five things you are grateful for.
This is another recommendation that can sound simple at first but can have a tremendous impact. When times are crazy, it's important to stop, take a moment and do some deep breathing. Engaging deep breathing helps activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn slows down our fight-or-flight response. It also helps us slow down our thinking and respond rationally to our thoughts.
In one of my earlier posts I listed a few meditation practices to try:
For any that are new to meditation, I would suggest the 4-7-8 breathing. It's an exercise you can do just about anywhere. I also recommend it before bed if you are having trouble sleeping.
Most importantly, we all need to be taking care of ourselves during this time, both physically and mentally. Becoming stressed and overwhelmed helps no one. This quote, from Eleanor Brown, sums it up perfectly -
"Rest and self-care are so important. When you take the time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel."