The internet world has been completely inundated with tips on how to cope with the recent COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent social distancing to flatten the curve. The past few months (and most likely, the next few months) will include uncertainty around work, the economy, school, relationships and transitioning to a life at home.
You have likely been consuming numerous podcasts, live chats, and articles on the best ways to manage anxiety and stress during this time. And you have likely come to the conclusion that there is a lot of great advice out there. Lots and lots. And that can feel overwhelming. So our number one piece of advice is do what works for you. Your feelings, circumstances, and living situations are unique to you. And while there is certainly power in community and knowing that we are all in this together, the actions you take and how you cope should be based on what is best for you and your family.
With that in mind, here are some tips for coping during these very unusual and uncertain times:
Whatever you are feeling is valid and okay. Try not to judge yourself for whatever feelings you may be experiencing. Also know that all feelings come, stay, and then eventually go.
Find a middle ground with regards to relaxation and productivity. Try to stay away from the extremes of “I’m going to do so many things during this time” and “I’m going to lay on the couch all day because there is nothing to do.” It’s probably not a good idea right now to aspire to get in the best shape of your life or to finally learn that language you have been putting off for years. Nor is it a time to shirk all of your responsibilities by watching Netflix all day. Finding a middle ground is the most productive. This will allow you to engage in activities that bring about a sense of pleasure and mastery, without causing you to shame yourself for not doing “enough.”
Make sure you have a basic needs plan. How often do you need to get groceries? How are you going to get groceries? What are finances going to look like in two weeks? In one month? Try not to catastrophize (i.e., buying toilet paper to last you a year) and instead give your best estimate of what you need. As of now, grocery stores, pharmacies, and needed supply stores are all open. Online shopping/delivery is also available, although with shipping delays so you may need to plan ahead.
Have a support system that actually offers support. This means having regular check-ins with friends/family/co-workers who actually make you feel good when you speak with them. If speaking with a particular individual or group leaves you feeling drained, try to limit contact and set up a boundary that feels comfortable for you. For example, set a Facetime time limit with certain people. If you aren’t in the mood for a virtual hangout, feel free to send a text that says “I need some alone time today. I will call you tomorrow.” You can also help others manage their emotions by saying,“I understand you are feeling anxious. Would you mind if we didn’t talk about the coronavirus today?”
Create a routine to the best of your ability. Again, do what works for you. If scheduling your entire day helps you to feel grounded, then great! If you need to feel that you have room for flexibility, that’s fine too. Consider structuring “anchors” to your day--one thing that you do in the morning, and one thing that you do at the end of the day, every day.
Limit your news intake. Try and ask yourself “Is this helpful for me to know right now?” If the answer is yes, decide which news sources you trust and stick with them (e.g. the CDC, medical professionals, updates from your governor). If the answer is no, get in the habit of stepping away from the TV, online news, and Twitter for the time being.
Practice SELF COMPASSION. Be gentle with yourself during this time. Know you are doing the best you can, given the unprecedented nature of these circumstances. Talk to yourself as you would a good friend--with compassion, flexibility and care.
Seek professional help if needed. If you feel that speaking with a therapist would be helpful, there are many resources available to you.
Grand Central Psychology is offering telehealth at this time for children, adolescents, and adults. Please feel free to contact us at email@example.com or 212-696-1355 for a free consultation.