There’s no doubt that the recent coronavirus pandemic has our entire world in a state of panic and fear that many of us have not experienced in our lifetimes. It’s hard to maintain any sense of normalcy when our lives are completely turned upside down by working from home, homeschooling our kids, empty grocery stores, canceled travel and social plans, and closed businesses. The situation seems to change day by day, and the uncertainty of it all heightens our anxiety. Could it continue to get worse? How can I keep myself and my loved ones safe? And perhaps most importantly, when will this end?
Many of us are doing what we can to help our neighbors in this time of crisis. Because I focus on mental health, self-care, and spiritual soul care, I want to extend some help to you by providing some suggestions on ways to stay calm in the midst of chaos.
However, I want to add that we are all in unprecedented times. We are all trying to figure this out together. None of us can predict the future, and none of us have the magic answer to make this situation better. I am learning to adapt, survive, and try to manage my anxiety along with everyone else right now. From what I know about mental health, here are some suggestions for getting through this pandemic with our sanity intact:
This has been, and will continue to be difficult. The uncertainty has all of us panicked, in one way or another. Lean into the discomfort. “Embrace the suck”. Commit to validating your feelings, whatever they might be. Accept that we are all beginners at this, and with beginnings comes a lot of vulnerability and insecurity. Commit to riding the wave of your emotions while staying grounded in the present.
Maintaining a consistent routine is one way to preserve a sense of normalcy in times of chaos and upheaval. Continue to eat at your normal times. Sleep at your normal times. Get some work done, take walks outside, and talk to your family. Cook the comfort foods your family enjoys, even if you have to make adjustments to what groceries are available. This is especially important for children, who thrive on routines to give them a sense of security and predictability. Give yourself a sense of control by maintaining consistent routines.
Connect to your community in this time of disconnection. Through online platforms and Smartphones, we have more ways to stay connected than we ever have in history. Check on your people, and ask for help and support when you need it. We are all in this together, so let’s not forget about the collective power of community to overcome tragedy.
Giving back is one way to improve mental health. Contributing to others will help you focus on something besides yourself and your own anxiety, and help you feel productive. Look at the needs of your community, assess your strengths and abilities, and see how you can contribute to meet those needs. It may be as simple as picking up groceries or medication for a neighbor, or calling a friend to offer support. For me, writing this blog and sharing my therapy services through video therapy is a way to feel like I’m making some kind of contribution. Figure out what you can do, and do it.
Care for yourself too. Whatever self-care and soul care activities work for you on a normal day, adapt them to this situation. If it’s going to the gym, work out at home with one of the many free on demand workouts now available. If it’s reading, check our e-books from your local library. Don’t forget to keep up your spiritual practices, like prayer, worship, virtual church services, or meditation. Perhaps loosen some of your rules for yourself (such as limits on TV or eating sweets) and indulge in moderation, if it is helpful. And remember, caring for yourself can sometimes mean getting off social media or turning off the news, and just tuning into your feelings.
I hope some of these suggestions are helpful for you. What else can I do to contribute to you during this time? What are your needs that I can help with? Check back later this week for a video mindfulness meditation to help with stress and anxious thoughts. I’ve also listed some resources below that I have found helpful, and I will continue to share resources and links on my Facebook and Instagram pages. And if you live in Tennessee and need a therapist, please check out my Video Therapy page for how to get started with me.
- Brene Brown’s podcast, Unlocking Us, “Brene on FFTs”
- Emily P. Freeman’s podcast, The Next Right Thing, Episode 120: What to do When the World Shuts Down