The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic global impact. We all know of someone or personally have been impacted by this pandemic. During a time of uncertainty, chaos and daily changes, here are some coping skills to assist you or your loved ones.
- It all starts in our MIND and BELIEF system. Our brain is the hardware that controls our emotional and physical reactions. We can take the approach that we will allow our external environment to dictate our lives and take a powerless and helpless approach or take an internal sense of control that whereas we cannot control what is going on outside in our environment, we can control our reactions. Frustration, anxiety, anger, depression and other psychological symptoms arise from our expectations of how things or people should be. When our expectations are different from how things are or people behave it sets up a conflict. How we manage that conflict is important to the extent that we will suffer or adjust to the environment and people.
- RELIGION and spiritual guidance is a MAJOR coping mechanism. Whatever denomination you practice, now is the time to rely on your higher power AND increase your faith! As a Roman Catholic, we can surrender our fears, anxieties and insecurities to God knowing fully well he is waiting for us to do so. Romans 8:31 tells us that "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Philippians 4:6 states "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." If we use our MIND, BELIEF and FAITH in our higher power then we should confidently surrender the angst, anxieties and fears to him as he tells us in the bible. By increasing our FAITH and relying on him, we acknowledge that he has dealt with worse situations, plagues, events, knows the beginning and how this pandemic will end. He tells us to trust him. There are things, individuals and events outside of our control and this is the time to rely on him. If you do not practice any religion, perhaps this is the time to reflect and seek some spiritual guidance that meets your beliefs, values and needs.
- CONTROL the amount of time and effort you spend on the news, media, social media and COVID-19 updates. Instead of doing numbers one and two above, we can consume our days and thoughts on wanting to know everything that is going on around the world. Some of the information is actually misinformation which only leads to more anxiety and fears. Instead, make it a point to check daily with the Center for Disease Control for updates to keep up to date with local changes, but do not make it a point to overindulge in news reports on the pandemic. Practice managing what you can control and releasing what you cannot!
- A SUPPORT SYSTEM (family, friends) that practices number one through three above is also important. Do not isolate yourself and try to deal with this pandemic by yourself. Use your healthy support system to spend time, talk and support each other.
- SELF-CARE is paramount at all times. Self-care is doing activities to decompress, recharge your batteries and focus on the here and now instead of catastrophizing or playing out potential scenarios in your mind that create more fear and anxiety. Self care activities can be as simple as watching the sunrise, sunset or looking at the stars and admiring the beauty of nature that we fail to see in our busy lives. Other self-care activities include: exercise via walking, yoga, relaxing in a quiet room for 15 minutes each day listening to your favorite music or just focusing on your breathing. There are apps like CALM and HEADSPACE that provide guided imagery and relaxation techniques.
- Finally, DO NOT BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP. There are many factors that overwhelm an individual. Perhaps this pandemic is the event that tipped you over and exhausted your usual health coping skills. If you notice two week or greater with changes in your mood, anxiety, sleep, appetite, concentration, energy, motivation and ability to function at home or work, then seek professional health. A counselor or Psychiatric provider can evaluate and recommend strategies or medication(s) to deal with your symptoms. Acknowledge that the severity of the symptoms will not just go away. Nowadays, there are telemedicine options for you to seek help from home through your phone or computer.