Coping with COVID-19
This pandemic has brought about uncertain times. Unfamiliar circumstances can be stressful when we are accustomed to a predictable life. However, we are all facing this unchartered territory together. Every day that we continue to face the daily challenges of providing for ourselves and our families while also staying safe is a demonstration of our ability to adapt.
We must recognize that this process of coping and adapting to these conditions places extraordinary demands on our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual states of being. Because of this, we must attend to our well being and adopt best practices for optimum self-care.
It is understandable how these uncertain times can trigger anxiety and fear. But when our ongoing fearful and anxious thoughts persist it put unnecessary strain on our nervous system’s survival mode. Our nervous system triggers our adrenal glands to secrete stress hormones of Cortisol, Epinephrine, and Norepinephrine. This optimizes our ability to fight, run, or hid. But in our circumstances, there is nowhere to run. It is like putting the foot on the gas in our car at the same time we put our foot on the brake. If these stress hormones are released continuously it will wear down our body’s resources and weaken our immune system. It is essential that our immune system is healthy as it is vital to ward off viral infections such as COVID-19. Therefore, it is in our best interest to calm down, relax, and follow best practices for remaining safe.
Minimize the number of times you go out to shop for food. If you must leave your home practice social distancing, washing your hands, wearing a mask, and gloves. Disinfect any items you bring into the home. Be educated about cross contaminations (YouTube) so that you do not bring any contaminants into your home.
You may want to be vigilant and stay informed about what is going on with the pandemic but be mindful of how much time you spend gathering information from TV, radio, and the internet. Beyond awareness, this kind of stimulation can cause stress with a cumulative effect on you and those around you.
Fear and anxiety can show up in the form of worrying or repeated thoughts of worst-case scenarios. Be aware of body tension, irritability, agitation, feeling on edge, short-tempered, tearfulness, angry outbursts as they are all signs of stress building to unmanageable levels.
It is understandable that you may show these signs of stress. If they appear take a few deep breaths. Take some time alone so that you can breathe and relax. Increase your attention to what thoughts you may be entertaining in your mind. If they are negative fearful thoughts do what you can to redirect to positive ones. Take your mind off of the future-oriented “What ifs” and focus on the present moment. Focus on people and things that you are grateful for and thoughts that bring you joy. Focus on what is within your control and let go of those that are beyond your control.
It is important to eat nutritional foods, drink lots of liquids, add extra doses of vitamin C and D, exercise, and get plenty of sleep. Avoid alcohol and drugs as they tend to weaken our immune system. You may want to limit caffeine and nicotine as they are stimulants that can contribute to anxiety and interfere with sleep.
Be creative in establishing a new version of routine activities that restore a sense of control and predictability.
Reach out to others by phone or the internet and share thoughts and feelings. This can be beneficial for all to express what you may be holding onto inside. While of course conditions related to the pandemic will come up, the value of the connection will be enhanced greatly if you can shift your attention to positive things in your lives as well.
Counteract stressors by spending time in meditation, prayer, reading a book, yoga, artwork, listening or playing music, working in the garden, starting a project, an online course, playing games, watching comedy movies, laughter, and breath.
For those of you who are now working at home, be sure to give yourself some latitude on your level of productivity. Do not expect to be operating at 100%. You often have routines when you go to work. These routines, condition you to be ready to go when you arrive in that predictable setting. Staying at home comes with many potential distractions, especially when there are children, partners, or pets around. Create clearly defined boundaries by establishing the best times and space to conduct your work. Be understanding to those loved ones who want your attention now that you are home. Calmly explain the new guidelines that you are expecting. Also, be prepared for some interruptions never the less. Your coworkers sometimes interrupt you at work so show your loved ones similar patience.
For those of you who are in recovery, be aware of urges to use. Remain diligent with your relapse prevention practices. For the rest of you, be aware of your tendencies to cope with habitual behaviors so they don’t intensify beyond your control.
There is also the probability that you or someone you know will lose a loved one due to the virus. Grieving the loss of loved one comes with its own additional set of challenges, especially when social distancing is essential. It then becomes a matter of facing that added challenge with the same courage, compassion, and resiliency at deeper levels, like so many others.
The old adage “If it doesn’t kill you it will make you stronger” comes to mind at this time. I have learned that when I lost my mother and father, as much grief as it caused, I also found the inner strength that came afterward. With their passing, I grew to recognize the wisdom I gained: That life is short, to live it to the fullest, that I must be grateful for those who remain and love them with all of my heart so I have no regrets when we too must part. I also discovered that by facing tough challenges and continuing to move forward, I become more resilient and defined.