In light of the global spread of the coronavirus, there are a lot of changes that we’ve been required to make in the past several weeks. Understandably, this has left many of us on-edge, anxious, worried, and overwhelmed. I hope that these ideas will provide some encouragement and support as this crisis unfolds.
- Know that you’re not alone.
As a worldwide community, we are going through the unfolding of this experience together. Fear and uncertainty are natural responses to something that we don’t understand and that has the potential to threaten the safety of ourselves or those we love. Stay connected to friends and loved ones through facetime or other video platforms. Reach out. Offer support. Checking in with others is a way to stay active and solution focused. We are not alone.
- Reduce media consumption.
In conversations with clients and friends this week, I’ve found that people’s stress levels are correlated to the amount of information they are taking in each day. There are those who limit their news consumption to a few minutes per day and others who are consuming a steady stream of news reports daily. Not surprisingly, the ones who are checking news updates throughout the day and reading sensationalized social media posts, are the ones reporting the highest rates of stress and overwhelm.You don’t need to avoid the news entirely, however limit your intake to a few credible sources like NPR, Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization, and give yourself breaks from the media throughout the day. My recommendation is to check the news in the morning and again at the end of the day for a few minutes each. Take a break from checking updates throughout the day.
- Stick to a routine.
Even if work and school schedules have been disrupted or temporarily postponed, you can create structure and routine at home with regard to sleep schedules, mealtimes, activities, and breaks. If you enjoy downtime on the weekends to catch up on favorite books or shows, make time to continue with those and other enjoyable activities.
- Be of service.
Helping others provides a sense of purpose, especially during a time when you might be feeling a loss of control. Reach out to neighbors, colleagues, family members and friends to check in. Offer to help those most vulnerable with food drop-offs, or other acts of service.
- Focus on what is in your control.
Keep your daily routine and practice recommended hygiene and other safety precautions (such as avoiding unnecessary travel and crowds, washing hands often for 20 seconds or more, keeping your hands away from your face). Ask yourself, “What is the next indicated step for me to take right now?” That step might be drinking a glass of water or returning a phone call. Keep it simple and take it moment by moment. When you feel out of control, come back to “What is in my control right now?”
- Stay mindful.
When your mind goes to “what if?” bring it back to “what is.” What is happening right now, at this very moment? Are you sitting on your sofa? Are you texting with a friend? Are you brushing your teeth? Keep it that simple. Bring yourself back into the present moment again and again, reminding yourself that in this moment, you are safe.
In addition to managing our own anxiety through these uncertain times, we need to find ways to reassure our children as well. For guidance around talking to kids about COVID-19, check out my post How to Talk to Your Kids About the Coronavirus. Managing our own fears is the first step to supporting our children with their emotional experience.