Coping During the Pandemic
Updated: Mar 18, 2020
With schools, recreation centres, and businesses closing their doors there has been a great deal of fear circulating in regard to COVID-19. Our government and communities are working together in the most amazing way to control the spread of this new virus and protect the vulnerable among us. With all of these changes, it is a time to hunker down and embrace our coping skills while the medical community works its magic.
The following post is intended to give some ideas for how to manage all of the emotions and stress that inevitably comes during times of such significant change. Though not all these suggestions may be helpful to you individually, I hope there is a useful takeaway for everyone.
Take measures to keep yourself safe
This tip is about embracing what is within your control. As of today (March 17, 2020) Health Canada recommends taking the following precautions to reduce the risk of infection:
Avoid all non-essential travel
Avoid crowded spaces
Wash your hands frequently
Avoid touching your face
Cover your mouth with a tissue or the inside of your elbow when coughing or sneezing
Consider social distancing
If you are experiencing any symptoms that concern you, there is a handy online self-assessment to help you determine whether you should be tested for the virus.
Limit social media
Social media can certainly be a source of information sharing, community, and humour, but it can also contribute to increased fear. I would suggest limiting your interaction with social media if you are finding it is impacting you more negatively than positively. Information is good. Panic is not.
Feel the feels
While we don’t want to fall completely into a fear spiral, it isn’t especially effective to ignore our emotions (and they tend to find ways of showing up anyways). I would invite you to notice emotions as they come up and sit with them, if even just for a short while. Emotions tend to come in waves, and often subside when given the opportunity to be felt. It is okay to feel worried, sad, frustrated, and even afraid during challenging times!
Harness the power of your attention
Distraction is absolutely a coping skill and will likely be a useful one during periods of social distancing or working from home. Consider immersing yourself in enjoyable and mindful activities that keep you present in the here and now, pulling your attention away from worries about the future that are beyond your control. You may even consider this an opportunity to learn about something new, tackle a project, or dive into interests that you may typically be too busy to pursue. Personally, my home has never been cleaner.
With your mind, heart and body processing what is going on in our world, this is an important time to attend to your needs. When I say self care, I don't necessarily mean to take more bubble baths (but that wouldn't be a bad idea). Self care is also putting yourself to bed at a reasonable hour, eating regularly (and trying to get some veggies in), and getting some movement every day. It might also be petting your cat or dog, getting creative, journalling, or meditating. Try taking some time every day to pause and ask yourself "what am I needing right now?" This might help give you a leg up when you need it.
Try out some of these handy coping skills
These skills apply to individuals of all ages. Feel free to pick and choose what might work for you.
Putting ice on your face. This helps regulate the sympathetic nervous system, which is activated when we feel anxious, threatened, or afraid. You can use a cold cloth, ice packs, or even a bag of ice cubes. (I would suggest wrapping ice packs or ice cubes in a cloth to protect your skin). Simply apply anywhere from the neck up and give your body some time to respond to the cold sensation.
Communicate. We are all going through this together, and the sense of community can feel very powerful and supportive. Reach out to those close to you and talk about how you are feeling. It might also help to share some laughs. Humor, in my opinion, is an underrated coping skill.
Be a burrito. When feeling overwhelmed, some people (especially children) find the sensation of wrapping up in blankets to feel very soothing. For extra fun, warm the blanket up for a couple of minutes in the dryer before burrito-ing.
Tele-therapy as an option. If you are already seeing a therapist or would like to access this type of support, you may consider the option of tele-therapy. Many therapists are offering services over the phone or using video applications to work with social distancing. You may also be able to see your therapist in person if you would feel comfortable doing so. That is the idea- do what makes you most comfortable.
While dealing with COVID-19 comes with its share of adjustments and difficulties, it is also a time to come together to protect the collective whole. It is amazing what we can accomplish when we band together. Take this time to lean into your values (such as love, kindness, family, community) and recognize your strength and resilience. It is a strange and worrisome time, but we’re in this together.