The STRESS being created by this unprecedented global crisis is intense. Worldwide, people are worried that they or others may get sick and die from covid-19. They are worried about their livelihoods and worried about access to necessities. Here are some coping strategies that I hope will help you:
- Limit your consumption of coronavirus related media. Pick a couple of times per day to read or watch updates. There is a strong association between exposure to media coverage of a crisis and symptoms of acute stress (https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1316265110).
- Educate others and express your feelings but recognize the limits of your control. One factor affecting people’s coronavirus stress seems to be the degree to which they agree with their loved ones’ behavior. Some people’s elderly parents refuse to let someone else do their grocery shopping. Others have friends who partied at bars on St. Patrick’s Day. Many know people who still believe covid-19 is no more contagious or deadly than the flu. Give these people the facts, tell them their behavior upsets you, and then LET IT GO.
- Catch up on sleep. Unless you are a healthcare worker (endless gratitude for these heroic folks), you have nowhere to be but home. Use the extra time you would have spent commuting to rest.
- Get outside. Ride bikes, hike, do yard work, play sports with those in your household, or just step outdoors to get some fresh air and your daily dose of vitamin D from the sun.
- Reach out to family and friends through phone and video chat. Try to stay socially connected while physically distant.
- Pick a quarantine goal to keep yourself busy and active in the house. Have you been intending to start practicing meditation or yoga? Do you have closets to clean out or new recipes you’ve been wanting to try? Now is a great time. If you are home with young children, ignore this one- you’ve got your hands full!
- Use this time of forced slowing down to evaluate the pace of your regular life. Are you overscheduled and underslept? Do you prioritize your productivity above all else? For many folks stuck at home, this can be a time to experience working a little less, playing a little more, and not always being on-the-go. Enjoy it!
- Reflect. This is a time of difficult feelings. Many of us feel fear, dread, and a lack of control over this novel threat. There is so much uncertainty. We are angry with those who are in denial. We are saddened by the suffering. We are disappointed about everything that has been canceled. What can we learn from these feelings? For one, recognize that some people feel these things much of the time, separate from coronavirus. People struggle with anxiety and a lack of control in their lives. People have been hurt and traumatized and live with fear. People feel isolated and deeply sad. Some people with chronic illnesses or disabilities have had to get accustomed to this slower pace of productivity and have asked for many of the accommodations that are now being widely offered. Let this be a time of increased empathy and support for one another. We are all in this together.