Social distancing is becoming the norm as weeks spill into months, depending where you are. We are all making adaptations to our lives. Social norms have been turned upside down as we wait inside.
School, exercise classes and meetings online are what many people simply do now while a big chunk of our country also worries about income and where the next meal is coming from. Concerns about personal health or the health of a loved one are on the minds of us all.
As we roll forward in self-quarantine to decrease the spread of COVID-19, we also need to pay attention to our mental, emotional and relationship health. A recent poll said coronavirus is harming the mental health of tens of millions of people in the US, as people struggle with angst, worry, depression, fear and sometimes anger.
Healthy coping tools for managing uncomfortable feelings are needed now more than ever. It’s important to know, however, people cope in different ways. Pick the ways that work for you.
14 Ways to Keep Upbeat While Apart
1- Implement some structure. Even in normal times, many benefit from having a schedule of some kind to help them feel anchored and productive. A schedule can help create a framework and flow as you move through each segment of your day. It can also alleviate the sense that time is blurring together. Take the weekends off from the schedule to more mimic usual life and provide reward.
2- The bottom of your in-home to do list. For those of you who rely on lists for a sense of accomplishment, consider tackling the projects on the bottom of the list. Now can be an opportunity for that.
3- Walk, fresh air, repeat. Not only is exercise important for physical health but getting outside for a walk can provide a psychological boost. Whether you live in beautiful surroundings or a city environment, head out and move to improve your mood and sleep quality. Obviously do so while respecting social distancing.
4- Expand your creative horizons. Some people have creative aspirations that don’t get fulfilled because they “don’t have enough time.” Pull out your art supplies and let it flow. If you don’t have any, check online for some to be delivered to you. A “study showed that making art reduces stress even if you kind of suck at it.” (That’s a win for me.)
5- Who needs help? Do you have an elderly neighbor who needs a check in? Can you offer to buy them groceries or pick up medications for them? Is there a local support effort for laid off workers at your favorite restaurant? Studies have shown that helping others gives us a sense of purpose, satisfaction and makes us happier. It’s can also provide a sense of connection to others.
6- That movie or book list. Make a list of the movies and/or books you’re interested in and have missed. Curl up and enjoy.
7- Just breathe. Research supports the benefit of mindfulness meditation to help re-wire the neural circuitry of your brain to combat worry and stress. Meditation can provide clarity and help keep your nervous system from getting hijacked. Even a few minutes a day can be grounding and calm the amygdala, the alarm center in your brain. Dr. Elisha Goldstein, PhD is now offering free access to The Mindful Living Collective, a packed resource with articles, meditations, groups and events.
8- Use your technology. Stay in touch via text, phone call or virtual meet up with friends and family. Create group threads where you share ideas of things to do, blow off steam or send funny memes. (Humor can keep you upbeat too.)
9 – Free online learning opportunities. A lot of free offerings are popping up online. For example, you can take a museum tour through Google Arts and Culture. I found a comprehensive list from Common Sense Media of options for young children to teens. If you browse, you will find. And some of these activities are group experiences, another good way to get connected with others.
10 – Write it out. If your emotions are all over the place now, journaling can help you process feelings and find clarity. Pick a time in the day to note your experience.
11- Talk it out. Feelings can also be processed by speaking about them. It’s ok not to be ok. Whether a partner, friend or family member, allow yourself to unburden your feelings. Be there for others too. If this doesn’t seem to be enough to provide relief, consider talk therapy. Many therapists (including myself) offer tele-health now.
12- Dream about the future. What are you looking forward to doing with your family, your partner, your kids, on your own when we get through this? What trip or other cancelled activity will you be rescheduling and what would it be like to finally do it? Allow yourself to savor the feelings that come up when you imagine this experience.
13- Look for the silver linings. For some, finding positive things may be a challenge, especially for those in survival mode. But if you are able to find a silver lining in your home or otherwise, try to. Is it more quality family time? Finally accomplishing a home project?
14- Do nothing. It’s also perfectly fine to do absolutely nothing. Do not feel like you are “supposed” to be creating an art masterpiece, cooking a fancy five course meal or organizing your closet. Others may those those things help manage anxiety but maybe for you, sitting on the couch with a full bag of chips and binge watching your favorite show is where it’s at. Then do it! Remember, there is no right or wrong way.
Friends, the truth is, this is hard. And the reality is sometimes you will feel stressed, worried or sad. These are expected responses to these unusual times. Practice self-compassion in those moments.