Coping with COVID-19
Just about two weeks ago, most of us were barely aware of the spreading COVID-19 across Asia and Europe. It was so far away. More recently, the continually evolving news, restrictions, and uncertainty quickly became our new normal as we learned of growing numbers of individuals testing positive in the United States.
Experts say that the psychological toll of a pandemic can be substantial, even for people with no prior mental health concerns. There are things that you can do now to lessen the stress and anxiety that you may be feeling: take care of yourself physically; control what you can; establish balanced routines that include virtual social time and self-care; and reach out for help when you need it.
Take control by doing what you need to do to stay physically healthy. Make every effort to follow the recommendations of reputable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization. Information and directives are continually evolving so check in with resources often, but be mindful to take a break to focus on other topics. Remember, more is not always better. Our website, www.howardcenter.org offers a wide range of useful links.
Even though daily routines have been turned upside down, you can still work within these new parameters to set new routines for yourself and your family. Think of balance as you plan your days. Perhaps make a schedule that includes work (if working from home); scheduled breaks; projects that you never seem to get to; and don’t forget a time for fun and recreation on your own, virtually, or with those your share your space with.
You will most likely have more time for exercise, yoga, meditation, art projects, taking a leisurely bath or whatever relaxes you, so make a point of indulging. With loved ones, set a time to play a game, bake or cook together, or watch a movie. If you live alone, make the time to stay connected with friends and families on a regular basis. Use video apps like FaceTime, make calls, laugh, reminisce, and make plans for when this is over. Reach out to a therapist if you feel you need to – many therapists now have Telehealth platforms. Even a light exchange from a distance with a fellow dog walker can be grounding and offer comfort.
Feel okay doing what you need to do to be prepared. Stock up a little more than usual (just leave some for others) on food, supplies or medication, or materials for projects if that helps to alleviate some stress. For example, I just bought a can of paint to tackle a household project because staying productive helps to ease my anxiety.
Some find it helpful to focus on service and helping others. Be creative, be flexible, and be easy on yourself. As hard as it may be sometimes, focus on the day to day and not on what is to come. Be assured that you are being proactive and these efforts are valuable and worthwhile.
Finally, remember that things like social distancing, telecommuting, and school closures are about containment and slowing the spread of the virus. Be patient as these are preventative measures to keep all of us safe and protected. Feel comfort knowing that researchers are learning more each day and they will overcome this as they have with previous pandemics and outbreaks. The Dalai Lama once said, “It is under the greatest adversity that there exists the greatest potential for doing good, both for oneself and others.”
If you are experiencing heightened anxiety, Howard Center’s Access and Intake Main Number, 802-488-6000, is available M-F 8 am – 6 pm. Our staff will offer support and connect you with services. Also, our First Call for Chittenden County crisis hotline, 802-488-7777, is available 24/7/365. www.howardcenter.org. Help is here.
Karen Prosciak, Psy.D., works at Howard Center and lives in Williston.