Coping strategies during challenging times.
Updated: Sep 9, 2020
Currently we are being flooded with news and advise of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important to not only consider your physical health during these testing times. It’s equally vital to pay attention to your mental health.
Photo by: Amelie and Niklas Ohlrogge via Unsplash.
We have witnessed an enormous increase of anxiety globally these last few weeks. It’s normal to feel fear, worry and stress when faced with an uncertain future.
Below follow some suggestions on how you could cope better while going through tough times.
Differentiate anxiety from fear
Anxiety manifests itself in the body in the same manner as fear does. When your physical response to a potential threat is to escape, fight or freeze, it’s easy to believe you are in danger. This in turn gives anxiety more credibility than it deserves. The brain might provide you with catastrophic scenarios, making it even more difficult to make calm, rational decisions for your own wellbeing.
Take a breath or two to ground yourself, establish if the threat is genuine, or is it something your brain is making up or perhaps exaggerating?
Define what is within your control, and what isn’t. Take action through the things you can control.
Manage overwhelming feelings of uncertainty
Notice and deal with emotions on a regular basis. Unfortunately, bottling up the feelings won’t make them go away. Make room for the emotions and ride out the wave of intensity. You might find positive self-talk such as reassuring yourself that “this feeling will pass” to be beneficial.
Focus on your physical wellbeing
This will bring balance to your mind. Your gym might be closed due to the current circumstances, but it’s an excellent opportunity to start outdoor exercise, such as running, hiking, kayaking, outdoor yoga, etc. Alternatively, try out one of the many free exercise classes advertised online. Ask your instructor if they could offer classes via the online meeting platform zoom. Make sure you eat healthily nourishing foods and get enough sleep.
Give yourself a news break
If you visit any news channel around the world, its likely to be dominated by the pandemic. Make sure you have access to reliable sources of information. There is a lot of false information and scaremongering on social media. If you feel the information overload is getting the better of you, start limiting your exposure to a short period of the day. Temporarily moving the apps off your home screen can disrupt the checking habit. Focus on anything else that brings you energy and joy.
Care for others
Most of us are changing the way we live out our daily lives to protect other people from harm. Could you reframe how you view things? See it as an opportunity to give back to others? For example through providing your assistance to community services, reach out to elderly neighbours or others who might not be able to access grocery shops, need help with dog walks, offer free online services, etc.
Connect with loved ones
Get in touch with friends and family through alternative ways; such as Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp, Zoom, Google hangouts or phone and discuss other topics if possible. Alternatively, when was the last time you wrote a good old-fashioned letter or card. It might brighten someone else’s day up.
Create stability through routines
Establish some daily routines, e.g. offline play with the children, bake, make lunch, do the dishes, have a break, bedtime routines, etc. To keep a sense of normality, try to keep holding on to traditions such as Sunday lunch, Sat morning run, etc.
If you feel overwhelmed and struggle to get through the day, set up a telemedicine appointment with a healthcare provider, counsellor or psychologist or call a 24-hour helpline such as the Samaritans.
Through drawing upon a combination of the above suggestions, you could gain a sense of control over your daily life. It might enable you to feel more secure, stable and better able to cope with the uncertainties you’re currently facing.
Ten Percent Happier, Sharon Salzberg, “Keeping Anxiety in Perspective”.https://www.tenpercent.com/meditationweeklyblog/keeping-anxiety-in-perspective
The Samaritans, https://samaritans.org.hk/
The Kitsap Public Health Dristrict https://kitsappublichealth.org
World Health Organisation (WHO)