9 Tools for Mental and Emotional Wellness in the Midst of Covid-19

What’s happening? I feel anxious. What do you mean I have to work from home indefinitely? Indefinitely sounds scary, I do not have room in my apartment to set up a workstation…I have a roommate who also has to work from home…now I am feeling more anxious. Remote work, remote therapy, remote dates? I can’t see my parents because they are over 60 and I might give it to them…I am on self imposed house arrest…I mean quarantine. Oh my God…could I have it, am I sick?!? The anxiety is taking over. There’s no more toilet paper? How? What? When? Why?…I can’t breathe, I think I’m having a panic attack!!!

Stop…Sit up straight, place your hands on your lap, take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. Continue…

Many of my clients are rattled, their world is changing. It feels abrupt and unfair. Many have shared that it feels like a movie, and one client, SB shared, “and we all know how that movie ends…”

What each of us is worried about during this very real and present day pandemic is different when we look at the content. I have the pleasure of working with clients from various socioeconomic groups throughout New York City and Westchester County, from television personalities to Broadway actors to teachers to artists to entrepreneurs to stay at home mom’s to Graduate students. Single and married. Everyone’s content is important to them. You have a right to be concerned about what matters to you. We can get lost in the content, we may question ourselves and our humanity when we think about the things that we and others are concerned about, yet none of us are in a position to judge what someone else deems important and is afraid of losing. If we focus on the content, it’s what makes us believe we are different. If we focus on the process and commonality around fear, we are all pretty much the same.

One thing we ALL have in common is that we fear the unknown, the fear of uncertainty. Our brains are not fans of uncertainty and will actively try to find the answer. Our society has become accustomed to having, knowing, forecasting, and predicting. Some argue that it is not fear of the unknown, but rather fear of losing the known that scares us.

What happens when we Google the answer only to receive conflicting information? What happens when the grocery store runs out of your newborns formula or you lose over $100k in the stock market? What happens when your children are home from school and you do not have childcare? What about hearing ourselves or our loved ones cough and wondering if we are actually getting sick? What happens? We get uncomfortable. We get scared. We get overwhelmed. We get mad. We cry. We have feelings and right now, we get to give ourselves permission to feel those feelings.

We feel various emotions from one moment to the next because we do not know what is lurking around the corner. It can actually feel like rapid cycling. We want to run and be in the act of doing, but right now we have to sit and wait until the indefinite becomes definite. We are being forced to sit in the unknown and that uncertainty is what drives anxiety. Things are changing around us and our brains are left to create stories and those stories are usually the worst case scenario, which then makes our feelings of anxiety that much worse. Anxiety weakens our immune system and finding healthy ways to cope can lead to better health.

We have to be intentional around validating yet facing our fears to ensure that although some of the fears may be warranted, they do not negatively impact us to the point where it becomes debilitating and is making us physically ill.

We are all one and no one is spared during a pandemic. There are many things out of our control right now, it is important to remember that there are some things that we can control.

YOU HAVE THE POWER OF YOUR MINDSET!

Change is not easy and right now things are different and they are changing. How you respond to these changes can make all the difference. All you can do, is ALL you can do, so identifying what you can “control” may help.

How’s your breathing going? Remember…Sit up straight, hands on your lap, take a deep breath in through your nose, slowly exhale through your mouth. Continue…

9 TOOLS TO SUPPORT MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL WELLNESS

  1. Make your space comfortable, try to surround yourself with things that make you feel safe and bring you joy. Engage in an at home activity that supports your mental health. Some examples would be, reading, writing (you can journal about this experience), catch up on some television shows, paint, cook, play board games with the kids, listen to music, clean your space. You can have deeper level conversations with loved ones. Being home provides an opportunity to stay put and catch up.
  2. If you live alone, consider having virtual dates. You can meet your friends, family, or significant other through a video platform and have a virtual meal date together. Technology can connect you with others throughout the day. If you are worried about someone you love, reach out to them and let them know how much you care. Being confined to your home can make you feel stir crazy and lonely, be sure to find time to connect with others, even if you are doing so remotely.
  3. Create and embrace a new routine (Working from home) Things will be different and you can make the choice to either feel defeated or use the opportunity as a chance to create something that works for you! Be intentional when you create your new/adjusted routine. Try with making your bed every morning, there is a ton of research about how the act of making the bed elevates mood. Structure is important, especially if you are new to working from home. Continue to have a set time for lunch and breaks. Ensure you have a hard stop time because working from home can make work/life challenging, so boundary setting is crucial. Setting up a work station/designated work area will increase productivity and support not allowing working from home to negatively impact your sanctuary. Most people transition from home to work via their commute. Keep in mind you will no longer have commute time, yet you still need to create an opportunity to transition. The transition can be changing clothing, making tea, shutting down the computer and lighting a candle, and/or doing what you would have done during your commute. Lastly, do not work on your bed. It can negatively impact sleep.
  4. Limit social media and news intake, shut off those notifications. You can pick a time of day to prepare and give yourself permission to find out the latest news. It is understandable that you may want to stay informed but when you are on constant Covid alert, you do not give your mind an opportunity to be present in the other things you are doing. You will stay in a constant heightened state of anxiety if you stay plugged in to the news all day. Pick a time, midday usually works nicely, to read about changes/breaking news of the day. Try not to look at news close to bedtime as it may negatively impact sleep.
  5. If you are home with your loved one, snuggle up. You can use this as a time to connect. You can watch movies, share a late night snack, work on intimacy.
  6. Reflect on the lessons this experience is teaching you. While learning about and living in the midst of Covid-19 is uncomfortable and even terrifying for some, with every change there are consequences, and some of them are actually positive. Ask yourself, “how can I make the best of this situation?” “What am I learning about myself and how I handle change and stress?”
  7. Reach out to a mental health care professional if you are feeling anxious and or depressed. Many therapists now offer tele-medicine for remote therapy. Ask your current therapist if they are able to convert to tele-medicine.
  8. Stay present and on task when engaging in daily activities. If your mind wanders and you have intrusive thoughts, bring yourself back to being present and fully immerse yourself in the activity. Creating a mantra to support keeping you grounded may help. Examples: “Let go,” (breathe in through your nose with “let”, breathe out through your mouth with “go”) or “I will stay calm and be here now” or “In this moment I choose trust,” etc.
  9. Meditate and/or practice yoga. Our society has been practicing meditation, yoga, breathwork, mindfulness and the art of staying present over the past few years. Many already have the tools, it is about accessing and practicing them. There are also apps that can support decreasing anxiety/bringing down your heart rate. If you have not downloaded them yet, consider getting the Headspace or Calm app which can support you with relaxation, sleep, meditation, and breathing.

Lastly, keep in mind that this crisis is not just about the individual, it is about the collective and even if you are not in a “risk” group, you may carry the virus to others. You probably know at least one person in the high risk group, your parents, grandparents, or friend/family member with a compromised immune system. This is an opportunity for individuals in our collective to come together to support the we. We are one dealing with this pandemic and where some are behaving as if it is every person for themselves, I am hopeful that there will be many more that take precaution not just for themselves, but for the others that are more vulnerable. This is presently an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to connect.

When new information comes in, as things continue to change and you are faced with uncertainty, try not to panic…acknowledge the fear, validate it, and use the techniques above to support you with moving through it. You get to decide where you want to put your energy. Yes, that is your choice. We can engage in spiraling thoughts around what we have no control over or we can remember to take it one day at a time, one moment at a time, and in this moment sit in appreciation for what we do have, and try to access trust. Be you, be resilient, be courageous, be safe, and be kind (to yourself and others)

If nothing else, remember to breathe…

How to Stay Physically Safe/Latest News:

If you are interested in obtaining information on how to stay physically safe I have attached a link to the CDC website that discusses the Coronavirus (COVID-19):

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/index.html

We have one world and we are all in this together. Stay well…