Times are rough, let me help you navigate through them
Our lives have changed, seemingly overnight. People are isolated to their homes. Social contact is dangerous. It’s damn near impossible to find toilet paper. Everything is different!
Change is hard, even under the best of circumstances. Trying to adjust to this heap of changes while also grappling with the reality of living through a global pandemic is burning the candle at both ends, except the candle is a steaming pile of poop that also happens to be flammable.
Many of us have felt resistant to the idea of calling this our “new normal”, because there is nothing “normal” about it. The uncertainty of the situation underscores all of this – none of us know how or when this will end, and each day’s new research accomplishments seem to add more confusion to this situation.
Coping through all this is undoubtedly difficult, which is why I have put together this Lockdown Survival Guide to help explain how to cope throughout this time.
Coping Through Chaos
Today I will live in the moment… Unless its unpleasant, in which case I will go back to bed
Keep it light
Though it may be tempting, try to fight the urge to constantly read the news. Getting stuck in the bad news cycle may feel like a way to get control over an uncontrollable situation (“if I know everything there is to know about this then I can protect myself”) but actually does little to put the control in our hands. Instead, it just creates a cloud of negativity. Remember as well that the news we see is typically geared to us by algorithms, and already does not represent a full picture of things at all. Try to limit the times that you read the news to once or twice a day, and avoid reading the news right before bed.
Find reasons to laugh. It can feel like there’s few reasons right now, but we can’t just put our need for laughter on hold until this pandemic passes. Call a friend and laugh about old times together or about the absurdity of our current situation. Watch a funny show or movie. Play Cards Against Humanity (you can play online now!). Whatever it is, it is important to laugh. Laughter helps to calm us and helps us to remember that there is a bigger picture than what our focus currently demands.
Equally important is to set some time aside each day to engage in self-care. Self-care will look different for each person, and should be an activity that helps recharge your batteries, relax, or take your mind off things. Self-care can be a nice hot bath, sitting down to read that book you’ve been wanting to get into, watching a couple episodes of your favourite show, journaling, taking a walk, spending time with pets, etc. The important part is that it is something that helps you revitalize yourself, and that you allow yourself to engage in it guilt-free (otherwise the therapeutic effect is lost)!
Staying in Control
If I get any more out of control, the next hurricane is going to be named after me.
A global pandemic has a silly little way of making us feel out of control. It came in without invitation, and has greatly worn out its welcome. And as in the case of an unexpected houseguest, caught unprepared we are apt to feel frantic and distressed. COVID-19 is a virus that works as expected – passing individual to individual, it infects bodies and wreaks havoc. But COVID has also infected our communities, our culture, our economy, and our politics. The havoc is uncontained and has created a secondary crisis by working to destroy our mental health.
In a situation like this, we have to acknowledge that there is a great deal that we do not have control over. This is certainly a distressing thought, but it can be helpful to acknowledge our powerlessness. There are many things in life that we can’t control, and accepting that fact allows us to shift gears and think about the things we do have control over.
To stay in control, therefore, we have to put our attention to the aspects of control we do actually have. We don’t have control over the COVID-19 situation but we do have control over the way we respond to it. Think about how you want to use your free time, focus on projects you want to tackle at home, spend time with loved ones, and most importantly, remind yourself that this crisis is temporary, even though the exact timeframe is currently unclear.
Hang on, let me overthink this
Our emotions exist for a reason; they send us important messages and point us in important directions. For example, anger exists to alert us that we are being harmed or treated unfairly. Similarly, anxiety has certain functions as well. It alerts us that something is not right, encourages us to be cautious, and tells us that a situation is dangerous or unfamiliar. Certainly, when dealing with the coronavirus situation, the unfamiliarity has played a big role. The majority of us have no experience with pandemics or outbreaks so we have no frame of reference telling us how much to freak out or how to look after ourselves. This unfamiliarity coupled with the uncertainty of the situation has created a breaking point for many people who are now experiencing high levels of worry or anxiety.
One way we can work with this is to try to stay connected to the utility of the anxiety – in other words, what is this anxiety trying to tell me and what can I do about it? For example, let’s say it’s time for me to head out to make my bi-weekly grocery run. I might start to experience anxiety when thinking about all the things that could go wrong. I might worry excessively about the idea that I could come into contact with COVID. Listening to the utility of this worry means that I should be trying to focus on the message underneath my worry: the outside world is scary right now and I don’t know what my grocery trip will be like or who/what I might come into contact with. To use this message to my advantage, I would want to think about what I can do about this, what aspects of control I have that I can use to help myself. In this situation, I can use this message as my warning system: my anxiety is telling me that something could go wrong, so in response I want to control for as much of those factors as I can. I can do this by making out my list beforehand, in an effort to make sure that once I get in the store I spend as little time as possible there because I already have a plan of action. I can also make sure I take reasonable precautions by wearing a face mask, being careful not to touch my face, and making efforts to maintain a safe distance from staff and other shoppers. In this way, we can make our anxiety work for us instead of against us.
Remember that it is normal to feel anxious, stressed, angry, frustrated, and sad during times like these. Use your support system to reach out and talk to others about how you feel. If you don’t have access to a reliable support system remember there are still options available. Book an appointment today using the online appointment request tool. I am offering flexible services through video and phone sessions and will work with those with financial barriers to sort out a way for you to still be able to access some support. Use self-help tools like this blog to stay connected to resources. Reach out to a skilled crisis worker through a crisis helpline such as 310-COPE at 1-855-310–COPE (2673). Check out online communities such as https://psychcentralforums.com/ And most importantly, remember that asking for help signifies strength and insight! We all need a helping hand from time to time.
I will be turning this into a series where I will explore topics like loneliness and anxiety in more depth. For any additional questions or to suggest topics/content for this blog, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org