Emotionally Coping with COVID-19

We of course are in unprecedented times as global society copes with the impacts of this pandemic. The CDC has released its directives supplemented by the President’s 15 Days to Slow the Spread guidelines. We all pray that these tactics, and those likely to come soon, will slow the infection rate, allowing us to return to our former “normal” as quickly as possible.

In the meantime, your mental health during this challenging time is as important as your physical health – they are inexorably tied together. As a society, we never have attempted to do what we now must do… to physically distance ourselves from that which we cherish most in life… people, our greatest source of positive psychological wellbeing. Remember, social “distancing” does not mean socially “disengaging”.

In that light, I encourage everyone to try to maintain as much normalcy in one’s daily routines as possible, and of course to rigidly comply with federal, state and local directives. In fact, consider the new guidelines to be “rules”.  We seemingly are in this for the long-haul and we need to put into place plans to maintain this new pattern of life for a possibly prolonged period. Be flexible, uplift and support others, and stay positive.

Our regular routines have been disrupted, including our access to meaningful activities, sensory stimuli and social engagement, we may be experiencing financial strain from being unable to work, and we may be unable to use our usual stress coping strategies such as going to the gym or attending religious services. The American Psychological Association notes that during a period of social distancing, quarantine or isolation, one may experience:

  • Fear and anxiety
  • Depression and boredom
  • Anger, frustration or irritability
  • Stigmatization

Psychological research offers insights into how best to cope with these difficult conditions. Consider implementing the following strategies:

  • Limit news consumption to reliable sources and remember that too much exposure to media coverage of the virus can lead to increased feelings of fear and anxiety
  • Create and follow a daily routine to preserve a sense of order and purpose
  • Stay virtually connected with others through phone calls, text messages, video chat and social media to access social support networks
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle by getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising
  • Apply stress management strategies to stay positive by realistically assessing your actual concern and your ability to cope, and try not to catastrophize but instead focus on what you can do and accept the things you can’t change

Anyone who’s ever been on a ship in stormy seas knows that the best way to avoid illness is by gazing at the horizon. Focus on where we’re going, not the waves now crashing in front of us. We all will get through this together, and we’ll all arrive safely at our ports!