Healthy Coping and Self Care Through Social Distancing
Joni Mitchell once said, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone!” With mandates, restrictions and confinements these famous lyrics apply as we navigate through strange and uncharted waters of the Coronavirus Pandemic.
The word “normal” finds nowhere to land as we adjust to our new routine interactions. Parents accustomed to sending family out for the day are now home with kids, and spouse disrupting their usual schedules and creating the need to become instant instructors. Those working from home face unfamiliar challenges in productivity due to the chatter of complaints of boredom rattling in the background; and those are the lucky ones! Thousands find themselves unemployed or placed on temporary leave feeling deep and palpable fear. Fear that compounds itself as it obsesses about the “what ifs.” What if I can’t pay the rent? what if I never recover financially, what if my elderly parents get this illness? What if my diabetic child contracts this disease, what if my child doesn’t graduate high school? What if? What if? WHAT IF?!!
Getting through this unprecedented and temporary phase may send us believing the worst-case scenarios, fueling fear, anxiety, anger, frustration, guilt and yes, even grief. All these emotions are understandable and valid. We are all in a state of loss. Loss of what we expected, loss of many events, vacations, concerts, graduations, ceremonies, celebrations, and many simple freedoms we before took for granted but now are postponed or permanently canceled.
Maintaining self-Care, self-compassion and mindfulness are key in keeping this phase of life peaceful, positive and productive for Yourself and your family.
The following are hints in keeping a healthy perspective during this time of uncertainty:
First, allow yourself to feel the loss and disappointment this pandemic has created. When blindsided by entities out of our control, recognize what that means for you personally. Examine your losses. Lean into the feelings that come with it. Acknowledge the truth of what these new restrictions and confinements mean to you individually and to your family. Be honest, don’t mask your reality with “positive thinking”. Be real about this experience and as you do, remember this is “moving through”, not “wallowing in”. Feel it to it’s full capacity, accepting the reality. Then dry your tears, swallow hard and roll up your sleeves.
Second, record your experience in a journal or diary of some kind. Whether handwritten, electronic or through a creative art form, keep an accounting of your experiences. It will help you process emotions now and will also be a treasure for you and your family in the future, perhaps for generations to come.
Third, record your blessings. While reflecting on the events of the day, record your blessings. List what you are grateful for and list small gestures around you that show love. Dwell in and appreciate thoughts of the here and now and the health and safety you are enjoying today- in the present.
Finally, (this is where we really move) ACT! Restrictions and mandates are in place so look to what you CAN control. Here are 12 ideas to fill your time and increase your sense of productivity and connection with self, family and the world.
- Keep a Schedule: Organize your time into segments of work/ play/ meals/ chores/ etc. This bring predictability to an unpredictable world.
- Perform Random Acts of Kindness: Go outside, take in your neighbors trash cans, send a message complementing a friend or sharing a memory, take treats to someone, forget yourself and look toward others and find small tasks to perform within your home or outside the family but within safe restrictions.
- Laugh: Find ways to laugh. Play charades with your family, or video chat charades with extended family or friends. Re-watch your favorite sit-com. Laughing is a great stress reliever.
- Exercise: Moving your large muscles releases endorphins and feel good hormones. DO IT. Walk, run, squats, crunches or stretching. Have a push up contest with your family, just move around! Replace your regular gym workout with a free online or streamed video routine.Crank up your favorite music and DANCE! You will feel differently after you’ve engaged with the rhythm of a good beat for even 60 seconds. Try it. Keep your body moving and the blood flowing daily. Walking outside is one of the best ways to de-stress. The space around you opens you up, letting in sun and atmosphere – it invigorates and calms the mind and body.
- Sit in the Sunshine: We know Utah spring weather acts spontaneously. When you see an opportunity, grab it. Sit in the sun whether inside or out. Sit by a window as the rays come through or in your car – soak it up. The warmth and light will brighten your mood and lift you.
- Projects: Get to those projects you’ve been avoiding. This is a great opportunity to clean out that closet, wash that wall, paint that door, or de-junk the garage. When normalcy returns, your task is done your schedule open and your mind relieved creating freedom in your future.
- Games/Puzzles: Interact in person through board games and Puzzles. Ask questions, give compliments to your family as you play and interact. Take the opportunity to strengthen your relationships.
- Cook: Try a new recipe you have wanted to. Or find a random recipe in the cookbook and give it a whirl. If its yucky you’ll know not to repeat it! It’s a great time to experiment and teach someone in your home. Who knows…You may find a new family favorite!
- Read: catch up on study, novels, DIY or self-help. Lose yourself and rest your thoughts from the news, data, updates, and constant social media posts and memes.
- Meditate/Breathe: You Tube has many meditation options for clearing the mind, preparing for bed, connecting your spirit, relaxing the body and clearing obsessive thoughts. Take time feel safe in the present. Get comfy and then lean in! Enjoy the warmth of your bed, blanket, or sweatshirt. Breathe in the fact that you are well right now and appreciate the moment.
- Monitor your thinking: Be mindful of the messages that swirl around in your head. Are you a “doomsayer” or a “cockeyed optimist”? Watch for extremes in your thinking. We are in a temporary state. This will pass eventually AND we need to do our part in staying safe. When negative and “worst case scenario” visions collect and obsess in your mind, evaluate your reality. At the same time be cautious and careful implementing the habits medical professionals and other officials have advised to prevent the spreading of the virus.
- Monitor Binge watching: While Netflix, Hulu, Prime etc. and live streaming are blessings, monitor your time sitting in front of a screen. Anxiety is released through deliberate acts, movement and productivity. Too much numbing in front of a screen may actually increase your feelings of chaos long term.
Create a Bonus Plan— reward yourself and family
Have a plan for when restrictions are lifted. Attaching a reward to each task generates hope and draws attention to a future when our world readjusts to normalcy. Talk with your partner and family as you schedule your time and then reward yourself for your productivity in the future.
Clean out the Garage= a day at the lake
Painting the front door= ice cream for dinner
Organizing kids closets= an afternoon at the splash pad or playground
Perspective is your friend through this experience. The winter always thaws. Reflect on a time in your life when you met with disappointment, heartache, adjustments, or setbacks. Remind yourself that it did end. Your experience came and went. What do you remember about it? Did it seem like an eternity in the interim? How long does it feel now? Place this experience in its own historical context of your life.