The Ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic: Tips for Managing This Crisis
by Meaghan Grabowski and Emilie Peralo
The coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed the world and all of its inhabitants immensely. When this first began, many of us had hopes of a speedy turnaround. Now three months into lockdown, many of us still feel limited and trapped because of it. It seems to be unending, and it has been an emotionally, physically, and mentally draining experience. We have had a very short time to come to terms with drastic and unprecedented changes.
Even as our world begins to open up again, there is a completely different sense of “normal.” We will have to adjust to ways in which we keep each other safe. We will be required to continue to keep safe distances from others and cover our faces, and there are constantly evolving rules for getting tested for the virus. With so much uncertainty, what can you do to help yourself manage through these new phases of this long-term crisis?
1. Adjust your perspective
You may have struggled to make the adjustment to a new perspective of normal, but it is critical to make this shift. At the start of this lockdown, you probably hoped that life would return to normal soon. However, we now need to recognize that life will be returning to something else entirely. If you continue to beg for the old ways, it will become more difficult to find happiness in the new normal.
Try not to make your happiness conditional upon the same way of life returning because this will lead to frustration and disappointment. Instead, consider the ways that you can find joy in your activities, even with levels of protection. Realistically viewing this virus prevention as a long-term journey will help you to cope with the future.
2. Focus on what you can control
You cannot change the state of the pandemic or how quickly we can get back to working order. Ruminating on this can be disheartening. Doing things for yourself that are within your power can help create more stability. The same things that you may have tried at the start of the pandemic can be useful in these later stages, such as learning a new skill, devoting yourself to work, exercising, listening to music, or watching your favorite movies are all ways you can use your time to make the best of what is within your power. Although you have no control over the coronavirus, you can control how you make use of your time.
3. Challenge negative thinking patterns
During times like these, it can be difficult to avoid negative thoughts. You may find yourself thinking, “This will never end” or “We will be stuck in this situation forever.” A word like “never” is strong and can, therefore, evoke a strong emotional response. Although these thoughts may occur automatically, it is important to catch them when they occur and adjust them to more positive, realistic thoughts. Adjusting your thinking will help you to experience more manageable emotions.
4. Find support
Find ways to connect with others on a personal level. This can be done through phone calls with friends, distance visits, or even through counseling. It is frustrating to be unable to freely spend time with others in the way we could before, but it is important to not allow this limitation to force you into isolation. In addition to simply socializing, you might find it helpful to share your frustrations with others who are feeling the same way. You may even find this helps you to discover new ideas for making it through this together.
5. Continue to limit exposure to information
Exposing yourself to too much media can be detrimental to your mental health, especially during times like these. Although it is important to remain informed, frequent exposure to the news can be emotionally draining. The information is constantly evolving, and there are various perspectives. Make sure you are getting your information from reputable sources and consider setting personal limits. It may become more tempting to watch the news more frequently for information about reopening, but it is wise to continue to stick to these limitations. Additionally, make sure to take time for something relaxing.
6. Give yourself moments to be “not okay”
As previously discussed, it is important to begin to accept this new way of living, but it is also important to validate your own painful feelings and struggles. There is no rush to be completely accepting of a lifestyle that feels foreign and limiting. This is new to you, and it is not what you ever prepared for or expected. Recognize that it is normal to have moments that feel more difficult than others. Consider scheduling specific times to let yourself experience the anger, frustration, and sadness that you feel. After giving yourself freedom to experience these emotions for a given time period, do your best to carry on with your scheduled activities for the day.
7. When it seems never-ending, consider the past... and look forward to the future
Nothing is permanent. The world will continue to evolve, and we have made it through other crises in the past. Although this virus seems new and unprecedented, it is important to remember that this is not the first time our world has had to overcome a health crisis. When the overwhelming “trapped” feelings take over, remind yourself that it will not be like this forever. Anything unfamiliar can be frightening, so keeping an awareness of how we have managed in the past is a useful way to keep these fears in perspective.
8. Remind yourself of what you have accomplished
When this all began, no one knew how long we would be contained. There were reports of two weeks or a month, and this seemed impossible to contemplate. How could we possibly live under such restrictions for three weeks?
It has now been three months of heavy restriction. Although there are still restrictions ahead of us, much of the journey is (hopefully) behind us. Remind yourself of what seemed impossible in late March or early April. Think about all the times you thought you could not possibly stay home for another week. When you remind yourself of what you have overcome already, you will see that you have the strength to push through whatever comes next.
We are all continuing to learn the right ways to navigate these unfamiliar circumstances day by day. It is particularly challenging when it seems that there is no clear end to our new way of living. It is important to be patient and to be willing to adjust your perspective as time moves forward. We may not know when life will look more normal, but it is a comfort to recognize that we are in the process of change in the right direction.
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