by Kevin Fox, MA, Victim Advocate/Crisis Counselor; Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern
Right now, all over the news, our phones, computers, and even those around us are talking about one thing – the Coronavirus/COVID-19. Whether you have been glued to the TV for the latest updates or trying to ignore it, it’s out there and times feel uncertain and even a little unreal right now. Even as I type this, it’s hard to imagine the state of the world during this epidemic and what we can expect next. All of the talk surrounding this is leading to an increase in stress levels for many people. There is job uncertainty, economic uncertainty, and a general sense of uneasiness. Many people are also experiencing loneliness, isolation, or feeling stuck at home which can be just as difficult. We recognize all of these very real situations people are finding themselves in, and wanted to offer some tips and advice to get through this tough time. Hopefully some of what is below can help brighten your day or give a new perspective to this stressful time.
This probably seems like something you’ve heard people say before, but there’s a reason for it! Research shows practiced, intentional breathing lowers heart rate, anxiety, and stress over time. And practice makes perfect here; the more you take time to slow down and breathe, the more effective it will start to feel, and same goes for meditating. Breathing is something you can do anywhere, whether it’s when you feel anxious at work in a meeting, long lines at the store, or feeling lonely at home. I always tell people to focus on the cool air on the tip of your nose when you breathe in as a way to ground yourself and focus on a specific sensation. Meditation can work in a similar way. I use an App called Insight Timer that has hundreds of meditations of various lengths, and for different things like sleep, stress, sadness, pain, etc… it’s free to use and worth some exploring if you’re stuck at home!
2. Move Around
Not something you always hear in a therapy office, but so important. More and more every year, research shows how closely linked our mind and body really are. Exercise, even in a simple form like walking, actives good feeling endorphins and chemicals in our body that release stress. For many stuck at home right now with the virus concern, there isn’t an easy option to workout with gyms being closed, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t creative ways to get moving. I go to a YouTube channel called PopSugar Fitness and they have hundreds of free workout videos as well as dance-based workout classes online. You could also move around by getting to that Spring Cleaning you’ve been thinking about but haven’t had time, as well as get out and do some yard work with this sunny weather! When’s the last time you cleaned your gutters, hmm?
3. Have a FaceTime Party
Right now, it’s recommended that groups no bigger than 10 should meet up. That doesn’t mean you still can’t connect with your friends and family! Find a platform like Skype, FaceTime, etc… and all put on the same movie and “watch it together.” It’s a fun and easy way to pass a couple hours and still talk to and see people you would usually hang out with.
4. Get to that Personal Project
Have you been meaning to read that new book series, start a journal, write, paint a portrait, knit a blanket, or beat that video game on super hard mode? Well, if you are in a state of quarantine, now is the time to get to it. Being alone doesn’t mean being lonely so even though it’s tough to socially distance ourselves in many ways, this could also be the perfect time to reconnect with some of the things you’ve been meaning to do for yourself. I know I’ve heard every person I know say they wish they could just have a day off to relax and be alone, well, here you go!
5. Be Mindful of Your Boundaries
So this one is more for those of us that still find ourselves working through this crisis. I mean, it can be applied to everyone but my fellow workers need something too! But what I want to say here is that during this time, it’s okay to assert your needs in a healthy way. Mindfully following the protocols set in place by the CDC, even if they sound extreme or unnecessary to some, they are in place for a reason. If you feel that where you work isn’t looking out for your health and safety, speak to a supervisor about your concerns. Though you may be young and healthy, not everyone is and this disease poses a high risk for those people. If you are required to work around others at this time but feel you are high risk for catching the virus, let your supervisors know; again, your employers have a role in your well-being right now.
Here are a few fast tips as well:
-Take a break from watching and reading the news. It’s healthy to have a break from the chaos!
-Take a break from social media. While the meme’s are funny, social media can sometimes add to harmful or hurtful thoughts and feelings.
-Read that book you’ve been meaning to read for months now.
-Call those friends and family members you’ve been meaning to catch up with-chances are, they’re staying home too!
-Go through those piles of junk or old clothes. Donate some of it once everything is back to normal.
-Try starting a quarantining diary.
-Binge watch movies, TV shows, documentaries, etc. It’s never a bad time to start re watching The Office. You can even start shows at the same time as your friends and talk about them while you watch!
-Listen to music – there’s always new stuff to find!
-Arts and crafts. Challenge yourself to draw or paint a series of five pictures a day!
-Meditate, do yoga, make up some at home workouts – it’s amazing what you can find on google and YouTube.
-Go through Pinterest!
-Cuddle your pets extra hard and teach them new tricks.
-Take a self-care shower. Healthy hygiene is a gift you can give yourself.
Hopefully some of these tips and skills can be added to your own repertoire of coping and self-care skills during this time and beyond.
VSC is committed to being available to those who need us during this time. Our 24/7 crisis helpline is available by phone call at (407) 500-HEAL. We also started a textline available Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm at (407) 497-6701.