What a few weeks it has been! With many of us being forced to abandon our routine, stay at home and with all upcoming plans being cancelled, it is normal that feelings of sadness, disappointment, frustration, anxiety, or anger will come up. Here are some ideas that might help you cope during this unprecedented time.
Acknowledge and open up to what you are feeling
This sounds basic but it’s oh so important. Often when we experience an unpleasant feeling we immediately try to get rid of it. Sometimes this can work, but often it can result in an unnecessary struggle with the feeling which can lead to a cascade of even more unpleasant feelings. For example, if we feel disappointed about a cancelled vacation our mind might try to get rid of the feeling by beating ourselves up, “look how lucky you are, you are healthy! Thousands of people are struggling more than you right now, what is wrong with you, it’s just a vacation!” Now we have guilt about our disappointment. Our mind might continue to struggle to try and get rid of the feeling, it might say ‘you are never able to look on the bright side, you are so negative, you will always be this way!” Now we have sadness about our guilt about our disappointment.
Instead when you notice yourself struggling with a feeling, try simply acknowledging how you feel. You could calmly say to yourself, “I notice a feeling of disappointment”, or “I notice a feeling of frustration”. Headspace is a meditation app that is now offering free guided mediations during the COVID-19 crisis which is a great way to help drop the struggle with unpleasant feelings. For more information click here.
Another way we can drop the struggle with unpleasant emotions is by practicing self-compassion. A good first step is asking yourself what would you say to a friend who was going through something similar. For example, if you had a friend who was disappointed about a cancelled vacation, would you say “what’s wrong with you?” or would you say “that sounds really hard, it makes sense that you would be disappointed, you were really looking forward to this .” For more resources on self-compassion check out my blog post on the topic here. This is a difficult time for everyone, being kind to ourselves is needed now more than ever.
Focus on what is in your control
After we acknowledge and open up to our feelings, it can be helpful to focus on what is in our control right now. We cannot control what others do, and we cannot control the virus itself. We can follow health guidelines about physical distancing and washing our hands. While this can seem small, the effect it can have on slowing down the spread is HUGE. Psychologist Dr. Steven Hayes wrote a great article on how all of us have the potential to be everyday heroes. You can read this article here.
Connect to your values
In times of uncertainty it can be helpful to outline what it is that is important to you. One way to do this is to imagine yourself 1 year from now looking back on this difficult time. How do you most wish you treated yourself, your friends, your family, and other people? Maybe you wished you were kind, and caring to yourself and those around you. Maybe you hoped to make those around you laugh, and have fun during this difficult time. Maybe you wished you were courageous and helpful to those in your community. There is no right or wrong answer here. Once you’ve identified some values, you could try picking one each day, and doing some small action in line with this value. If you do try this out, notice how you feel afterwards.
Self-Care Kit for Children: this definitely is a stressful time for parents! While all us childless adults are spending time doing yoga or trying out new hobbies, parents of young kids are required to be on 24/7 without the break of school or day care. If your child is experiencing anxiety related to COVID-19 this is a self-care kit for children created by Dr Kathryn Holden, a psychologist from England. Click here.
FACE COVID: Here is a youtube video created by psychotherapist Dr. Russ Harris on how to handle COVID-19 using principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Some of the ideas from this article were taken from here, check it out.
Free Yale Course on the Science of Wellbeing: One of Yale’s most popular psychology courses is now being offered for free. The course looks at empirically supported tools to enhance wellbeing and teaches you how to bring these tools into your day-to-day life. If you are someone that has a lot more time on your hands this could be helpful. Click here.