There is a lot going on in our world today with the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19). In a matter of weeks, our day-to-day lives have been interrupted by a rapidly evolving situation and it is no surprise that the coronavirus outbreak is causing stress among our friends, family, and communities. If you are feeling stressed, anxious, fearful, lonely, or simply stunned during this time of uncertainty, please know that you are not alone. I want to offer you some practical ways to manage and face your emotions.
Acknowledge your feelings.
The first step to managing “negative” or uncomfortable feelings is to acknowledge their presence. We tend to think of emotions like fear, sadness, or anger as “bad” emotions. In reality, these emotions are not only normal – they are actually appropriate for the current situation. The problem begins when we allow these feelings to dominate and control us. It’s okay to acknowledge your feelings. If you have difficulty processing them on your own, reach out to someone you trust. Talk with a therapist to help you process and make sense of them. (Note: Orlando Counseling Services offers remote therapy in order to help our clients during this challenging time without compromising safety).
Avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms.
We all have them. If you’re feeling stressed or if you’re self-isolating, you may be tempted to deal with these emotions by artificial means (e.g., alcohol, smoking, drug use, overeating). These practices don’t benefit you in the long run. At best, they delay the inevitable, and at worst, they can cause other problems like physical and emotional addictions. Avoid retreating into vices to cope with stress.
Develop healthy habits and coping skills.
When life presents unavoidable levels of stress, you can manage that stress more effectively by developing healthy physical and mental habits. This is especially important if you must stay at home or if you are self-isolated. Take care of yourself by eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of sleep. Stay connected with friends and loved ones over the phone, video calls, or even email. Finding a creative outlet like painting or drawing can nurture your soul. Practicing deep breathing exercises and mindfulness meditation can also ease your mind and body. If you must self-isolate, these practices can help you stay healthy while keeping stress at bay.
Limit media use and focus on the facts.
We live in a digital age. Between social media and 24-hour news channels, we experience information overload, which only intensifies stress and fear. Yes, it is important to be informed, but you do not have to fix your attention to your news feeds 24/7. Stick to sources that educate you on the virus itself and best practices for protecting yourself. Try limiting the amount of news coverage you take in that tends to upset you. Take some time instead for self-care. Read a book, take a bath, or listen to calming music.
Keep things in perspective.
As disruptive as the coronavirus crisis feels right now, it is not permanent. It is important to acknowledge what we do NOT have control over and what we DO have control over. We have control over taking the appropriate steps to avoid spreading the virus – including social distancing, washing our hands regularly, and avoiding unnecessary human contact. As we do our part, the virus will eventually cease to be a threat and life will resume as it was before. Remember, this is not the first time the world has seen a pandemic, and it won’t be the last. If you become seriously ill, get the medical attention you need. The key is not to allow your mind to fixate while you wait in anxious expectation for the worst to happen. Use these tools to manage your stress, and you’ll enjoy a better quality of life as you navigate your current reality. We can and we will get through this together.
Blog post written by: Catherine Rutter