As we move into the second week of Michigan’s stay-at-home order, many of us are feeling the stress of schools and daycares closing, job loss or job uncertainty, all while continuously checking our news feeds to see the latest updates on the COVID-19 pandemic. During difficult times it’s natural for us to become fearful and to begin retreating into unhealthy behaviors in an attempt to numb/avoid our fears. As a licensed psychologist, my training in human behavior tells me we can effectively manage these difficult times with a few simple steps.
Acknowledge Emotions and Focus on Controllables
First, allow yourself to acknowledge your anxiety, fear, or stress as these are natural responses to a pandemic. When we are experiencing a great deal of distress, it’s important to remind yourself that your emotional responses are natural and you can decide on how you handle these. You can do this by creating a list of your current worries and cross out all the ones you cannot control (other people’s behavior, government response, etc.) and shift your focus to what you can control (washing your hands, creating routines, connecting with supports, etc.) This allows each of us to gain a sense of empowerment over our daily lives.
Create Structure and Routine
Modeling healthy behavior and creating routines in chaotic times will improve your health and help establish a sense of normalcy. One thing we all can do is follow CDC guidelines regarding washing hands and social distancing. If you now have more time at home, creating a routine for you and your family will provide a sense of stability and familiarity, which all humans crave. Focus on making healthy meals, getting plenty of sleep, and incorporating regular exercise to your routine as these have a beneficial impact on our mood and general health. Connecting with our support system (family, friends, community) through video or phone conversations can also diminish loneliness and create a sense of togetherness that we all long for during a crisis.
Get Creative While Being Appreciative
We can effectively manage stress or boredom by being creative and appreciative. Look for the opportunity in the challenge of being isolated at home and take this time to perfect a new favorite meal, learn a new game, dust off that old instrument, or grab the whole family for a virtual tour of many of the finest museums in the world. No matter what you choose to do, engage your mind and body by thinking outside the box and getting creative. While being creative, take some time to list a few things you appreciate (homemade cookies, family, good health, etc.) to actively shift your mind to positive aspects we tend to overlook during a crisis. This will help balance your thoughts of uncertainty with thoughts of gratitude and appreciation.
Many of us are dealing with multiple stressors related to the COVID-19 pandemic and by acknowledging our emotions, controlling the controllables, creating structure and routine, all while being creative and appreciative we can stay grounded and balanced in our daily lives. You’d be amazed how much you can improve your mood by following these basic steps. We’re all being affected in some way by this pandemic, so let’s be intentional and make healthy daily decisions that positively impact ourselves, our families, and communities. If you or a loved one want to talk about how to effectively manage your stressors, please reach out to GRTherapy Group today and one of my colleagues or myself will be happy to help you. We are now offering online counseling.