(This page is regularly updated with revised content, additional tips/resources.)
March 24, 2020
In a time when “social distancing” to “flatten the curve” has literally hijacked life as we used to know it, it’s critical for our overall health (physical, emotional and relational) to stay upbeat whenever possible for what could be a long haul. As time rolls onward in our separateness, it’s going to be even more important to stay connected to your people and find ways to keep as upbeat as possible.
At the moment, we have different coronavirus impact depending on where we live (California, for example, has a mandatory shelter in place order). Many of you may have kids at home that are doing some kind of online schooling (perhaps while you try to work if you’ve had the ability to do so remotely). Others may still be going to work because your area has not been restricted yet or perhaps you are one who is considered an exception (health care or other required services). And there are those who are focused on their health, fundamental needs and economic survival during this pandemic.
One thing seems pretty clear. Time is starting to stretch on for many of us. As we continue forward self-quarantined to decrease the spread of COVID-19, now more than ever we will need to find ways to manage angst, worry, depression, fear and the related anger outbursts that can come as a result of any of those emotions building up like a steam cooker.
14 Ways to Keep Connected and Upbeat
1- Implement some structure. Even in normal times, many benefit from having a schedule of some kind to help them feel anchored and productive. Even a loose schedule during this time can help create a framework and flow as you through each segment of your day. It can also alleviate the sense that time is blurring together from one minute and one hour to the next. Take the weekends off from the schedule to more mimic life and provide reward.
2- The bottom of your in-home to do list. Most of us can probably relate to what can happen to the bottom of any to do list. It has a tendency to move, getting carried over from day to day to week to week. With all of the home time you have, what a great opportunity to tackle those pesky bottom feeders.
3- Walk, fresh air, repeat. Everyone is at risk for becoming too sedentary when socially isolating in their homes. Not only is exercise important for our physical health but getting outside for fresh air will provide a psychological boost too. Whether you live in beautiful surroundings or a city environment, get outside and move to improve your mood and sleep quality. Obviously do so while respecting social distancing.
4- Expand your creative horizons. Like the bottom of the to do list concept, many have creative aspirations that they never get around to because they “don’t have enough time.” You may have some extra time now. Pull out your art supplies and let it flow. If you don’t have any, check online for some to be delivered to you. A “study showed that making art reduces stress even if you kind of suck at it.” (Good thing for me.)
5- Who else needs help? Do you have an elderly neighbor who needs a check in? Can you offer to buy them groceries or pick up medications for them? Is there a local support effort for laid off workers at your favorite restaurant in town? Look for Facebook groups set up for this purpose like, How Can I Help? for Mill Valley, Ca. Studies have shown that helping others gives us a sense of purpose, satisfaction and makes us happier.
6- That movie or book list. Many people have have a mental or written list of movies they missed or books they would like to read. Now’s a great time to curl up and dig into it.
7- About that meditation practice. Research supports the benefit of mindfulness and meditating, even for a short amount of time. It can literally re-wire the neural circuitry of your brain to lessen negativity bias and improve ability to drop into the now (away from future worry, even for a few minute). Meditation can help lower stress, provide clarity and help keep your nervous system from getting hijacked.
8- Let your fingers do the talking. Thank you technology for what you can provide to us now to combat social isolation. Check in with all of your friends. Create group threads where you share ideas of things to do, blow off steam or send memes that make you chuckle. Of course, you can also call people directly for a more personal connection.
9- Schedule a virtual group meet up. A step up in connection with groups via texting is online group meet-ups via apps such as Zoom. I’ve done several of these so far and are something I look forward to.
10- Free online learning opportunities. A lot of free offerings are popping up online. Debbie Allen offered a free dance class one day and I’ve seen yoga and workout routines. For kids there is Khan Academy, an online learning resource for students up to 18 as well as Crash Course, a YouTube channel for teens. You can take a museum tour through Google Arts and Culture. If you browse, you will find.
11- Write it out. If you are finding your emotions all over the place now, this would be completely normal. For some people, journaling is very helpful to work through difficult emotions and find clarity. Now might be a good time to start a daily practice of writing to help process your feelings.
12- Talk it out. Feelings can also be processed by speaking about them. Whether it’s your partner, a friend or a family member, allow yourself that opportunity to unburden yourself. If you are concerned that others aren’t in a place to hear you in that they are overwhelmed with their own situations, consider talk therapy. Many therapists (including myself) offer tele-health options either by phone or video.
13- Dream about the future. To help combat the fear that this will never end, plan for the future. What are you looking forward to doing with your family, your partner, your kids, on your own when we get through this? What trip or other cancelled activity will you be rescheduling and what would it be like to finally to it? Allow yourself the feelings that come up when you imagine this experience.
14- Look for the silver linings. Let me start by acknowledging that the coronavirus pandemic is very serious and for many, finding positives will be hard. But if you are able to find a silver lining in your home or otherwise, try to do so. Is it more family time? Finally accomplishing a house project and ticking it off your list?
Be well. We are all in this together.
***If you are a resident of California, I am offering tele-health therapy support via California Online Therapy and Counseling. Phone, video or chat options and significantly reduced fees available for those in need.
***Anyone else looking for support I also offer one-time only educational Consultations (not to be considered therapy) to learn tools for stress and anxiety relief or other feedback on specific emotional health or relationship questions.