As I write this, public life is shutting down. The 2019 Corona Virus is now a global pandemic. We don’t know how bad things will get. Beyond the health impact, the economic uncertainty is the worst we have seen in decades. Much is being said about the disease and the economy and I will leave those to the relevant experts such as the World Health Organization.
Instead, while we wait, I want to discuss strategies for coping with the stress this crisis may be causing you. Indeed, there are steps you can take to emotionally survive that will help you at any time of turmoil including moments of extreme personal challenge.
Strategy 1: Have a Plan
In times of turmoil, we often don’t know what is coming next, whether it is a pandemic or a personal crisis. This can make planning seem impossible. However, we can usually plan for various contingencies. Having a plan will help you ensure that you are better able to deal with an evolving situation. Just as importantly, creating a plan helps you take some measure of control. In turbulent times, the feeling that we have no control over what is happening can contribute greatly to our anxiety. Be proactive. Don’t just wait for events to hit you.
So, consider what you will do if the crisis goes on for an extended period. Think about what you need to do for your family. Consider their physical well-being, but also their emotional needs. Take stock of your resources such as food, shelter and finances. Give thoughts to others in your life that may be especially vulnerable. In this pandemic, don’t just think about what you will do to get by if you remain healthy, give consideration what you will do if you get sick and what you will do if everyone in your household gets sick.
Take steps to focus your mind on these decisions such as writing down your plan. It will help you to make the sense of taking action more real, and to identify everything you need to consider.
Strategy 2: Keep in Touch
Currently, we are being asked to enact social distancing. However, we often pull away from others when we are troubled. This tendency maybe natural, but it is usually not helpful. Even if you can’t be with other people, staying in touch with others will help you cope and lift your mood.
In Italy right now, people are singing or playing music or literally applauding healthcare workers. People are staying in touch to keep their own spirits up and to help their neighbours.
You may not have a balcony or ready to serenade your neighbours. Even though you need to keep your distance, make a point of going outside and talking to them. Yard work days and set out the trash nights provide opportunities to see others. Go for a walk in the morning and say hello to the dog walkers. Make a point of calling friends and family members more often than you normally do. Even better, make video calls to see other people. If you have a limited circle around you, share your thoughts on social networks. Be open with your concerns. You are likely to be helpful to others and their mutual support will likely be helpful to you.
Strategy 3: Stay Informed, But Not Obsessed
Shared emergencies such as a pandemic generate a stream of news and government updates. To stay empowered and make smart decisions for yourself and those you care about, staying informed is important. However, watching sometimes grim news for hours at a time can be emotionally harmful. Make a point of getting away from the news. Take time to unplug. Get outside. Do something silly. Watch a good comedy (there’s a reason we have the term ‘comedic relief’). Make activity away from the news part of your plan.
How to Manage the Unmanageable
In times of turmoil, our situation usually feels out of control. Remember these three very basic steps to take charge of any situation:
Strategy 4: Look After Yourself
Obviously, it’s important to look after our physical well being during a health crisis. Getting plenty of regular sleep and eating healthy boosts your immune system. Regardless of the type of trouble you are facing though, stress can take a toll on you and your body. Exercise can help you counteract the negative affect of stress hormones. When we stay active, we also sleep better. Because activities such as trying a new recipe or tackling a DIY home project are good for your emotional health, they are also good for your physical health. You might want to curl up on your couch and eat cookie dough all day, and it’s okay to indulge a bit. However, in times of trouble, it’s more important than ever to look after yourself.
Strategy 5: Do Some Good
One of the best ways we all get through difficult times is to be kind to each other. When we give a kind word to a store clerk dealing with panic buying; babysit friend’s kids home from school or get groceries for an elderly neighbour, we feel better. We take back a small measure of control. Plus, in a world where we help each other, others will help us when we most need it.
Strategy 6: Accept Your Feelings
We live in a world that too often tells us we should be tough, be strong. Of course, we want to strong, for those who are more vulnerable such as elderly parents or young children. At other times though, it’s okay to say you are scared or you are stressed. It’s okay. It’s natural.
We also have to recognize that different people react differently to stress. Some people will cry. Other people will get angry. If you breakdown or shout at somebody, don’t beat yourself up about it. Address the outburst, accept it. If you got angry at someone, apologize and make-up. Don’t bottle up your emotions — it’s not healthy and won’t help you.
We are going through a global crisis unlike any we have seen in our lifetimes. It’s natural to have anxiety. However, you are not alone. There is assistance out there. Get in touch with me to learn more.
You can arrange a no-obligation chat which can help you decide if you would get value out of working together. I understand the challenge of dealing with times of turmoil and I have the training to help you get through them.