By Megan Cooper, MSW, LCSWA
As our nation continues to be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, we are all being called upon to adapt and change. It’s a disorienting time, to say the least. I invite you to look at my checklist below for tips on how to remain calm and productive.
- VALIDATE YOURSELF
The coronavirus pandemic has made life difficult for people of every walk of life throughout the world. Take some time to validate your own emotional responses to the changes we’re experiencing right now. If you are not sure what it means to validate yourself, please reference this article for four easy steps.
- CHECK IN WITH YOURSELF
This is where your body awareness skills come into play. In addition to looking for symptoms of illness, scan your body for signs of tension, discomfort, pressure, or other sensations that may be related to stress or other physical needs. Use this knowledge to inform how you care for your body. You may also use this process to remind yourself that in this very moment, you are safe.
- SET A SCHEDULE
It’s tempting to allow our prolonged stays at home to become one mass of free time to indulge in – and you are certainly allowed some indulgences during these difficult days. However, too much free time can disrupt your body’s daily rhythms and cause other aspects of your life to fall out of line. Create a schedule to help you stay on your A-game while you stay at home. Tip: You are allowed to schedule some “free time” so that you can still play and relax!
- GET CREATIVE!
Even if you don’t identify as a “creative person,” you have the skills you need to shake things up and keep boredom at bay. Here are a few things to try: Rearrange items in your house as a form of redecorating. Look for ways you can do the same mundane tasks in a different way. Set a personal challenge for yourself, making a game out of it if you can. Watch videos to learn new skills, then put these skills into practice. Revisit old hobbies or activities that you haven’t done recently. See if you can recreate the experience of a public or special event in your own home.
- BE SOCIAL (FROM A DISTANCE)
Reach out to loved ones, neighbors, and people you haven’t spoken to in a while. Make a special point of staying in touch with those who may be more socially isolated. Gestures like this can really make a difference in their lives, and in yours too.
- GIVE BACK TO OTHERS
There is always a way to contribute to good causes. Food pantries, homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, and animal shelters are always grateful to receive help. This may include dropping off donations or giving money online. Many hospitals are experiencing a blood shortage right now, so if you’re able, please visit the Red Cross website to find a blood donation location near you. Support small businesses in your community by purchasing goods from them online. Support local restaurants by ordering delivery – and don’t forget to leave a good tip!
- PRACTICE GRATITUDE
Gratitude helps us keep our perspective in balance. Remind yourself of the things in your life, both large and small, that are going well for you. Imagine those things clearly. Write them down if you like. Add to the list periodically. Look at your list, or at least think about it, on a regular basis. Observe your reaction when you do this. You may notice positive changes taking place.
- MANAGE YOUR DIFFICULT THOUGHTS
We can’t make all our difficult thoughts and emotions go away immediately. Sometimes it’s more appropriate to grant ourselves permission to feel bad about something. If you find that you tend to ruminate on distressing thoughts, set time limits to think about these things, and then move on to another task. If you find that you push distressing thoughts away, invite yourself to intentionally reflect on these matters for a set amount of time. Mindfulness skills can help you develop a practice of turning your attention toward, or away from, your thoughts in the moment.
- REACH OUT FOR HELP
The National Disaster Distress Hotline is available 24/7 to provide nonemergency counseling services to people affected by COVID-19. If you are experiencing an emergency, please call 911, summon your community’s first responders, or call a local emergency room for assistance.
- STAY EDUCATED ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a dedicated webpage for the most current and accurate information about the coronavirus and COVID-19. Check this page periodically for updates about symptoms, recommendations for preventive measures, and other important topics. If you have concerns about your health, reach out to your primary care provider or local urgent care. Check their website to see if they are offering virtual visits before going in person, or call ahead to let them know your symptoms so that they can be prepared for your visit.