How To Cope With COVID-19
By James Wickersham, LMSW, CAADC
Most of the westernized world is currently at a stand-still due to a fast-spreading virus known as COVID-19. Originating from China, this virus quickly spread to the US and other nations and it has changed everyday life for many people. People that once went to work are now either unemployed or working from home. Many have children and significant others or family members that they now need to care for. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the Coronavirus has the following symptoms: fever, sore throat, and shortness of breath. Symptoms can appear 2-14 days after exposure (CDC, 2020.).
All of these uncertain developments including shelter in place orders and new directives posed by governing bodies is only adding to the stress felt by all individuals. Media bias and inaccurate reporting only fuels this anxiety. In times of such uncertainty, coping with daily life and isolation can be difficult. It can be even harder if you have mental health concerns or co-occurring disorders such as Substance Use Disorders. Below are some ways to cope with the ever-changing environment produced by COVID-19.
- Limit the time you spend on social media and watching the news. This should be a number one priority. When you do research regarding the virus, make sure that you are reading non-biased and accurate sources such as the CDC website. Additionally, setting time limits for yourself on your devices will help lower your anxiety. Setting your screen time limit for social media to ten minutes a day and turning off your notifications while you are in isolation can have great benefits for your mental health. It will help de-stimulate your brain and help you remain relaxed while lowering your cortisol levels.
- Make social connection with your family a priority. Even though we are all supposed to be practicing social distancing, making time to connect with your loved ones daily will help boost your morale and help you feel less isolated.
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day and make going outside a priority. Outside isn’t cancelled. Exercise isn’t cancelled. Taking care of yourself isn’t cancelled. It can be easy in times of stress to sit on our butts all day and binge watch our favorite TV show’s on Netflix (Yes, we’re still watching!) but in times of high stress, it’s important to keep our bodies moving. Exercise has been consistently shown to have positive benefits on mental and physical health. So has being outside. Strive for 30 minutes or aerobic exercise a day.
- Pray or meditate. Connect with your spirituality. It’s also been shown that taking just ten deep breaths every hour can have significant impacts on your mental health. Additionally, meditation has been shown to have effects long after you make it a habit. If you always make excuses that you don’t have time to practice positive coping skills to manage stress and self-regulate, now is your chance!
- Join an online support group. If you have mental health issues or substance abuse concerns and are suddenly finding yourself unable to go to your support groups, go online! If you’re suddenly finding yourself unable to cope with all of this uncertainty, go online! Look for help and you shall receive it!
- Focus on what you can control and give yourself a daily schedule. If you are suddenly unemployed or now have a lot more responsibilities than you did before, give you and your family some structure. It will help with the boredom and isolation. Make sure you carve out time for sleep, going outside, exercise and eating right. Focus on developing healthy habits that you CAN control instead of focusing on all the things you CAN’T control right now.
- Make sure you are following doctors’ orders and taking universal precautions. It is recommended by the CDC that you should wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your face and frequently disinfect surfaces. You should also follow all of your doctors’ orders to maximize your health. Additionally, many mental health practitioners are switching to online counseling services during this time. It is still possible to engage in mental health services and many insurance companies are accepting these services if they were not before. If you find yourself struggling to cope in these uncertain times, contact your insurance company or look online for Teletherapy health services.
Everything is kind of scary right now. Everyone staying at home is scared; essential workers are scared; those at a higher risk are scared; but focusing on what we can control is important. Together we can get through this crisis and flatten the curve.