How do I help my kid better manage all the news about coronavirus? I can’t stop thinking about having enough toilet paper? I can’t turn off the news at night when I try to go to bed and I’m up all night thinking about coronavirus. These are some of the questions and comments I have heard over the past week from clients dealing with the COVID-19 global pandemic. The psychological consequences of our current public health crisis can be tremendous. Some of the common psychological symptoms to be expected from this pandemic include:
- anxiety which creates feelings of fear, panic, and vulnerability;
- depression which creates feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and rumination over dark and negative thoughts;
- post traumatic stress which creates intrusive memories, nightmares, or flashbacks;
- insomnia defined as frequent waking throughout the night or difficulty falling asleep;
- hypersomnia defined as excessive sleep;
- hypochondriasis which creates misinterpretations of ordinary bodily feelings and everyday aches, pains, and illness as symptoms of COVID -19.
Here are eight coping strategies that may be helpful to manage any of the psychological challenges as a consequence of COVID-19.
1. Limit exposure to the news: Try to limit your exposure to the 24 hour news cycle about infection and mortality rates, financial stressors, and other catastrophic news. Limited exposure can best be accomplished by setting up a daily schedule of how often you get news updates. For example, set up a schedule to watch the news, check social media, or get updates for 3 times per day for 30 minutes.
2. Stay connected with friends and family. Social distancing does not mean disconnecting from friends and family. More than ever we need to stay connected. This means do regular check-in’s with phone calls, video chats, text messages, and emails with loved ones, neighbors, co-workers, and friends. Even, a wave to a neighbor from across the street can go a long way. These daily check-in’s and the social support that is fostered through this connectedness helps to better manage anxiety, depression and fear.
3. Exercise! Move the body and exercise the mind. Outdoor walks, runs, and bike rides can all be done while maintaining 6 feet of social distancing. During inclement weather other indoor activities such as walking up/down the stairs, yoga, jumping jacks, push ups, sit ups other activities appropriate for your health can be done to increase your heart rate and metabolism. Challenge yourself to do something new everyday that exercises your mind. For example, try a puzzle, origami, or meditation. Set up a daily schedule to exercise both your body and mind.
4. Focus on the positive. Try to think of the positive things that emerge from these recent changes. For example, spending time with family, deeper conversations with friends, feeling good from helping out others, an opportunity to conserve and produce less waste. When your thoughts begin to ruminate on the negative hit a reset button and refocus on the positive.
5. Engage in hobbies: This is a great time to re-engage in old hobbies or develop new hobbies such as spring gardening, reading, knitting, or home projects.
6. Enjoy healthy eating and cooking. This is a great time to spend more time eating home cooked meals, thinking of new recipes, or cooking together as a family. Remember, to have your children participate in cooking. Assign family members roles and alternate on taking the lead from planning and preparing meals. If you are alone call or video chat with friends to share recipes or cooking challenges. Try to avoid overeating as a coping strategy.
7. Purpose: Research has found that having purpose in life is a key ingredient to happiness. Try to use this time to think about the goals or purpose you have for your life.
8. Be thankful and practice gratitude. Reflect on things in your life that you are grateful for. These are often small things that are often taken for granted until they are gone such as health, friends, and family.