This is a tough time for everyone. COVID-19 has upended our lives in unimaginable ways. The call for social distancing has changed the way we live, work, and care for both ourselves and our families.
Maybe you’re stuck at home alone, feeling isolated, longing for contact with others and a return to your “real” life. Or maybe you’re working from home, caring for your children, overwhelmed with worry, suffering from exhaustion, and longing for a moment alone.
No matter what your circumstance, the fear of illness, worry about the future, and need for social isolation can leave you feeling paralyzed with fear, and feeling completely powerless.
I want you to know that you’re not alone. We’re all worried, stressed, and struggling to find a sense of calm and order in the midst of change.
To help you find a bit of calm and order, here are 5 things you can do right now to help regain a sense of control and emotional balance.
1. Make communication a priority. If you’re home with family, share your feelings honestly. If something’s bothering you, speak up. Have an honest conversation about your concerns, and be sure to listen to the other side of things. It’s better to talk things out then to let things fester.
Make it a priority to reach out to isolated older people, people at risk, and anyone you know who’s home alone. Give them a call, Zoom or FaceTime with them, send a text or an email. Get in touch any way you can. Spend some intentional time with them. Let them know they’re not alone.
Finally, if you’re feeling lonely or need help, please ask for it. Call a trusted friend, a family member, or a professional mental health professional. You don’t have to do this alone!
2. Find your new normal. Things have changed. Your old normal is gone; the challenge now is to find your new normal. How? By creating a daily schedule and then sticking to it.
Get up at the same time every day. Even if you’re alone, get dressed, make your bed, and brush your teeth. Schedule your meals at regular times and eat a sensible, balanced diet. Schedule times to work, time to play, and time to exercise. Find ways to help other people. Find some fun. Keep busy.
If you’re at home with others, get together and create a schedule that works for everyone. Include some alone time as well as some time to come together and play.
Bringing order into your day is a powerful way to maintain a sense of both physical and mental wellbeing.
3. Shift your focus. Stop scaring yourself with stories of horrible disasters and terrifying outcomes. Make sure you’re getting the facts about COVID-19 from reputable sources.
You do need to stay up to date, so I recommend spending a set amount of time tuning in to what’s going on. For example, spend an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon catching up on the news. Then stop. Once you’re fully informed, switch your focus to all the good things in your life. Once it’s there, keep it there.
Here are some ways to help you do that:
Make it a habit to list the things you’re grateful for as often as possible throughout the day.
Use positive language as much as possible.
Look for the beauty around you: the warm patch of the sun spilling through your curtains, the smell of baking cookies, the taste of your first sip of coffee in the morning.
Notice the small miracles and moments of joy throughout your day: a long-distance laugh with a friend, finding a long-forgotten memento while your cleaning out your closet and reliving a great vacation experience, the sense of satisfaction at finally having time to tackle your to-do list.
Read uplifting books. Watch funny movies. Listen to great music.
The more you focus on the positive things around you, the more you’ll be able to find an emotional sense of wellbeing.
4. Practice radical kindness. Now, more than ever it’s important to be kind to yourself and to the people around you. When under stress, it’s easy to beat yourself up or to lash out at friends and family. But when you make the decision to speak kindly to yourself and to those around you, you take a big step in taking back your sense of control and worth.
If you’re at home with others, sit down and work together to come up with ways you can create an ongoing environment of kindness and respect.
Here are some suggestions to get you started.
Agree to use respectful language with each other, including please and thank you.
Review the house rules. Make any necessary changes for the situation.
Decide who’s going to do what chores and when.
Make a plan for how you’re going to resolve conflict.
The great thing about this practice is that it’s something you can continue doing long after the crisis is over.
5. Imagine the future. What do you want life to look like at the end of this hard time? What would you like to have accomplished? Why not use this time to set a goal and work towards it.
You could go online and learn a second language, to cook, or how to code. Maybe you could use this time to write that novel you’ve been talking about or paint that masterpiece. Maybe there’s a fitness goal you could work toward. Even if you can’t get to the gym, you can cue up an exercise class on You Tube, use that treadmill in your basement, or use soup cans as hand weights you can lift while you’re watching TV.
Now imagine how it will feel when you reach that goal? How does it look. How does it feel? Get excited about the possibilities and resolve to take at least one action toward reaching your goal every day. Get busy getting better.
Finally, know that this will pass. Things will get better. As the old adage says,
“Not to worry not to fret. All is well, but not just yet.”
Would it help to have a technique to calm yourself when your anxiety gets out of hand? Click here to download 4 calming techniques that I use regularly and highly recommend!