If we start spinning like an anxiety-riddled top, “What if, what if, what IF,” we will, A. waste energy on something that we can do nothing about right now, and B. we can find ourselves paralyzed in the current moment, unable to move forward.
I’m reaching out to all of you to try to offer some additional support while we are all trying to deal with the stress of social distancing and COVID-19 in general. We’re having to cope with something that is not like anything we have ever faced in the United States and even in the world. Here are a few things to keep in mind to combat anxiety, depression, frustration, feeling trapped, and feeling overwhelmed.
1. Get Out-of-Doors
What! We’re supposed to stay home? Having the kids home 24/7 is hard on you and them. If you have a yard where the kids can play, while maintaining social distancing, encourage them to be outside as much as possible. You may need to teach them some games to play since the device-focused world has pulled our kids away from playing games outside. What did you play growing up? Hide-n-seek, tag?
I remember playing various versions of tag, e.g. “TV Tag”. When the person who is “it” tags someone, that person is frozen in place. To be unfrozen and able to run again, one of the other runners has to tag them and yell out the name of a TV show. You can’t reuse a TV show name. Once everyone is frozen, that round is over. The last person to be tagged is “it” for the next round. You can use any category you like, i.e. movies, cartoon characters, superheroes, etc. Need ideas? I did a quick google and found an article called, “60 Fun Outdoor Games For Kids This Summer” which included ideas that could be done with one or two kids. The exercise is great for keeping them from becoming little gremlins as long as you don’t get them wet or feed them after midnight (what, you don’t get my 80s movie reference?), and the novelty helps with boredom and feeling trapped. By the way, get them wet! Water games are fun, and it’s warm enough for it!
If outside is seriously not an option, teaching the kids a new game they can play indoors could be useful too. I taught a rambunctious child of a friend how to play 20 Questions when we were stuck in a car for a long time, and five years later, he still loves playing it and asks me to play it with him when I see him. Can’t think of a game? Google it! (car games, party games) That’s how I remembered the rules for TV Tag. J
You also need some time outside. Try cycling, skating, jogging, or walking in your own neighborhood. Some people have also been able to maintain social distancing while doing some boating or kayaking. Be sure to stay up-to-date on the restrictions in your local area. I go for a daily walk around my neighborhood steering clear of others and immersing myself in the music from my earbuds. Exercise is great for anxiety and depression. If you work with me in therapy, you’ve heard me say, “sunshine and movement!” Socially distance yourself from others… and go get some of those natural feel goods!
2. Include Novelty
Our choices are limited right now which can lead us to feeling trapped, bored, and irritable. Find ways to include something new in what you do with your time.
For example, watch a YouTube video on how to do something that you can do with what you have in your house or yard, e.g. a new recipe, something crafty, making a repair, or trying a new hobby. Maybe there’s something that already interests you that you can use as the basis for doing some research and expanding your knowledge.
3. Stay Connected
Combat feeling isolated by connecting with family and friends over Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and other video communication platforms. It’s easy enough to download an app if you don’t already use one of these, and they are pretty user-friendly. The video component really does make a difference and there are things you can do that are more personal and interactive than just a voice call. Get creative!
We need each other right now. We need the support of those we love, and they need us. It’s too easy in times of great stress to get preoccupied with our own worries and forget about being there for others. In addition to encouraging the one we reach out to, it is good for our own mental health to set our own issues aside for a bit and just be there for someone else. It may not be your normal way of interacting, but push through the unfamiliarity, and give it a try. Be deliberate about it, and don’t just text.
4. Maintain a Routine
Most of us have fallen out of our routine since work, school, and our other typical reasons for leaving the house are unavailable right now. The lack of routine contributes to feeling out of whack, lost, depressed, and anxious. Maintain your pre-Corona-virus sleep and meal schedule. Forgetting to eat because you are preoccupied can make it so much harder to cope with the stress. Additionally, going to bed late and sleeping late, when it’s not your norm, contributes to feeling depressed and purposeless.
Create new routines around working from home and your kids doing school at home. This likely means breaking your day up into smaller segments that you would like because your kids can’t stay focused as long as you can. If This is the situation you are in, you have the added stress of managing your children, who may not really understand why they can’t go anywhere and can’t see their friends.
5. Limit Your News Intake
Yes, we do need to know what’s going on and what the latest direction is from the authorities. However, checking the news constantly like your waiting for that new gadget from Amazon Prime to arrive is just not helpful. It only makes you more anxious. Seriously, do we need additional anxiety right now? I don’t think so.
I suggest you check the news once a day, maybe later in the day so you don’t feel like you missed something. Turn off the notifications from your six news apps, and let that be it. Spend your evenings doing something you enjoy like reading comic books, watching old Star Trek episodes or…. Wait, maybe that’s not your thing, but you know what I mean!
6. Avoid Coping By Using Food/Substances
“I’m stressed out, and I just want to feel better!” Have you had this argument in your head? Maybe it wasn’t much of an argument. Either way, you’ve authorized yourself to use a coping strategy that isn’t effective for the long haul and could end up causing some unwanted consequences.
One of the problems with coping this way is that you have to keep doing it to feel better. It’s just not worth the strain on your liver, the weight gain, and the potentially daily habit of smoking or drinking that continues after the “sharknado” is gone. Make use of some of the strategies listed in this article instead. Also, Click on the “Contact” tab on this site, and request our Self Care worksheet for more ideas on how to cope in positive ways.
Note: If you are drinking enough and on a daily basis, and then you abruptly stop, you could go into a dangerous and potentially fatal withdrawal. The same is true for benzodiazepines and barbiturates. Detoxification from these substances should be medically monitored.
7. Keep Doing Self Care
You probably feel like your time budget can’t afford this right now. Unfortunately, you can’t’ afford not to take care of yourself. In times of high stress, we need to do those things that rejuvenate us. Social distancing may change how we do it, but most things are still doable. Get creative if you have to, but don’t forgo this essential piece.
8. Take It One Dat At a Time
I know, I know, I hate clichés too, but this one is useful right now. Each day has its own needs, duties, tasks, etc to be handled. If we start spinning like an anxiety-riddled top, “What if, what if, what IF,” we will, A. waste energy on something that we can do nothing about right now, and B. we can find ourselves paralyzed in the current moment, unable to move forward. So, while making reasonable plans for having what you need, leave preparing for the Zombie-apocalypse for another time.
We need to take the precautions to prevent, not only contracting COVID-19 but spreading it to others who may be more vulnerable than we are. While we are taking steps to protect our physical health, let’s also take care of our mental health. So, go forth, boldly coping in a COVID-19 world where no one has coped before!
Lillian Hood is a therapist offering Online Therapy services to adults throughout the state of North Carolina. Her office is located in Wilmington, NC. She offers PTSD therapy, anxiety therapy, binge eating therapy, OCD therapy, and phobia therapy. Text 910.742.0433 to schedule a free phone consultation, or visit our Contact Us.