Strategies for Coping & Wellness
Take stock. As routines drastically change, health choices may falter. Ask yourself how you are doing in regard to daily health behaviors: the quantity and quality of sleep, exercise, nutrition, and hydration.
Stabilize yourself with good health behaviors. After taking stock, choose one area for improvement and set a goal. Examples of concrete goals are maybe 30 minutes of daily exercise, limiting evening screen time in the hours before bed, and eating three servings of vegetables daily.
COVID-19 brings a high degree of uncertainty, and feelings of loss of control are common. Setting a self-care goal can help keep you grounded and focused on things you can control. Good self-care will ensure that your immune system is best supported and able to fight illness. Remember too that when you are well cared for yourself, you can be of best service to others.
Observe your stress level. Stress manifests mentally, emotionally, and physically. Observe the tension level in your muscles, the frequency and intensity of any difficult emotions, and potential physical effects such as headaches, upset stomach, or difficulty sleeping.
Identify your emotions. Anxiety, sadness, fear, anger, and frustration may all be common. Acknowledge these emotions as they arise. Often, they are temporary and observing them without judgment can allow them to dissipate quicker.
Employ stress reduction techniques. Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system and keeps you in a state of "high alert." Even low-grade prolonged stress can have negative impacts on sleep, mood, blood pressure, cortisol -- all of which reduce your tolerance to future stressors. Ongoing stress can also promote unhelpful choices, like using alcohol for stress relief, and further deplete sleep, mood, and energy. In this time of COVID-19, stress mitigation is key, and calming your nervous system is medicinal.
If you have a favorite stress reduction tool, ask yourself if you are using it frequently enough. If you do not have a favorite stress reduction tool, these are some good options to try:
Shine: Calm Anxiety & Stress offers a special toolkit for COVID-19 anxiety, with a free app that offers guided relaxation and meditations, daily motivational messages, and an "ask an expert" section
Headspace is a stress, meditation, relaxation, and sleep app, free with NPI provider number
The UCLA Mindful: Meditations for Well-Being app includes recorded mindfulness meditations of varying lengths and a weekly podcast
The Society for Health Psychology, a division of the American Psychological Association, offers a wide range of recommended wellness tools, including a sleep app and resources to address trauma
Calm Your Nervous System is a free, streamable, 20-minute guided relaxation audio file. Using headphones or earbuds allows background binaural technology to deepen your relaxation response
Use your favorite tool daily or as needed throughout the day to de-stress, interrupt any unhelpful thought patterns, and as a general wellness practice.
Have compassion for yourself and others. Recognize that everyone is doing their best in this time of crisis, including yourself. Remind yourself that everyone is navigating unchartered territory without a playbook. Anchor yourself and avoid reacting to the emotional instability of others. Use any of the calming tools listed above or another you may love.
Stay socially connected. Social connection is certainly different with "physical distancing" -- and it may be more important than ever. Reach out to others by phone, email, text, or various social media platforms. Check in with older adults, anyone you know to be socially isolated, and daily friends and colleagues that you do not have contact with now due to quarantine or shelter-in-place orders.
Find personal space in isolation. Paradoxically, physical distancing is forcing people and families in close proximity for extended periods of time. During a stable time of emotional neutrality, discuss individual needs for personal space and develop a plan.
Set a timer and limit your access to the news. Reports of mounting disease and death counts can be distressing and anxiety-provoking. The volatility of the stock market and loss of investment and retirement income may represent a personal threat to security and trigger anxiety or despair. While staying informed is important, limiting news and screen time can support stress management and mental health. If you find yourself constantly scanning the news, consider containing your news-checking to twice daily and for a defined and brief period of time.
Gratitude and positivity. Daily, find a positive story in the news that illustrates resilience and positivity amidst challenge. Allow yourself to reflect on one personal gratitude each day.