I’m feeling anxious. I can’ t think straight. My heart rate rises. I feel so overwhelmed about how to cope. And I’m a counsellor...so as I sit down to write about how to manage during the Coronavirus pandemic, this is as much for you as it is for me. We are all in this together.
The world as we know it is changing...fast.
We are being forced to isolate.
We are facing many losses.
We are being forced to forego many of the things that we love and take for granted - catching up with friends or family, prayer meetings, church, sporting events, artistic festivals...just to name a few.
In a world where it feels like we are being stripped of joy and connection, and having no idea how long all of this will last, how will we cope?
What can we do to manage anxiety, look after ourselves and each other during this time?
Here’s some tips and ideas to consider:
We have a God that loves us and has a plan. He can handle everything we throw at him. He is also one constant when all of life seems up in the air, a “non-anxious presence” (https://www.christianity.com/) for us.
Remind yourself that this is temporary.
COVID-19 is temporary. Life will not always be this way
Set limits on news coverage and social media about COVID-19.
It’s tempting to always check for the latest (especially amidst the fast pace of changes).
Try the following:
- Choose set times to check media.
- Set yourself a time limit when you are on social media.
- Limit which news sources you will read or watch.
- Unfollow posts or threads that seem unhelpful.
- Turn off notifications where you can.
Maintain connection with others in any way that is available to you.
When you’re feeling low or anxious, it’s easy to stay hidden. If you can, reach out! Connect! It’s easy to feel isolated during these times and we need each other more than ever right now. Check in on your neighbours and others that may be more vulnerable during this time.
Some options to connect include:
- make more phone calls
- send emails
- use social media to connect and check in on others
- join an online church service, bible study or prayer group
- use video conferencing if you can (eg Zoom, Skype, Whatsapp, Facetime)
- write a good old fashioned snail mail letter!
- hold neighbour gatherings where you all sit on your front yard or balcony and be together while still apart
- write letters to your neighbours, family members, or those who are in lockdown or self-isolation
Make new routines
Routines can help keep us in a sense of calm amidst so much uncertainty. See if there are new routines that you can create during this time.
- If you’re spending more time at home than previously, try a new routine that will help keep you healthy, focused, positive and connected. If it doesn’t work so well first time, remember this is all new and it’s ok to try things out.
- If you used to meet your group at a particular time each week, schedule in an alternate activity for the same time slot. It may be that you can still meet virtually, or this may be the time where you can schedule in time for another activity that you’ve been meaning to try for a while and haven’t had time to.
- If you’re spending less time travelling to class or work, add in a new activity to pass the time.
- If you’re spending more time online, create breaks that include getting outside and off screens. For example, spend some more time with those you live with, in the garden or with a good book.
Remember the basics
Keep regular sleep routines, exercise regularly, eat healthy and get some sunshine where possible. These all contribute to mood and our ability to cope under stress.
What are you grateful for during this time?
What have you noticed today? What can you thank God for today?
Gratefulness can help change our perspective and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
What brings you joy?
We may not be able to do all the things that we love at the moment but are there some creative alternative ways around this? Think about what is important to you, what brings you life and see if there are temporary alternate ways to enjoy these things
Some examples may be:
- Make yourself a cuppa and call a friend to check in/pray together while drinking your cuppa (virtual cafe!).
- Whatever your local meeting group is - can you make it virtual and still do the activity from home? Eg prayer triplets, small group, book club, craft group etc
- Find ways to maintain physical activity. Just 20-30 minutes can help reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression as well as keep you more focused if you are studying or working from home. If you can get outside, try a walk, run, bike ride or skipping, for example. If you can’t get outside try searching for online home exercise programs. You can use plenty of items around the house for a makeshift gym (I also just heard of a man who ran a marathon on his small balcony!).
Listen to your body. Listen to your feelings.
Try seeing if you can accept what you are feeling in the moment. Have compassion for the parts of you that are feeling uncertain, that are feeling afraid, or whatever it is that you may be feeling. For example, how might you comfort a friend that expressed these feelings?
If you are feeling overwhelmed, try some grounding techniques.
- Take some slow deep breaths. Count to 4 to breathe in, pause and count 4 to breathe out.
- Notice 5 things around you that you can see, 4 things that you can hear, 3 things that you can touch.
- Make a mental list of 5 things that start with the letter A, or your top 5 songs, or squeeze something hard in your hand.
- Try using mindfulness or meditation exercises. Apps like Calm or Insight Timer have a lot of exercises available.
If you are already experiencing or know that you are vulnerable to anxiety and/or depression:
- Make a list of what you know is helpful for you and put it up in an obvious place. When you’re feeling overwhelmed this can be a starting point to help calm down.
- Contact your support people.
- Be aware of the mental health tools available online, for example myCompass, mood GYM and THIS WAY UP.
- If you need extra mental health support, many practitioners are still able to offer services including virtual sessions or phone calls. Mental health websites like BeyondBlue have forums that you can join online as a support during coronavirus isolation.
- If you are feeling suicidal or in need of further support, services like Lifeline are still available. Call 13 11 14 if you are in crisis.
Stay safe, get creative, look after yourselves and each other.
“We’re apart but not alone”
(from ‘Hold Her’, For King and Country)
These points were adapted from the following websites: