I’m a little late to the game on writing this blog because, frankly, I’m right there with everyone else figuring out how to cope with the rapidly changing situation we are facing right now. I have had to face head-on that a number of recommendations I usually give clients to manage their mood/anxiety (i.e., get out of your house and spend time with people!) are not feasible, safe, or even legal right now. In today’s blog I’m going to take a different approach – I will highlight the ways in which my family and I have been coping with the coronavirus pandemic.
I wrote a blog last April about the profound and robust impact exercise has on us. It is more important now than ever. Even though gyms and group fitness is closed right now, there are other options. Any free morning I have, I put my son in the jogging stroller and we head out on a run in the neighborhood. He enjoys the ride and scenery, and I get an extra challenging workout pushing him up the hills. We are also mixing it up with short bodyweight HIIT workouts and yoga at home. There are a number of free resources available right now!
Maintain a schedule, but be flexible.
Structure is essential in managing mood, anxiety, and stress. But let’s be honest, it’s pretty tough to do right now. My husband and I have continued to maintain our pre-coronavirus sleep schedule, as well as morning and night routines. We have also tried to keep our little guy on his preschool schedule as best we can. Children thrive on repetition and routine, so if he is happy and well rested, it’s good for all of us. It also allows us to work and keep up with (sort of!) household chores.
Have you heard of mindfulness? The godfather of mindfulness in the psychology world, Jon Kabat-Zinn, defines it as “paying attention to something, in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” In other words, be present and don’t get caught up in judging what is going on. Again, in a time when we are limited in terms of what we can do, we always have the ability to be present. Ten percent happier, an awesome mindfulness app I recommend to almost all of my clients, has published a Coronavirus Sanity Guide full of great talks and a few guided meditations. I have been doing the basic relaxation exercise daily to manage stress. Or, if I’m feeling particularly wired at night, I go through one of the guided sleep meditations in the app before bed.
Watch your drinking.
Texans are drinking the most alcohol right now. This fact has been humorous (and a source of pride!) to many folks I am seeing, but drinking more can easily be a slippery slope. It also contributes to poorer sleep, and worsened anxiety and depression. I enjoy wine, but have also kept rules and boundaries in place for drinking during this time. We are continuing to have alcohol-free days. And, on days we do decide to imbibe, I’m limiting it to 2.
If you find you are struggling with this, I suggest waiting until later in the evening to drink. The later you wait, the less you will likely drink. I also suggest that during your grocery store runs pick up non-alcoholic beverage options. Water is great and healthy, but gets boring after a while. You’re also more likely to follow through on an alcohol-free day if you can drink something that feels like a treat. If you are really struggling with drinking, or working hard to maintain sobriety, AA is offering online meetings.
Stay in touch with family and friends.
Everyone is in the same boat right now and craving human connection. Even though we need to be social distancing, it doesn’t mean you have to be out of contact with friends, family, and colleagues. We have been making a point to FaceTime with family and friends almost daily, and have plans to set up a Zoom dinner party here soon!
Set realistic expectations for yourself.
You are not going to be able to be the employee, spouse, parent, friend, etc. that you are under normal circumstances. That is ok. Keep reminding yourself that you are doing a great job. If you are struggling with that, talk it through with a family member, friend, or mental health professional – I guarantee they will help you see that! Another great resource for changing unhelpful thinking patterns is Mind over Mood, a cognitive restructuring workbook.
I’m continuing to provide therapy during the coronavirus pandemic, both in-person and via video. Please reach out to me by phone at 512-521-1531 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to set up a free phone consultation.