COVID19- Living in the Long Haul (Part 1)
As the global COVID19 pandemic is now almost a year old, it is discouraging to see the growing numbers of infections each day here in the United States. Our local governments are asking us to continue staying home, wear masks, and social distance. The reality is that all of this takes a toll on our mental health, and we are all feeling the effects of continued instability, uncertainty, and anxiety in our country.
Fortunately, we do have some control over how we manage and cope with each day; especially those of us who have stable housing, income, and support systems. The beginning of the new year is a great time to reassess the ways you are taking care of yourself and your family during this unprecedented and continually trying time.
Set a Routine
Sticking to a routine is crucial in a time of crisis and trauma (this pandemic is both). Routine allows us to find normalcy within a time that may not feel so normal, but it is also soothing for our nervous system. Find a way to start your day that is somewhat structured but has room for flexibility. Sometimes routines can become monotonous, but allowing yourself to make small changes here and there can help. Start your morning with a cup of your favorite hot beverage and a few minutes of deep breathing. Have your family join you in a breathing or mindfulness activity, or start the day with a few minutes of creative coloring.
Build consistency into the rest of your day as well- have set meal times, take movement breaks at a certain hour, and plan evening activities weekly. This will not only help you, but if you have kiddos at home a routine and stability will help calm their anxious mind and nervous system as well.
Don’t neglect the support system you have. Even if you have only a small handful of people in your life who you feel close to, reach out to them when you are feeling lonely or isolated (or even better, reach out before that). Check in through text, video chat, email, or even snail mail. If you are feeling like a burden, start asking your support if they have the capacity or energy to listen to you. This can help any feelings of guilt you may have, and also allows your support to be honest and use their boundaries when needed.
If you are struggling with support right now, online individual or group therapy options may be something to look into.
Some days it may feel easier to just stuff everything down. Ignore the fear, the panic, the guilt, the sadness… but all of those feelings are real and valid, and ignoring doesn’t make them go away. Acknowledging that the feelings you have are acceptable is key to learning how to cope with difficult emotions.
Try using self-talk to process your feelings. You can use statements like “I am feeling sad today, and that’s okay” or “I am feeling anxious this morning, and I am okay with that."
Once you’ve accepted your feelings, find ways to cope. Body movement, meditation, journaling, creative activities and mindfulness can all be helpful in dealing with our emotions. Check out our Instagram page for a new mindfulness activity every Monday- @GeorgetownCounselingWellness.
As we come up on a year of a social shift in our lives, you may find yourself depleted and exhausted. If you need more help than your support system can provide, feel free to reach out to us at Georgetown Counseling and Wellness. We offer support in areas of anxiety, depression, parenting, adolescent counseling, and many others.
Look for Part 2 of this blog in February for more tips and information on how to keep pressing on through the pandemic.