Many people are experiencing a range of emotions, thoughts and reactions in response to COVID-19. That makes sense. It’s also crucial that we focus on what we CAN control during times of crisis rather than become paralyzed by what we cannot.
Here is a list of commonsense things we can do to reduce risk and increase control:
- Wash Your Hands
- We’ve heard it hundreds of times now, but washing your hands continues to be a highly effective and easy way to reduce the spread of bacteria, viruses and germs. Just remember to scrub for at least 20-30 seconds!
- Remove Your Shoes
- While already common practice for some, removing your shoes as soon as you enter your residence is another easy way to reduce the spread of bacteria, viruses and germs. Keep your floors and carpets clean with this simple step.
- Stop Smoking
- Smoking compromises the immune system which makes it much more difficult to fight infection and disease. Especially during this pandemic, quitting smoking can be lifesaving. So quit today and encourage those around you to do the same! Use of nicotine replacement therapies such as patches, gum and lozenges can significantly ease the discomfort of quitting smoking and the addition of behavioral counseling can help you develop long term solutions for maintaining a smoke-free lifestyle.
- Just because social distancing is highly recommended to stop or slow down the spread of COVID-19, this doesn’t mean we should be glued to our couches watching Netflix. Regular exercise contributes to a healthy immune system by promoting circulation, lowering blood pressure, improving cardiovascular health and controlling body weight. Just because the gym may be off limits right now doesn’t mean you can’t exercise. Trade in that treadmill jog for a stroll around the neighborhood or swap out that group yoga class for some solo work at home. If you’re not sure what exercises to do, check out certified trainers on YouTube for free coaching and guidance. There are plenty of options, we just need to flex our thinking.
- Eat a Healthy Diet
- With empty grocery shelves across the nation, food supply can be a scary topic right now. But, while most people are stocking up on non-perishable items like canned goods, fresh produce continues to be available in most stores. While this may take more careful and frequent trips to the store, it is still possible to eat healthy foods during this period. Including fruits and vegetables into your diet can help boost the immune system by increasing the intake of vitamins found in plant-based foods.
- With the natural fear and anxiety that many are feeling during this time, some people may experience sleeplessness and/or disturbed sleep. While it’s easy to stay up all night thinking about what’s going on, now is the time to maintain as normal of a sleep routine as possible. Lack of sleep can impact the immune system making it harder to recover when you get sick. Proper sleep habits reduce the risk of perpetuating factors that can lead to conditions like insomnia down the line. Simple tips including waking up and getting out of bed at the same time every day, getting out of bed when you can’t fall asleep within 15 minutes (and doing something boring until you feel tired again), using the bed only for sleep or sex, reducing daytime napping and winding down about an hour before you plan to go to sleep. Turning electronics off at night including TV, computer and cell phone can make a big difference in reducing stimulation both due to light and content. There’s enough to think about during the day so give your brain a rest at night.
- As hard as it may seem right now . . . try to find ways to relax. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about what’s happening or pretend not to feel the way you do, it means that you can still make time to slow down your body and brain to manage the psychological impact of this pandemic. Reducing stress reduces cortisol which helps the body effectively fight infection when it needs to.
- Try setting a timer for 5 minutes twice a day and practicing slow-paced diaphragmatic breathing. Slowly count to 4 as you inhale from your belly, briefly hold, then count to 4 as you exhale, briefly hold, and repeat. Alternatively, focus on the sensation of calm or peace as you inhale, briefly hold, then focus on letting go of discomfort (temporarily) as you exhale, briefly hold, then repeat. (Note: Discomfort can be anything causing you pain in the moment such as worry, fear, etc.)
- Other ways to relax can include stretching, visualization, meditation, taking a warm bath and/or listening to soothing music such as Spa Radio on Pandora. Whatever your method, find a way to briefly hit pause each day. Coping with COVID-19 is one day at a time.
- What is self-care? Simply put, it’s intentionally taking care of yourself. This can be as simple as continuing to shower each day even if you are stuck as home, reading a few chapters of good book, learning something new on the internet or making a phone call to someone you care about. You might also make a list of things you are grateful for, journal, watch a movie/series on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon or do an at-home spa treatment such as a manicure/pedicure or facial. Much like the effects of relaxation, self-care helps create positive experiences in your life which can enhance mood and help you weather the storm.
- Social Support
- With social distancing comes new ways of connecting, and maintaining social support is an important coping strategy. Consider using video-interface such as FaceTime or Skype when you make your next phone call. Stay connected with entire groups of people with Zoom, social media, text or email. Limited contact doesn’t have to mean limited connection.
Whether you are religious or not, I think we can all benefit from two quotes as we wait this out:
- The Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”
- Persian adage: “This too shall pass”
Stay strong and healthy everyone.
If you or someone you know needs mental health services, Session Sync can help. Receive therapy live via video from a licensed psychologist in your state: https://sessionsync.com/providers