Coping with COVID-19

Well, whether we like it nor not, today is the day.

Let’s get to it.

These are interesting/strange/frightening/sad/stressful times. Our brains don’t like it. Unless you are a first responder, an immigrant who has lived through civil upheaval, a combat veteran, or someone similar, you haven’t had an opportunity to develop the coping skills that come in handy during a global pandemic situation.

Here are some tips to help your head (and your heart) feel better. I’ll be posting some deeper dives into these topics in the coming days, but here’s the big picture.

First, lower your expectations of everything. Yourself, your family, your neighbors, the government. Like me, you may be thinking that you are finally going to clean out the garage/organize the bookshelf/put together that scrapebook/sort your closet. And you may.

Or you may not.

If you have extra time on your hands, filling it can feel overwhelming, sapping our motivation and energy. No matter what else we do, our situation will remain stressful (at least to some degree) until it’s over. So, we need to expect less from ourselves and each other, not more

Second, stay connected to the reality around you. While it can feel like virus always hangs around us like a miasma of bad gas, that’s not true. (Medical personnel excluded-let’s give them a standing ovation, everyone.) Especially if you are complying with social distancing and hand-washing protocols.

Pause for a few minutes every day and take a look around you. See the sky, feel the breeze, touch a leaf or the grass. Connecting to the world around us through our senses is one of the most powerful ways to calm down, but we rarely use it as a coping mechanism.

Despite how it feels, thinking…even thinking really hard…doesn’t give tell us jack about what’s actually happening in the world. Thinking we are safe is nothing compared to seeing/hearing/touching/tasting/smelling that we are safe. So, look around!

Third, our brains LOVE predictability. We love routines. So, get a routine going. The most important elements of a routine are:

1. Decide on both weekday and weekend routines.

2. Set a wake-up time for both routines.

3. Take a shower and get dressed every day.

4. Set blocks of time to be productive (work/school/gardening/knitting/learning French), and blocks of time for relaxation (Netflix/Facebook/gametime).

5. Go outside (while practicing social distancing)

6. Move your body

7. Set a bedtime

Make a routine that includes these elements and in a way that feels good and you’ll cope much better with this unpredictable world we find ourselves in.

Fourth, do some meal planning. If you plan meals already, you are ahead of the curve. If not, start. Part of why we like things to be predictable is that we don’t like to make a million decisions every day-that gets overwhelming pretty fast. Meal planning gets rid of a chunk of decisions. It’s also good for your body and your budget. People who meal plan tend to eat healthier, spend less money on groceries and throw out less food than people who don’t.

Fifth (and finally!), start a task list. During stressful situations (such as a global pandemic), short-term memory can get a little sketchy. Running a task list provides a giant brain assist. You can get fancy with an app or grab a yellow legal pad. When you think of something you need to do, write it down. Then, when you aren’t sure what to do next, look at your list.

Enough for now. I’ll dive into the weeds about these skills over the next few days, so check back in.

Thanks for reading. Stay well. Stay strong.