Tips for Social Distancing
We have been researching the mental and emotional contingencies of our new COVID-19 reality. We wanted to pass along some findings that could be helpful during this time. Maybe it’s a time to run some experiments:
- Try to maintain a routine and schedule as “normal” as much as possible. This includes wake/sleep times, exercise, mealtimes, times you watch TV or listen to podcasts or when you walk the dog. Maintaining a routine/schedule can be helpful for dealing with challenging emotions and will help with the moments and days of uncertainty.
- Check your sources. Always check your sources when reading new information about the spread of Covid-19.
- Make time for new practices. This might also be a helpful time to experiment with practices you have been wanting to try (i.e. meditation, yoga, reading more, play a board game, pick up that guitar that’s gathered dust in your closet). Experiment with scheduling rest especially if there is a part of you that feels guilty for resting.
- To change your state, utilize deep breathing techniques (like square breathing or diaphragmatic breathing), grounding techniques (like progressive relaxation) and the container technique (especially before bed if anxious thoughts keep you awake).
- Utilize a go-to phrase to reassure/comfort your anxious parts (“Right now, in this moment, I am safe.”)
- Witness your thoughts and emotions from a nonjudgmental stance: “I am having the feeling/thought that . . .”
- Notice the people next to you. Cherish the moments of kindness. Reflect on their strengths. When they are weak and irritable, what would it take for you to embrace them anyway?
- Thank your anxiety for trying to protect you. Work with it to be prepared. When it becomes overwhelming, ask yourself:
- Is there any information I am missing in this moment that could help me?
- Right here and now, what is my job?
- Help someone. You might research ways you can help in this moment. Can you sew masks? Call an elderly friend, family member or neighbor? Maybe your style is to spend time thinking about how you might help with the meta inequalities this moment is creating in our society (i.e. kids without access to the internet or food, elderly who are isolated and alone). Maybe you can do something to change what happens in the future.
- Review your expectations. Just because you are home doesn’t mean you should be creating a huge to do list and expect to accomplish everything. Demonstrate compassion and curiosity with the parts of yourself that are triggered and/or struggling during this time.
- Do the time, don’t let the time do you. How could this moment be a time of growth for you or your relationships? What can you do or experience now, with the limitations you have, that you will be proud to include in your story in 5 years?
- Stay connected. Social distancing can bring up feelings of isolation, sadness, and loneliness. Schedule video calls with friends and family. Go on a walk while talking on the phone. Try to connect over a face-to-face virtual medium or over the phone at least once a day rather than solely relying on texting.
- Be mindful and intentional with your news and media usage. Most of us want to be informed, but it’s also important to be conscious of the effect news and social media are having. Experiment with picking one medium, once a day to limit continual, intrusive triggers for anxiety and distress. Notice if you feel better or worse before you engage and after you step away from these sources. One reason you might want to limit the amount of time you engage with news and other media is watching too much news or reading too many news articles can reduce opportunities for more positive thinking enjoyed when reading (or listening to) other sources of enjoyable fiction or non-fiction.
- Notice your mood. If you feel irritable or anxious, sad or distressed, it’s time to change things up. Find touchpoints, like every time you go to the bathroom stand up, or eat, when you check in with yourself. Ask yourself: how am I feeling in this moment? How am I doing with tolerating my present experience? Can I take a moment and just feel this?
- Find a way to express what you are feeling. Create a comic book or make a drawing, play an instrument (maybe a table can function as a drum), lead your family in an interpretive dance. These kinds of practices can help you let go of challenging emotions that can be hard to shake and embrace positive, sustaining emotions.
- Notice what is in your control. In this moment, there is a lot of stuff that is not under your control. What is? You might make a choice in any moment to choose creativity. Create music or visual art. Listen to a new artist or piece of music. Take a virtual tour of a special museum.
- Notice what boundaries need to be drawn for your emotional safety. Having some downtime to yourself could be something you schedule proactively with other family members or partners. You may negotiate having some historically problematic conversations tabled until you have more space.
- Take in some new perspective. What would the best part of yourself do in this moment? What would your favorite teacher say to you about how you are managing? What will your kids remember about this time and how you showed up? What advice would your future self give you about this moment from 5 years out?
- Find moments of gratitude. What can you be thankful about in this moment? Can you appreciate yourself for all you are stepping up to? You might start with how well you are doing eating your own cooking or helping your kids cope.
- Look to the heroes. Notice the medical professionals, people who deliver food, supermarket stockers and cashiers, pharmacists, warehouse workers, bus drivers, agricultural and meat packing workers, and the postal workers who are on the front lines during this communicable disease outbreak. If you can’t help them with masks or other protective equipment, think about how we can all help them when this thing is over.
In this moment, we have been thrown out of context. We know there will be moments of grief and fear and irritation and isolation. There can also be moments of inspiration and connection and joy and strength. We can help you turn this moment of challenge into an opportunity for growth and resilience. Reach out when you’re ready. We’re here.