Coping through COVID-19 | Opinion – Herald Review

As we continue trudging into the unknown of the COVID-19 pandemic, it continues to negatively impact not only our health, but also our social interactions, financial stability, and emotional well-being, to name a few. We are constantly adjusting to find out what is our new normal, while many are feeling that there is nothing normal about this. I have been encouraged by speaking with my clients, family, and friends, about some of the ways people are trying to deal constructively with the situation at hand, and feel the need to inform others of some of these things as well. Although these suggestions obviously will not fix the COVID-19 crisis, they may make it easier to cope with.

Physical touch is still important at this time with the people whom you are quarantined with

As long as the individuals whom you are quarantined with remain healthy, it is vital that we continue to provide physical touch to one another. Physical touch is not only beneficial as it helps us to feel good, but it also has been shown to increase our immune system and our health. Human beings are social creatures by nature, and the COVID-19 pandemic is preventing us to receive as much physical contact with others. Giving hugs, kisses, putting a hand on the shoulder of the people in your home, even cuddling your pets can assist in combating the disconnect with connectedness. Even though it is not physical touch, sending a letter to a loved one whom you cannot see right now is also a way of physically sending love and care.

Plan things you can control/maintain structure

It is extremely difficult right now as there is no foreseeable end in sight to COVID-19. The loss of activities and uncertainty in knowing when it will improve leaves many feeling a sense of loss, as well as a loss of hope. Human beings need to have things to look forward to, and it is difficult as there are distinct limitations on what we can plan and do. Instead of dwelling on the loss of certain activities, it is vital to try to plan new activities amongst yourself as well as others we can spend time with.

I have felt hopeful by the things I have been hearing from others at this time, as there have been many creative ideas which have surfaced. Making up your own family holiday to celebrate, having themed dinner parties (e.g. every person in the house dresses up in their fanciest outfit, etc.,) playing board games with a friend via FaceTime, cooking a special meal, all are things which can assist in not only providing something to do, but something to look forward to. It also assists us in maintaining structure, which can help us to feel more in control. Also, being able to have some things you will do every day, even if you are not working/going to school, can assist in maintaining a semblance of empowerment and achievement. Getting outside on a daily basis, getting dressed even if you are not going anywhere, taking showers regardless if you are seeing anyone, are all things that may help foster feelings of accomplishment, which is vital at this time.

Find meaning in daily life

Everyone has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic even if they do not have the illness. Children and teens are now having to homeschool, many individuals are unemployed, social distancing is keeping our social activities extremely limited, etc. It is extremely normal to feel a sense of loss and sadness, even grief about the loss of being able to do things we had planned. Especially in adults, the loss of a job can equate to the loss of identity. However, there are many more aspects of a person than just what they do for a living. Therefore, it is necessary to try to continue to find meaning/a sense of purpose in the things we are currently doing and the roles we have. Writing down the roles you have such as a mother, father, spouse, brother, sister, friend, grandparent, etc., can be a powerful visual to remind ourselves of what is truly important in our lives. Doing this with family/friends can also be a positive activity to remind ourselves and others of the positive impact of relationships in our lives.

Work on being present

COVID-19 continues to impact our future due to the uncertain timeline and longevity of the illness and the restrictions it imposes. Anxiety is an emotion that is most often rooted in the future, as it is unknown. As stated previously, the loss of activities also adds to depressive feelings, as we are mourning the activities we are unable to do and plan currently. It is completely OK to be sad and to even grieve the loss of activities and events we had planned that are not coming to fruition. Moreover, implementing mindfulness into our daily lives can assist with coping through these emotions. I always try to tell people that mindfulness does not have to be doing yoga or simply taking deep breaths-yes, these things can be helpful, but everyone is different and responds in various ways to various stimuli. I encourage people to try to use their 5 basic senses-touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste-to determine what thing(s) are most soothing to them. For example, if you are soothed by the scent of fresh air, getting outdoors can help with being in the present. If you are soothed by a specific type of music or various songs, making a playlist to listen to when you are feeling more anxious may be another option. In my opinion, cooking is a wonderful way to utilize mindfulness, as you are using all five of your senses.

Be creative with self-care

There are three aspects of self-care I often focus on: relaxing, escaping, and playing. Note that these can overlap, but relaxing could mean getting a massage, escaping could mean going on a weekend trip, while playing could mean having a get-together with friends. Obviously, none of those things are readily feasible at the moment due to the pandemic and the need for social distancing. Therefore, continuing to find creative ways of taking care of ourselves is also necessary at this time. Taking naps at times, having a family game night, playing video games, getting lost in a good book, and even having a spa night in your home are just a few things that can be tried to assist with filling the self-care void. I think every adult has said the phrase, If I only had extra time I would fill-in-the-blank. If you ask yourself that question and it is a feasible, healthy activity that can be accomplished with time, why not try it?

Last but not least-LAUGH

Just like physical touch, laughter also boosts health and immunity benefits. Try to find something every day that makes you laugh, whether it be your family, friends, a funny YouTube video, pets, etc. Laughing with people whom you are quarantined with is also important. Although you may be feeling more irritable with the people whom you may be at home with due to being cooped up together, it is even more necessary to attempt to combat the irritability with attempting to facilitate positive, shared experiences. We are all in this together.

If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, please be reminded that there are resources available throughout this time. Visit the website https://mhanational.org/covid19 to find out more about mental health support as well as information on services related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Melodee Gilbertson, PsyD., works with Northern Perspectives Psychological Services located in Nashwauk.

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Coping through COVID-19 | Opinion - Herald Review

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