Not gonna lie. Just a few weeks ago, I posted a status on my personal Facebook that read as follows:
For real, this Corona Virus nonsense is way over hyped. Media, please stop.
The status gained attention quickly with 60 likes and nearly a hundred comments. It definitely sparked quite the debate among my loved ones. One side pushed for society to take this seriously and provided facts to back up their claims. The other side refuted the media and felt that the coronavirus was being blown way out of proportion. I sided with the latter half at first. It made sense to think this at the time. So many times the media sent us into panic mode over the “next big pandemic.” We saw it with SARS, swine flu, avian flu, Ebola, and many more. As more and more reports came through, it became clear that there was something different about this one. It was not going anywhere. It was here to stay.
To say the least, I angered several friends with that status and eventually corrected my stance on the issue. As it spread across the world and the numbers of infected/dying people increased, it was hard to deny the impact that the coronavirus was having. It started off with the typical warnings like wash your hands and keep a safe distance. As pressure grew, so did the panic. Store shelves started emptying. People turned frantic. Then came the lockdown. Governments put curfews in place. Non-essential travel was highly discouraged. Businesses were closed down. Restaurants turned to takeout and delivery only. Schools shut down. Jobs moved to strictly remote locations if possible. Large gatherings including concerts, weddings, and conferences cancelled over fear of spreading the highly contagious virus.
This nuisance completely uprooted our “normal” way of living. It is pretty easy to imagine how this interrupted individuals’ self-care activities, interpersonal relationships, and mental health. As a mental health counselor, I am taking the brunt of it along with everyone else. My entire schedule switched around. Clients I usually saw in the evening wanted to switch to mornings. Some of them inquired about webcam or telephone sessions, which I NEVER did before. I had loved ones leaning on me for support as well, as I went out to get them supplies in preparation for a potential militaristic type shutdown.
If I was feeling it, I knew my clients and their families definitely did. During each session, I made it a point to address their mental and emotional well-being as it related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Many common issues, concerns, and suggestions arose during these conversations.
Take a break from social media, the Internet, and television. Our lives revolve around the Internet, especially now since most now work from home during this crisis. However, the Internet barrages us with information every minute of every day. The hot topic right now is the coronavirus, so the media will feast on it. If you are pent up on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tik Tok, or any other social media platform, it will be there. Get the information you need and unplug for a bit.
Use humor. If you are going to spend an incredulous amount of time on social media anyways, you might as well have a good chuckle over coronavirus. I am absolutely loving the memes coming out of this situation. It definitely lightens the mood a little and shines a silver lining in it all.
Consider the source. While on the topic of social media and the media, please check sources of information. There has been a plethora of incorrect information circulating about how to cure the virus, conspiracy theorists, people being misquoted, and just outright false claims. Make sure your information comes from factual, reputable sources.
Be flexible. Trust me. You are not the only one experiencing rapid changes right now. We are ALL going through these transitions to a new norm. Stores might be out of certain supplies, so you might have to look elsewhere. Technology might not work as it is first being flushed out. Programs and assignments might be behind. Be understanding that things are different for now and might require alternatives to the norm.
Look for suitable alternatives. Along the same lines of flexibility, seek out fulfilling activities that still help you reach your goals. Your gym got shut down. This does not mean you cannot go for a run or do a home workout from YouTube or a smartphone app.
Do not go on “productive” overload. Oh sh*t. You finally have time to finish that one thousand-piece puzzle that has been sitting in the corner of your living room. This does not mean that you have to finish it in one sitting along with the other fifty things on your ever-growing to-do list. Space it out. Take your time. Break it down. There is a good chance that this situation could carry out for several months. There will be plenty of time to finish those errands.
Be smart, not strong. Just use your brain. If we look at the logical side of things, it reduces some of the anxiety. If you just spent time around a group of people or went into a store, wash your hands. If you feel sick, stay home. If you are showing symptoms of the virus, go to the doctor. This is not a time to play stupid or to challenge our mental strength.
Have “me” time. Think about all of the places you visit throughout the day or times that you take to simply decompress. You stop by the local coffee shop in the morning to grab a cup of joe before work. You wake up early to go to the gym for your morning cardio routine. You stop by a cafe after work for a quick bite to eat. Later at night, you lay in bed reading a book. Suddenly, all of these places shut down for the foreseeable future. You are cooped up in the house with your family and kids. You cannot get away.
Ensure that you have some time each day where you can be by yourself. Watch a show in your bedroom. Take a walk around your neighborhood. Make a quick to the grocery store for a bite to eat. Tensions will run high being around the same people for extended periods of time.
Try a new hobby. You will likely have a lot of free time coming up. It would not hurt to spend it taking a risk while you are in the safety and security of your own home.
Maintain some consistency. Human beings are creatures of habit. We like structure and routine. During this outbreak, implement some of your own. For instance, I advised the parents I work with to set aside a specific time each day for their children to do their schoolwork. They can do the same thing with their own work. It helps feel a bit more comfortable for the time being.
Check in with loved ones. Literally every person I spoke to this past week has been stressed out. “This week was crazy.” “I don’t know how we are going to make it.” Hearing other people’s experiences normalized my feelings and made me realize I am not alone in this. We need each other now more than ever. Give your loved ones a shoulder to lean on, and hopefully they can reciprocate.
Practice acceptance. Nothing evokes anxiety and panic than that of the unknown. There are so many unknowns at work currently. No one knows how many people will be inflicted with the virus. Some are unsure of how long they will be out of work or how they will pay their bills. None of us know how long this shutdown might last. Each day, our society finds out more and more about this virus, and we all feel its effects. I live by the saying, “It is what it is.” It could not be any truer right now.
Everyone, stay safe and stay healthy!
-The Caring Counselor
Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19. (2020, March 14). Retrieved March 24, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html
NAMI. (n.d.). Retrieved March 24, 2020, from https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/March-2020/Coronavirus-Mental-Health-Coping-Strategies