It's Okay to Not Be Okay: How to Cope During a Pandemic

We presently live in a surreal world. Who would have known that just a few months ago we would be quarantined in our homes and when we went outside we would be wearing masks and gloves!

As a psychologist, I see patients who feel stressed and depressed about the coronavirus and its consequences. I share with them suggestions to help alleviate their anxiety. The following are some tips that can help all of us cope in a positive manner.

How to Cope During a Pandemic:

1. Stay aware and informed about the situation in your city but limit constant monitoring of news. Too much exposure to media can be overwhelming. Make time to read a good book or watch a fun movie.

2. Focus on what you can control. Most important is washing your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. Avoid touching your face. Stay home as much as possible. Social distancing of at least 6 feet is important. Avoid all non-essential shopping or traveling. Many stores now deliver to your home. Avoid crowds of 10 or more people. 

3. Get sufficient sleep and eat healthy. This will support your immune system which will be beneficial in the case you do get sick.

4. Meditation and relaxation breathing is very helpful when feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Therapists are now treating individuals via phone, FaceTime and Skype. Also, there are videos on YouTube that can teach you relaxation techniques.

5. While we are told to social distance, we are really “physically distancing”. We still can stay socially connected via the internet (email, texting, video chats, Skype) and phone. It is important to keep in contact with family and friends to lose the sense that we are alone.  Try to focus on other topics than the coronavirus!

6. Realize it is ok to not feel ok now. But you are not alone since unfortunately the whole world is experiencing what you are experiencing. Be hopeful that eventually life will return to normal.

7. Find a creative activity you enjoy. Perhaps learn a skill from an online video. One of my patients is learning sign language from a video. Some patients are working on artistic creations.

8. Exercise by walking in areas not crowded with people, always using your mask. There are many free exercise videos on the internet.

9. Stay hydrated and avoid excessive amounts of caffeine. Also, it’s very important to not self medicate with alcohol or drugs. This will only lead to further problems.

10. Help others in need. Perhaps call an elderly neighbor to see how they are doing.

11. If your emotional distress is overwhelming, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You're not alone. Confidential help is available for free. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours everyday. Call them at 1-800-273-8255 or click here to chat with them online.

Meditating Woman Photo by Andrea Piacquadio.
Couple with Child Photo by Gustavo Fring.

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