Coping with COVID
During this pandemic, a lot has changed. Our social life, our family life, the way we cope, and the way we greet. 2020 was a year we like to joke about being a skip year, a year to be forgotten, a year that does not count and why? Because of the unknown, the fear, and changes we had to make to survive, putting on the ‘deal with’ attitude during a stress-filled time. Some want to forget because it was hard, icky and dang was it fuelled with hate as well. Well, unfortunately, COVID-19 leaked into 2021 and is continuing to test our limits.
The good news is, there is a vaccine. The bad news is that there is so much misleading information and conspiracy theories out there, that people don’t know what to believe or disbelieve. To answer that, do your research. By research, I mean well-documented doctors' opinions supported by literature with strong backing as a starting point.
But how do we cope with the fear, the change and isolation? The short answer is, we do our best. We adapt, we learn new things with the old ways, and explore ourselves once again to see what fits and doesn’t.
Fear is a natural response to a threat. A natural human response, where we can obtain/enquiry knowledge to make wise decisions, hence squashing the fear!
Change is another thing. As we go through stages in life, change is inevitable. That being said, we usually have a choice in this change.
During this pandemic, changes were put in place for us for our safety and safety of others. How do we navigate through these changes? Are we allowing them to stop us in our tracks or be resilient and find other avenues to explore? Are you making changes during these times? Perhaps eating better, exercising more, quitting smoking, cooking more, finding new self-care activities, learning a new skill. Are you making more room for play? How do we navigate through these processes? Do you know the process of change? Here are the steps so you can understand where you are in the process. Break down the changes in your life and go from there. Start with the more pressing ones, and work your way down. The following are the stages of change: (Prochaska & DiClemente):
Precontemplation – not thinking about changing. Could look like distraction or feeling stuck.
Contemplation – beginning to think that change may be a good thing. Could look like thinking about ways to change habits, thoughts, behaviours, or even beliefs.
Preparation – making small changes. Planning. Could look like scheduling your day or week, researching therapists, or even organizing your space to study.
Action – undertaking new behaviour. Doing. Could look like Taking to dog out at a scheduled time, finishing your work you were holding off on doing, or even asking that someone out.
Maintenance – the new behaviour becomes habitual. Repeating the new behaviours of your action item(s) to create the outcome you want, until it has momentum on its own without effort.
Relapse – sometimes this happens when you fall into old patterns or behaviours. Sometimes we get into healthy new behaviours and then boom, our old habits come seeping back in. This is where healthy coping skills to jumpstart back into the change model can help.
Looking at these stages, they are here to help with information about what you’re going through, not to say that this is the end all be all order of change you’ll go through. Sometimes you’ll jump right into preparation, and then drop into contemplation. Proceeding to action, while spiralling into relapse. Then pre-contemplation, contemplation, and preparation once again. These changes are there to help guide you, let you know that they are there, and help you focus. As I stated, you can start on one, and jump around till the pattern, habit or behaviour finally changes. Everyone has their own rate of dealing with changes. Some changes are just harder than others. For more on the stages of change click HERE.
Basic Needs and Survival: Going back to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, when our basic needs are not being met (food, work, housing, personal security, health, etc.), our self-fulfilment go on the back burner. Our social life (strength, freedom, and sense of connection/ belonging), feel a tad empty, and unfulfilled. The good news is that it's not forever and you’re not alone. How do we counter disconnection?
Ask for help - “Was wondering if you could/ had time to_____”
Reach out and connect in a safe way - Even if you’re just saying “Hi”.
Remember the small stuff - nature, remember what you have, gratitude towards self, and each other.
Communicate love, and admiration towards your loved ones, friends and/or family.
Self-care: caring for self during these times. Paint, dance, bath, walk, journal, make tea, read.
Limit your news intake or social media/ screen times.
Ask open-ended questions to create a deeper response for positive connection. Do not assume.
Isolation sets in, the introverts are in heaven and the extraverts are in hell, as the saying goes. Understanding that this too will pass will make changes bearable. The new normal is the adaptability and resilience you integrated. Making sure we stay safe and stay connected is key to our mental health.
Isolation can feel like being stuck, here are some common symptoms:
How to get past this stuckness and move towards finding joy and meaning. This can look like going for walks in nature (or fresh air): studies suggest that this can boost your mood, health and alleviate stress. Learning something new: expressing your creative side can curb that restlessness. Keep a routine, however it looks, to stay focused and on track, which can help you feel accomplished and keep structure in your life. Lack of a routine can disrupt your daily schedule of sleeping, eating and so on. Slow down and tap into your awareness of those feelings, meditate, breath (if safe). Limit your social media and news intake. Consistently focusing on the hardship can create more harm than good sometimes, monitor your screen time. As mentioned above, on getting over disconnection, there are more examples to guide you towards greatness. Want to learn more about anxiety? Click ANXIETY
Here are some tips below if you're in a relationship coping with covid. I get asked how do I reconnect with my partner?
Sometimes couples get swept up and stressed about what’s going on in the world and themselves, that it's hard to see their partner as a human too, having a human experience. Check-in, ask questions, listen and learn. Couples questions to build deeper intimacy (John Gottman):
What’s one thing you think could improve our relationship?
What are two things you like about the way I communicate with you?
What are two things you would like to see me change about how I communicate with you?
How would you prefer we spend our free time together this weekend?
Listen, attune to their experience, to each other, and admire each other. Compliment each other. Catch your partner doing something awesome and appreciate them for it. Turn towards each other. Show affection and admiration. Remember each other’s positive attributes as well. Make the effort and see its effects.
Fear, change, and isolation are hard, with a capital ‘H’. Fear comes in because of the threat of safety/health, change requires persistent effort and understanding, while isolation can lead to anxiety if you don't have the tools to help. Putting these all together can lead you into resilience with healthy coping skills, self-care, knowledge, and compassion.
Remember we are human, and doing the best we can.