Steven Losardo, Marriage and Family Therapist

In a variety of ways, the impact of COVID-19 has been devastating to many people. Most of us are in a season of transition while waiting to get back to some kind of “normal.” The postponement of life as we know it has been a difficult adjustment. While we cannot control when COVID-19 stay-at-home ends, we can prepare to be successful when the day arrives. Most of us have been in uncertain situations before 2020 and were able to adjust and grow. Amid 2020’s dilemma, we can leverage those experiences. Depending on where one is today, you can prepare for a resilient adjustment, re-organization, or fresh start. 

In some cases, there is a need to take back what we may have lost due to our missteps. As an example, due to a lack of discipline, you have been impacted by old demons from past circumstances. Things such as alcohol use or depression have begun to get the upper hand on your situation. You have the skills to combat these but did not apply your experience. Thus, seemingly smaller issues are now significant problems. Now is the time to be responsible and take the necessary steps to correct this. In this blog, I will review a general template of sorts to assist with getting back on track with similar issues. Also, the tool will serve as a way to prepare for post-COVID-19 life. 

Development Plan 

A 30-day development plan will be in use as the blueprint. The details include physical, psychological, and relational aspects while reviewing one’s present, to understand where you might be at this time. These aspects will assist in renewing a connection to self. In other cases, there will be a reconnection to a future hope of who we want to become. Implementing an action plan such as SMART goals will meet specific objectives in spiritual, psychological, physical, and relational areas of life. This process assures that growth occurs holistically with the focus on the heart, mind, body, and soul. This task will require reflection, strategy, and community. Finally, the hope is the plan can be of use the next time you have uncertainty in life. 

Step 1: Identify Your Baseline or Current Reality 

Example: 

Spiritual/Mindfulness – Using prayer or mindfulness, you have been developing discernment through the removal of emotional overactivity. This time has provided you with counsel, comfort, strength, and guidance. 

Psychological- You are a Myers-Briggs type of ISFJ. As a result, in making decisions, you know you often go by your feelings (Myers, 2015, p. 6). However, you have been spending time in thought and before making a decision, you remove emotion from the decision to use your knowledge/thinking. 

Physical- Specific to the COVID-19 outbreak, you use the ADA home circuit workout for a healthy lifestyle:

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/getting-active/create-a-circuit-home-workout

The exercise has been effective, and you want to do more. 

Relational- During this time, you realize the use of technology has been a benefit for you, and you are more connected than ever before. Since March, shifting your focus of worry to connection has been profitable, and you are thankful. 

Step 2: Picture of Who You Want to Be Spiritual/Mindfulness- 

The removal of emotional overactivity is assisting with work situations and sustainable with your plan, practice, and evaluation (Burns, Chapman, & Guthrie, 2013, p. 41). However, with loved ones, you are still overreaching, and you want to change this. 

Psychological – In current remote work situations, you can be emotionally balanced for decision-making. Having better self-awareness, understanding of interpersonal actions, and “ways [you] make others feel,” and you obtain outside feedback for support in this area (Burns, Chapman, & Guthrie, 2013, p. 104). At home, this is often not the case, and this is a desire you have, especially with your partner. 

Physical – You want to maintain a more consistent daily commitment to exercise as you see the benefits. 

Relational – You see the benefits here are as well. You realize that you need to confront the anxiety when work meetings are in the office. During stay-at-home you have no anxiety on video work calls and feel connected. Your team has noticed a difference as well. This highlights this opportunity for you. 

Step 3: Incorporating A Strategy 

Example: Using SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. 

The approach affords opportunities for not only development and practice, but also evaluation, adjustments, and maintenance. You will set the amount of time to complete the goals, such as 30 days. You will include time to evaluate progress each week with your accountability partner. 

Spiritual/ Psychological Goal – Improve and remove emotion escalation at home, desiring to a more emotionally balanced and attuned partner (The example does not include all the steps). 

  • Journal 15 minutes a day on the interactions with your partner. Next, reflect 30 minutes on the journaling at the end of each week. In reflection, review the dynamics of the relationship with your partner. Obtain an understanding of the interactions and what you can do differently (Issler, 2012). 
  • Use the journal information to examine thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Journal any additional information as well. 
  • Monitor these during the interactions and look to unpack the cycle of reactivity with your partner (Fishbane, 2013). 
  • Brainstorm five changes you will want to begin. 
  • Learn about active listening. 

Physical Goals: Desire to continue to build on the practice 

  • Focus on exercising four times a week for thirty minutes. 
  • If alone, listen to a podcast you enjoy to connect a positive activity to working out. 
  • Get a workout partner to stay on task in the gym and help fortify the behavior (Thomas, 2011, p. 184). 

Relational Goals: Desire to move past social anxiety 

  • Utilize a decision tree to change your perspective or focus. Using mindfulness can help here as well. 
  • Practice the exercises five times a week for 15 minutes. 

Appropriate Community: The relevant community of support is a need in the above sections. 

These include life-giving relationships with supportive and safe individuals who have walked in the tasks before. The roles may consist of wise counsel, the motivator, and guide (Wicks, R.J., 2010). 

Reach out to Symmetry Counseling to arrange an appointment for individual counseling, or family therapy in Chicago to learn more tools to manage your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Get information about our online counseling in Illinois during COVID-19.


References 

American Heart Association, (2020). Retrieved March 25, 2020 from 

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for- physical-activity- in-adults 

Fishbane, M. (2013). Loving with the brain in mind: Neurobiology and couple therapy. WW Norton & Company. 

Perman, M. (2014). What’s best next. Grand Rapids, MI: Zonderman. 

Psychology Tools, J. (2020). Free Guide To Living With Worry And Anxiety Amidst Global Uncertainty. Retrieved March 22, 2020 from https://www.psychologytools.com/articles/free-guide-to-living-with-worry-and-anxiety- amidst-global-uncertainty/ 

Schwarzer, R., & Knoll, N. (2007). Functional roles of social support within the stress and coping process: A theoretical and empirical overview. International journal of psychology, 42(4), 243-252. 

Thomas, G. (2011). Every body matters: Strengthening your body to strengthen your soul. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.