Steven Losardo, AMFT

In clinical practice, many behavioral tools assist with decreasing worry. Tools such as mindfulness, gratefulness logs, thought logs, prayer, and meditation all can be effective. Their efficacy is proven in many research studies. Several use an fMRI, and the data suggests that we can re-train our minds with these tools and others to build our emotional intelligence (EI)
(Fishbane, 2013). Because the change to EI entails rewiring the brain, it requires much repetition and overlearning of the new behaviors (Fishbane, 2013).

Suppose you are seeking some peace from Covid-19 worry that is so real for many of us. As the Corona Virus continues to worsen in the U.S. and across the globe, here in Illinois, the stay-at-home order is already taking its toll on you. You feel isolated and alone despite heavy doses of  social media and online shopping. Even trying to cope taking seven trips to Target in the past five
days to buy “only the essentials” did not work. Surely, you thought on your last trip scoring a GE  light bulb that plays music from your iPhone and an “As Seen On TV” leg pillow, would mend  the internal tension. But seemingly, this did not help either. Instead, the tag on the “greatest pillow ever invented” left you with a small rash on your left inner thigh. So, what can you do amid the worry, loneliness, and uncertainty? This blog will review some suggestions that can help. Further, if you continue to overlearn, the behaviors, you will have some of the tools that rewire your brain building emotional intelligence.

1. Stay Active
During this time, it is essential to be sure to add or continue both physical and mental activities. In the best case, American Heart Association (ADA) website (2020) recommends “at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity” or
preferably a combination of vigorous aerobic activity and moderate-intensity spread throughout the week. This activity translates to about 21.5 minutes of physical activity per day. The ADA also suggests spending less time sitting and, if just starting to exercise,
increase the intensity, duration, and frequency gradually over time. Specific to the COVID-19 outbreak, the ADA now provides a home circuit workout for a healthy lifestyle at https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/getting-active/create-a-circuit-
home-workout.

Mentally, get creative. Some suggestions are to read a book, take an online course, learn a new language, write letters to loved ones, use mindfulness, or put a puzzle together. Maybe practice all the homework your Gottman couple therapist assigned?

2. Rely On Credible News Outlets And Do Not Take In Too Much News
Be aware of the credibility of the information you are getting as well as how much you are seeking. One credible online source is the World Health Organization (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019). While getting the
information check-in and ask, “is this data beneficial for me and others around me that I interact?” and “How much should I consume?”

Suppose you begin to get a sense of worry about while reading the news updates. First, know we all worry, and that’s okay. Worry is efficient when helping to think ahead, and achieve a goal. It can become inefficient when there is a shift to worse case scenario
thinking. Typically, that comes with repeating negative thoughts and a physical sign like feeling a bit sweaty, a pit in your stomach, or restlessness. If you get to this point, seek to adjust. Connect with it and ask, “is the reading the news inefficient or efficient for me in the here-and-now?” If it is not efficient, try cutting down the amount each day to 15 minutes or less.

3. Say Hello To The Worry
Suppose when this first began, there was no worry for you, but now it is here, and it feels uncomfortable. One way to help is being intentional about using a tool such as decision tree or worry time, preferably both. While utilizing a decision tree (see attachment), ask, “what am I worried about, and can I do something about it? If the answer is “no,” then change your perspective or focus (See TIP 5 below). Using mindfulness can help can your focus. If you have never practiced mindfulness, you can start with an App such as
Headspace (https://www.headspace.com/) or Calm. If you answer “yes I can do something here,” then list the options to resolve. Then, ask yourself, “Is there anything I can do right now?” If “no,” plan what you can and when you will get to it. If “yes,”
“Get’er done,” now and then focus on what is essential in the here-and-now. Before using the decision tree, you can insert the Worry Time exercise (see attachment). The approach suggests adding a 15-30 minute dump of the worries onto a sheet of paper
daily. Then, reflect and process them using the decision tree steps above.

4. Change Your Perspective
In the context of stay-at-home and the virus, uncertainty, isolation, worry, anxiety, and low mood can develop. It can feel overwhelming at times and become a consuming fire within. I was reminded this weekend while listening to an online church gathering to change perspective on my view of these circumstances (Soul City, 2020). As an example, for me, I realize I can create a consuming fire within of worry. However, I can choose to shift the focus to a spiritual encounter focusing on my faith using prayer. A renewal of perspective ensues allowing me to remember where I came from, where I am is where I should be, and that Heaven falls to get me when my time comes. Having this perspective, I am beyond thankful, and I can shift an to an all-consuming fire for God.

5. Practice Gratitude
Journal any unexpected or surprising events along the way that you are grateful. Be sure to include some things about yourself that are proud. Consistently writing down things that you are thankful for while being specific, and focusing on people will prove this to
be true. The research tells us having a grateful disposition brings greater physical, mental well-being, and relationships, including the one with yourself (Fishbane, 2013). Practicing this over time also decreases anxiety. FINALLY, DO NOT FORGET: Your
worth is so are much more than you or anyone who knows you can ever imagine. Please embrace this truth!

6. Set a Routine or Tweak The One You Have
So how can you add some of the above suggestions? We work best from a routine, and it helps us stay focused. Perman (2014) notes routines keep us from overflowing specific roles such as Manager (insert your work role here) into other areas of my life, such as
Dad (insert your role here). Further, having a calendar and allocating how much time to commit and where each day of the week makes us efficient. Without a routine, we would have a list of things to do, but no framework and much inefficient action.
During this time and under the stay-at-home order integrating life roles may seem like a practical approach. However, not having any boundaries or having too many crossed boundaries because we did not have a routine can be another virus all together as we are
not honoring ourselves. To avoid this one approach is to put together a basic schedule or tweak the one you have based on your current situation, including your roles. Do not be too detailed in the process, and set time for a weekly review to make adjustments
(Perman 2014).