It’s no secret we’re in the midst of a confusing and uncertain time. This is uncharted territory for all of us making it hard to know who to look to for answers. The unfortunate reality is that no matter who you are, whether a government official, celebrity, or “normal” member of society, we’re all coping with the uncertainty and anxiety brought about by the presence of COVID-19.
As the world comes to a stop around us and the life we were once living doesn’t exist in the present, it’s difficult to know how to continue to move forward. Regardless of the specific concerns each individual is dealing with in regard to COVID-19, none of us are immune to the impact it may have. Learning to cope in this uncertain time is vital to remain calm and grounded.
Challenge Automatic Thoughts
On a day-to-day basis we have many automatic thoughts that pop into our brains unintentionally. When there is a big event, something unnerving, or in this case a global pandemic, the rate of our automatic thoughts can skyrocket. Along with this increase comes catastrophizing. It’s very easy to let our minds wander to scary places without even realizing what we’re doing. The good news is we can stop this by focusing on what we do know. Many of the automatic thoughts we have are not fully rational or true. Pause and ask yourself, what proof do I have backing up this thought? How does this thought serve me? Is this thought rooted in reality? Asking these kinds of questions can help you remain grounded in the here and now. It’s important to remember that some thoughts we have are neither true or false they’re simply just a thought.
Slow the Hamster Wheel
When we feel ourselves starting to get nervous, anxious, or a bit panicked our thoughts can start to spiral. I like to think of this as having a hamster wheel in our minds that just keeps spinning and spinning faster and faster. In therapeutic terms this is the habit of thinking negative or anxiety-producing thoughts over and over again, also known as ruminating. As we continue on this thought pattern, we rewire neuro-circuits in our brain leading to increased anxiety. In order to change our thought pattern, we have to implement a new one. While this may seem daunting, we created the original thought pattern we’re trying to change so we’re very capable of creating a new one! Utilizing the above method of challenging automatic thoughts is extremely helpful. It’s important to take this one step farther and replace the rumination with a more soothing and logical thought. Shifting your mindset with intention to a more grounding though based in reality can take time and practice but will make a big difference in how you experience your anxiety.
With the spread of COVID-19 comes significant blame put on others, however, blame will never help us move towards solving a situation. Blame is inherently rooted in the past. In times like these it’s important to focus on what we do have control over and the past is something we cannot control. Instead of looking back and creating fault, blame, or fostering negativity, bring yourself into the present moment and explore what we have control over. What choices can we make today that will positively impact the future? Focusing on the control that we do have is incredibly empowering.
As the state of the world is consistently changing and evolving, the influx of news updates continues to grow. Watching the news or being on social media consistently can be extremely toxic and draining. It’s incredibly beneficial to set boundaries for yourself in terms of social media usage and news consumption. You’ll be surprised how much extra time you may have to put towards a different, more productive activity. Realistically, watching the news consistently will not change your actions as for the time being, we’re all staying home and only going places for essential needs. In order to maintain your mental health and continue to get a good night’s sleep, limiting social media usage and news consumption is necessary.
Implement a Routine
It’s incredibly easy when working from home to fall into an unhealthy routine or no routine at all. Without a morning commute it’s possible to wake up 5 minutes prior to our job starting for the day and simply roll over to grab our computer. For some of us, we may no longer have a job or place to go to which removes that aspect of structure as well. Regardless of the situation you’re in, implementing a set schedule for each day can be extremely containing and beneficial. Ensuring time to go for a walk, implementing exercise, showering/practicing daily hygiene routines, reading a book, doing a puzzle, coloring, cooking dinner, learning a new skill, organizing that drawer you’ve been avoiding, cleaning out your closet, having a dance party, calling a friend, these are all things you can schedule into your day/week. It may seem silly, but functioning with an overall structure can be extremely beneficial for our mental health.
Now is the time to reach out to friends, loved ones, and those you may have lost touch with over the years. Social distancing does not mean social isolation. However, it does require a bit of extra effort to fostering and maintaining relationships. Around the world we are all experiencing the same thing. While it impacts each of us differently, there is a commonality we all share. Use this time to reach out to others, rekindle relationships, and strengthen bonds you may not have had time to foster previously.
While we social distance ourselves and self-isolate, we are all in this together. Implementing these coping mechanisms can be extremely helpful while managing the day-to-day.
If you’ve found yourself struggling to cope with the uncertainty of this time period, it may be useful to try counseling. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our very skilled therapists today!