Living With COVID-19

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As we progress through this pandemic, we are faced with a mass of shifting, sometimes confusing information. There are so many factors to contend with—vaccination questions, physical and mental health issues, fear of getting sick, financial worries and work issues. We are confronted with so many challenges. We are getting used to all this, but we also long for a return to some kind of normalcy. It is coming! But it’s not entirely here either.

A time like this invites us to increase the use of positive skills—like kindness, patience and mindfulness—even as it may feel harder than ever to apply them.

Most of our lives have undergone big changes. We still need to practice physical distancing and wearing a mask in many situations. We still miss contact with many friends and family, and having gatherings. Not going to work and spending so much time at home has generated many new kinds of stresses. Going to work and risking illness is another stress. The arrival of vaccinations is helping us reduce the case numbers across BC. But risks remain, and new variants lead to more questions about how effective the vaccinations will be in a shifting viral climate.

The three cornerstones of mental health are good sleep, healthy eating and daily exercise. Maintaining a regular rhythm with when you go to bed and get up, with meals and exercise can make a big difference to how you cope with any kind of stress, especially covid stress.

If you are battling your worst impulses and reactions, you are not alone! If you’re helping in new ways, you’re also not alone! If you see yourself behaving outside your previous norms, this is likely to be a response to the effects of such large shifts in our health, our social life and our economy.

Experiences such as: irritability, anxiety, feeling easily upset, crying suddenly, feeling wired, flat, depressed, feeling disoriented, disconnected, loss of ability to focus, feeling quickly tired—are to be expected.

There are some simple things you can do to help yourself and those around you. A quick one is to take three longer than usual breaths. Sense your breathing, as your lungs expand your rib cage. Try it right now! It is possible to notice your state of mind and intervene. You only need a few seconds to give yourself attention and kindness. Remind yourself, feelings are not permanent: they come and go. Taking frequent, brief  “breathing spaces” can promote a sense of calm.

When you do something you enjoy, you have more resilience for the overall stresses. I need hardly remind anyone about Netflix or Crave! There is also: cooking, reading, exercise, creative work, laughter, playing with kids, virtual time with friends.

We cope better when we share with family and friends. Checking in with each other helps us know we’re in this together. We can share experiences and covid survival tips. The odd irony to our situation, which I hope you also may be experiencing, is a strong spirit of pulling together, a renewed desire to be kind and gentle with each other. This helps us all and is needed.

Expressing our gratitude to our front line and essential workers is also all-important. Our gratitude and support can strengthen and encourage them.

Below are a few “staying sane” tips. If you find them helpful, you could put this list on your fridge as reminders!

Staying Sane tips:

• Acknowledge your shifting experience: accept it with compassion (kindness). Remind yourself: “This will pass.”

• Maintain healthy routines: sleep, exercise and good food.

• Take time outside, in nature. Lean against a tree or a rock. Look up at the sky. Lie on the earth. Touch the plants and trees. They do not have coronavirus! Try to stay present to your senses: sight, hearing, smell and touch.

• Remind yourself when you feel alone, “Right now, millions of others feel this way. We are all in this together.” Try sending your love to those millions, and remember to include yourself! It may help, you, at least.

• If you notice your emotional life is more erratic or stronger, that’s normal. Strong feelings will pass sooner, if you can give them some room. Just breath with them and acknowledge what you feel. Then you will feel more able to turn to your life again.

• Take time to notice what you need. Ask for what you need and ask others what kind of support they need. If you can’t provide it, help them think about how to get help. Generosity toward others relieves everyone of isolation.

• Practice gratitude: giving thanks for small or “large” things—a small blue flower in the grass, health guidance you trust!

• Remind yourself: My effort makes a difference. Everyone’s caring matters greatly now (actually it always did, we just don’t necessarily realize that).

• Think about how best to support your social needs, e.g. virtual socializing, individually or in groups. Consider which social media are helpful to your wellbeing and stick to those.

• Use reliable news sources. Think critically: beware scams, trolls, misinformation and disinformation.

• Practice kindness and patience with yourself and others.

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