What you CAN do to stay well
As we head into our third consecutive week of socially isolating, work disruptions and dire news coverage, you may notice the stress of this temporary “new normal” is starting to add up. It is easy to feel anxious and overwhelmed in this time of COVID-19. However, there are many self-care activities we can do to maintain a sense of control and well-being.
Below are some wise recommendations from Mosaic Behavioral Health consultant, Keith Ingulli, PsyD. In addition, Mosaic Medical is continuing to provide care services to our patients. Both telephone and video appointments with our Behavioral Health Consultants are available.
Live according to your values. During desperate times, it is easy to behave in ways we regret (yelling at our spouse, coping with alcohol, etc.). This is a good time to think about the kind of person you want to be and what you truly value. Research shows that when we live according to our values, we experience heightened well-being. For instance, if you value being kind to others and then you ask someone how you can help them, then you are living according to that value.
Focus on what you can control. It can seem as if so much is out of our control right now: Will I lose my job? Will I get sick? Will I get a stimulus check? Focus on what you can control. You can take precautions to keep yourself healthy. These include washing your hands often, social distancing and supporting those in your family in doing the same things.
Maintain structure in your day. Children staying home from school or temporarily losing your job can throw a wrench into your routine. A lack of regular structure can increase emotional stress, for everyone. One of the most effective forms of self-care is creating a new structure for your days now. For instance, wake up and go to bed at the same time each day and eat regular healthy meals. Give your child(ren) tasks around snacks and general household duties. Reassure them that you are happy to have them home with you, even if you are feeling some frustrations yourself. Making a structured school or creative/play schedule will likely also be helpful for your young children. PBS has a great webpage for learning media that includes lesson plans for all grades: https://opb.pbslearningmedia.org/
Get moving and connect with nature
Exercise regularly. Exercise has been found to improve our mood and reduce stress. Although health clubs and State Parks are currently closed, there are still plentiful exercise opportunities. Whether you like to run, walk, strength train, or engage in yoga, there are ways to get active. Choose something that you can continue and that keeps you an appropriate distance from others. Virtual (video) workouts are all the rage these days and easily available. This is the time to exercise!
- It can be fun to use an app for charting time/distance/map location, I use the Map My Run smart phone app https://www.mapmyrun.com/
- Our local yoga friends at Namaspa are offering virtual classes, find information here: https://namaspa.com/coronavirus-response
Spend some time in nature. Spending time in nature is a great form of self-care as it reduces stress and anxiety. Please keep in mind that choosing an area where you can maintain appropriate distance from others will be especially important at this time. Perhaps just having a seat outside on your front porch, and taking a few deep breaths, will help right now.
Limit exposure to media. When things are changing so fast, it is common to attempt to cope by constantly viewing the latest news and checking commentary from social media. Unfortunately, this can actually increase your emotional distress. It’s very important to be mindful about your exposure to negative and concerning stories. Some find it helpful to limit media to once per day, although this will vary depending on the individual. A good suggestion is to enlist a buddy and help each other from obsessing over media. Look to reliable news sources such as the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and the websites for state and federal governments.
Continue to connect with friends and family. Although our usual ways of connecting with loved ones have been limited due to necessary social distancing, it is vital you spend time with people you care about. We are social creatures and in a time like this we need to find creative forms of connection to maximize self-care. This is a good time to embrace phone calls and video calls.
There is no doubt we are living in an extraordinary time in history. It is impossible not to have upsetting, unsettling moments as the days go by and we are forced to change nearly every part of our normal lives. However, we can simplify our daily goals with a new list of priorities, self-care activities and reach out for help when needed. Most importantly: Remember, there will be a time when we will look back and tell stories of how we survived this historical crisis. Perhaps we will also say we were changed, forever, and for the better.
Keith Ingulli, PsyD, is a Behavioral Health Consultant at Mosaic Medical’s East Bend clinic. He specializes in helping patients manage anxiety, depression, stress, trauma, substance abuse, and chronic pain. He holds a Doctorate of Psychology from Pacific University and a Master of Science in Counseling from Lewis & Clark College.