Emotional Well-Being in the time of COVID-19: Self Care Advice from a Psychotherapist
Author: Lynn Qi M.Ed, Registered Psychotherapist
Editor: Judy Lui, M.Sc. C.C.C., Registered Psychotherapist April 19th 2020
The last few weeks have been unprecedented for all of us. The Covid-19 pandemic is impacting our daily routines and changing the way we work and live. These are unusual times that can impose additional stress and challenges for everyone.
Here are a few tips to help you stay resilient and maintain emotional well-being in this trying time.
TURN OFF THE NEWS:
Limit your consumption of social media and news
For most of us, we have never experienced anything like this before - a global shutdown of economy, social distancing measures, and indefinite lockdowns. When things are changing minute to minute, we may inevitably experience feelings of powerlessness and helplessness. In such uncertain times, our mind which is naturally geared to help us survive will desperately search for any information or solutions that will help us gain clarity. What is clear, however, is that we will find ourselves feeling even more overwhelmed when we over consume social media and news on Covid-19 which are often negatively skewed and sensationalized. Bad news can become more distressing when our anxious minds gravitate towards the worst-case scenarios.
"Stay informed but not overwhelmed "
Tip: Stay informed but not overwhelmed. Limiting exposure to social media and new does not mean we need to take the classic “head in the sand” approach and pretend nothing is happening. Find trusted and reliable information sources and read necessary information (i.e., government announcements) no more than 1 hr. each day.
FIND THE THINGS WITHIN YOUR CONTROL: Create a schedule and routine to find more grounding
We may also notice there are changes in our day to day life. We can no longer have our normal friend gatherings or parties. Kids are at home all the time. The worst part of this is that we don’t know how long this is going to last. There is no road map for this. Having a little predictability and a sense of control creates grounding, which may help us when we are unsure what this will look like in 1 week or 1 month from now.
"There is no road map for this. Having a little predictability and a sense of control creates grounding, which may help us when we are unsure what this will look like in 1 week or 1 month from now."
Tip: Try to find a new routine. Set up realistic goals and expectations for yourself that are doable and manageable so that you don't overwhelm yourself. Go to bed and wake up at a regular time. Balance work, self-care, eating, and exercising so that you feel a bit more in control of your day.
If you have children, you can also help them construct a new routine as they may experience increased anxiety, worries and fears, or boredom due to the disruption of their regular school routines. Take the time to be kind.
EMBRACING THE NOW:
Letting go of what we don't have control of
The quarantine has definitely changed the timing of our goals and plans. People have had to cancel their big plans like weddings and trips. Such rapid changes at the global level due to the pandemic can make us feel powerless and disoriented about the life goals we had set.
"Such rapid changes at the global level due to the pandemic can make us feel powerless and disoriented about the life goals we had set."
Tip: Let go of the plans that you have no control over and reprioritize what is small but doable. Put a pause on goals that are currently out of your control. For example, it is impossible to stick to the rigorous gym exercise program when all the gyms in town are closed down but you can adopt home exercises, join online workout classes, and/or host virtual dance parties with friends and family as an effective alternative.
FINDING ROOM TO BREATHE:
Retreating into your own space
Due to shutdown measures, the majority of us are spending most of our time at home. Your personal space and time are likely significantly limited if you are living with other people. All of a sudden, your partner, parents, or kids are with you 24/7. If you are feeling suffocated, you are definitely not alone. Despite how much we love our family and friends, we all need this little retreat space for us to breathe and feel like ourselves again.
"If you are feeling suffocated, you are definitely not alone. We all need a little retreat space for us to breathe and feel like ourselves again."
Tip: Find a space in your home where you can take a break when feeling stressed. Limited space at home? What about turning your closet into a quiet meditation space with some pillows and twinkle lights? Have a backyard or little patio space? Bring a comfy throw blanket, a hot cup of tea and cozy on up. It is okay for you to excuse yourself for a self-care break. You are not being selfish. You are just simply trying to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. Think of it as mandatory maintenance for your own well-being.
KEEP YOUR DISTANCE BUT KEEP ON SOCIALIZING:
Stay connected with you friends and loved ones
Social distancing does not equal to zero social interaction. Social distancing rules are in place to protect our physical health but it has a huge negative impact on our mental well-being. It can easily cause us to feel extremely lonely and depressed in a time of uncertainty and fear. We are social creatures after all and we need emotional connections especially when fear and anxiety is prevalent. We naturally feel more secure and safe when we are connected as a community. Our pain and anxiety can be eased when it is heard by others.
"We are social creatures after all and we need emotional connections especially when fear and anxiety is prevalent."
Tip: Reach out to your family, friends, and coworkers. Try to keep in touch with the important people of your life via FaceTime, Skype, phone calls, or texting. Explore virtual social activities such as online games, hobby forums, virtual concerts etc. If you have children, you may also help them set up virtual playdates!
ASK FOR HELP AND SUPPORT:
You are not alone, we all deserve help from time to time
Many people may find it hard to stick to their regular physical or psychological treatments because of the pandemic. This is a psychologically challenging time for everyone. Feeling vulnerable does not mean you are weak. It simply means you are a human being and need some support and help during this unprecedented time.
"This is a psychologically challenging time for everyone. Feeling vulnerable does not mean you are weak."
Tip: For those who have been in therapy or are currently in communication with one, keep up with your therapy sessions the best you can. If you do not feel comfortable with in-person appointments, ask your therapist if they offer virtual therapies. Many of them are still available to you even at distance. If you never had therapy, it is perfectly ok to seek out help for the first time. Reach out to a therapist, start small by simply researching who is available online or in your area. Read their bios and value/mission statement and see which messages resonate with. If you're wanting to know more set up a phone call consultation or interview just to explore your options. Reaching out can be overwhelming, more than ever but taking it in small but manageable steps can help make the process just a tad bit easier for yourself.
About the Author
Lynn Qi, M.Ed. R.P.
Lynn is a Registered Psychotherapist and an associate at Your Story Counselling Services, an Individual, Couple, Family, Sex, & Trauma Therapy Clinic in Concord and Vaughan, Ontario, Servicing all of York Region (online and in-office).
Lynn provides Individual Psychotherapy services in English and Mandarin. As a clinician, Lynn is passionate about helping and empowering clients to achieve more fulfilling and meaningful lives and providing clients with the tools and strategies in facing their life challenges.
About the Editor
Judy Lui, M.Sc., C.C.C., R.P.
Judy is a Certified Canadian Counsellor and Registered Psychotherapist. She is the clinical director of Your Story Counselling Services, an Individual, Couple, Family, Sex, & Trauma Therapy Clinic in Concord and Vaughan, Ontario, Servicing all of York Region (online and in-office).
Judy provides Individual, Couple, Family, and Sex Psychotherapy services in English and Cantonese. As a clinician, Judy is constantly learning new approaches and techniques to better serve the unique needs and goals of each and every one of her clients.
The information provided in this article is intended to be general knowledge and does not constitute as professional treatment. This information is not intended for the use of diagnosis or treatment. Please do not share or distribute this article without the proper referencing or written/verbal consent of the author and clinic Additional information can be found at www.yourstorycounselling.com or requested via firstname.lastname@example.org