Our lives have been turned upside down overnight. We are trying to cope with tremendous changes along with health fears for ourselves and loved ones. All this while we are adjusting to a stay at home, isolated life. Some of us are juggling work and family and for some loneliness and isolation. For all of us, moments of fear and moments of gratitude. Here are ten strategies to cope with anxiety, depression and irritability during this challenging time:
- Drastically limit exposure to the news for you and your family. You already have an excellent idea of the current and near future situation. News sources profit from catastrophizing and fear. Reduce your destructive emotions by tuning once a week or if unable to do this limit to one-time a day.
- Get outside and exercise. Take long walks, jump rope, jog or bike ride while respecting social distancing. Exercise will increase serotonin. Serotonin increases a sense of well being and happiness. Exercise will also improve sleep.
- Stay rested. Maintain a bedtime routine. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. No electronics in the bedroom. Do not oversleep.
- Limit tv watching and choose positive and humorous shows when you do.
- Stop doing and let yourself just be. Covid is a call to slow down and stop being accomplishment oriented. Just sit in a chair and be. Start a meditation practice. Just 20-minutes a day will begin to create change.
- Do not ruminate. Rumination is when you get caught in a thinking loop in an attempt to “solve” a problem. It never works. The first step is awareness that you are fixated. Then distract. Remind yourself that this will not solve whatever you are worried about.
- Reduce anxiety by educating yourself. Anxiety is directly caused by catastrophizing thoughts. When you notice you are focused on a worst-case scenario, rewrite the thought with a new behavior. For example, if you are worried about catching Covid-19 you would say, what if I trusted I am following all recommended precautions including social distance. I will continue to strictly adhere to policies. I will celebrate that I am currently healthy.
- Begin a gratitude practice. Each morning think of three things you are currently grateful for. You can choose small things. Change it up everyday – do not repeat the same gratitudes. At the end of the day, three gratitudes from the day. Gratitude practice has been proven to increase positivity and overall happiness. 10 Steps to Learn how to Meditate >>
- Choose your battles very carefully. If your teenager’s room is messy let it go. Close the door.If your teenager is not following social distancing set firm limits with consequences. Explain the danger to the entire family. For the little things use a sense of humor as much as possible.
- Compassion and patience for yourself and loved ones. These are unprecedented times and we will all fall into behavioral habit patterns. You are not your habit patterns. Do not punish yourself with guilt for unwanted behaviors. Just apologize and move on.
Ms. Ahern provides “virtual” therapy in the privacy of your home, and is available in-person and phone. Call 303-523-9941.
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