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  • Writer's pictureKatie Pfeiffer, MA, LMHC

Tips and Tricks from a Mental Health Professional on Coping with What Seems like the Apocalypse

So I’ve been thinking a lot, as I’m sure we all have, about the experience of having the coronavirus, or its manifestation as COVID-19 turn our lives upside down, and I thought I would put together a list of actionable things that may be helpful to think about. If you have any other ideas or things you’d like to add or to ask about, please feel free to comment or reach out:

First and foremost, we’ve got to practice having COMPASSION for ourselves.

Be nice to yourself, you are probably going through a lot right now. Whether you have lost your job, are in fear of losing your job, are sick of being in the house, are afraid to leave the house, or maybe you are supporting a highly anxious partner, or dealing with your parents not believing this is serious, it’s A LOT. So give yourself what you need. That might look like

· Your favorite meal

· A spa day in your bathroom

· Spending time in green spaces (see below)

· Taking a day’s break from reading the news

· Telling your partner/roommate/best friend exactly what you need

· Cut yourself some slack and play video games if you want

· Stop talking shit to yourself about what you “should” be doing or what you should have done before this all started

Next, lets please practice compassion for others

Every person you know is experiencing this from a slightly different angle. I’ve seen some heated debates on social media, between family members, friends, members of the professional community, it even appears our local government in Tampa Bay is having some sort of showdown. The thing I want everyone to remember is that we are all having different FEAR BASED reactions. Some people are afraid of losing their income, some people are afraid of losing their mother, some people are afraid of both, or of anarchy, or of dying. This is bringing up a ton of existential dread for people and everyone’s fears are VALID, even if they are different.

Humans are a meaning making species, which makes us super uncomfortable with the randomness of fate/the universe/whatever you want to call it. People will find meaning in getting really worked up about this, or in ignoring it, or conspiracy theories or judging other people, because a lot of things that don’t make sense to our brains are happening right now. Give it space and know that it’s not about you.

Spend Time in Green Spaces

Have you been outside lately? It’s incredible out there. Yesterday was the literal perfect temperature and the sunset was glorious. I’m not suggesting you go gallivanting around town or the beach, but you are allowed to enjoy your own backyard, your front porch or a walk around the block. Research has shown that when we spend more time in natural environments, this is typically good for our mental health. I read recently that even looking at a tree can lower your blood pressure.

Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Body

Exercise, stretch, do something with your hands like knitting. I know it’s nice to have the most valid reason ever to sit on the couch and binge Netflix all day, but I think we can admit that this gets mind numbing even for the proudest couch potatoes among us. Doing something that reconnects your mind and body is a good way to remind yourself that everything is actually OK, right here, right now. It’s also good to do a full body scan to see what parts of you need tending to, are you dehydrated, are you craving nutritious foods, do you need to book a session with your chiropractor (maybe for next month), do you need to bust out your yoga mat every day while this hot mess of a pandemic is happening?

Make an Epic To-Do List

Make a list that includes both things that you actually want to do and things you’ve been dreading or avoiding. Whatever that pile of stuff is on that one end of your dining room table, get to it. Put small and large tasks on your list. Put self-care tasks on your list. Maybe be an adult and file your taxes or hire someone to do it. Read that book on your nightstand, take that online class you already paid for. Catch up on your favorite podcasts. Do all the things you couldn’t do before because you probably work too much. Having a sense of accomplishment is a basic human need and it will be harder than normal in this environment to achieve that, so this is a great way to channel your pent-up energy.

Check on your Mother, or another Attachment Figure

Make sure they are taking this seriously and taking care of themselves. My mother thinks this is a government conspiracy to not pay old people their Social Security, whatever, that’s fine, as long as she stays safe.

Work on a Passion Project

If we get too caught up in the panic of this moment, we are going to miss a real opportunity here. That business idea that you’ve had, draw up a plan. That thing you’ve been wanting to learn more about that you never had time, here’s your chance. Spend some time daydreaming about what you want your life to look like when this has passed. Do you want to go back to your job, or do you want to do something wildly different? Sometimes when we realize that certainty is just something we convinced ourselves of and it’s not actually real, we can find the courage to try something more authentic.

Lastly, if you need to, please reach out to your therapist. They probably have a telehealth option now if they didn’t before. If you need help finding a therapist, please reach out and ask.

See you on the other side of an alarming amount of frozen pizza.

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