Health And Wellness

How To Cope With The Difficult Circumstances Of Coronavirus Isolation

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How To Cope With The Difficult Circumstances Of Coronavirus Isolation

One of the (many) atypical things about COVID-19, is that the people helping you cope are experiencing and coping with the same thing, at the same time. This is largely due to the forced quarantine, isolation, and social distancing while the coronavirus pandemic is happening.

And with every crazy thing going on, protecting your mental health is more important than ever.

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Whatever your profession, you’re probably also a parent, partner, adult child, or friend, and as you try to help others through this pandemic, you must also try to help yourself.

Even as you recognize that everyone has their own specific large and small crises, you can still have a great deal of understanding and empathy, by virtue of being in the same boat.

Whether you have to separate your child from their grandparents, be mindful of your or someone else’s compromised immune system, or console your high-school grad who will be missing experiences they’ve anticipated for years, there’s still a lot of common ground.

There are some things we must all figure out in order to cope.

So how do you manage so much unstructured time?

Due to a meeting canceled at the eleventh hour, I had an entire day completely free. Normally, this would be a dream for a busy person, but it felt a little more like a nightmare because of the circumstances.

It wasn’t like I decided to take a little staycation. It was last minute, so I didn’t have a plan. It was out of my control. Routine was lacking. Hence, it felt more like a worry than a wow.

What do you do in that situation, one likely to occur again and again in the coming weeks, as all of your plans are canceled?

You must reckon with the discomfort. Experience whatever feelings come up. Own it. Maybe give it a name — my unearned day off; my free-to-do-me Saturday night; my glorious, surprise week with the fam.

To offset that out-of-control feeling, give yourself permission to take charge. Decide what you will do with this gift of time — notice the positive reframe there?

If you’re like me, you have a to-do list, or several. Does anything on there call to you? If not, pick something and start doing it — see if it takes hold.

Beyond the to-do list, most of us have a lot of stuff on the back burner. Not do or die, but things that might be nice or useful to tackle with some free time.

There’s that piano I’ve been meaning to sit down at for ages. Start the new book I just got, but perhaps skip the dystopian fiction for now. Just started streaming a new show I could totally binge out on. Maybe a little food prep for the week or a new recipe.

There’s a yoga video I’ve wanted to study. I could fit in a longer run than I planned. Re-pot those plants? Is it finally time to learn to meditate (try the guided meditation apps, Insight Timer or Headspace for free)?

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Is there an antidote to cabin fever

Normally, I spend a fair amount of time working from home. Now it will be even more time, as it will be for many of us.

Some are out of work, some new to working remotely. Many of the tricks you use to make working from home more pleasant and less stressful are not available.

You can’t get out and go to the gym or meet someone for lunch. But you can have a virtual coffee with a colleague, right from the comfort of your home. You can get outside and walk, even have a virtual walk with a friend, as long as you don’t get too close to anyone.

You can offset the stress of being cooped up by taking breaks to stretch, relax or meditate. In fact, take breaks often. Set a timer to remind you, or use that annoying reminder on your fitness tracker — don’t ignore it!

Eat your usual meals and snacks. Be mindful of your caffeine and alcohol intake.

If you’re working from home, try not to let work bleed into personal time, and vice versa. When you quit work, leave the computer and phone.

When you are working, close the door to keep the family out. The latter may be more difficult with kids or partners around, so you’ll have to be creative and define boundaries where you can.

Need to keep the kids busy? Have a look at, “Yes, You Can Take Your Kids for a Walk,” which provides some great ideas.

For those who allow work to be 24/7, it’s an opportunity to establish healthy routines. For those who let others define how they spend all their time, also an opportunity to establish healthy (not selfish) routines.

What can I do about connecting with people?

The other day, I heard someone refer to “physical distance” as opposed to “social distance.”

Because you want and need to have social contact with people, you don’t want to take social distance literally. It’s physical distance you must maintain.

I’m sure you have friends and family you’ve been meaning to contact for ages. Making calls you’ve put off is a good way to stay connected. Facetiming or Skyping provide even more of that feeling that we’re together.

There are the personal emails you never answered. Perhaps there’s even a holiday note or two you meant to respond to, still sitting on your desk four months out (you can tell that’s me, right?). Plan a virtual drink with friends.

You'll be seeing far fewer people than you do normally, so these types of social contacts will become increasingly important in the upcoming weeks. Social connections help you feel supported and support others, so we can all get through this together.

Is there a way to accept this?

Make it about the journey.

Whenever you set out on a new journey, you never know how winding the road will be or exactly where you will end up. This is so true of everything right now.

It’s best to take things one step at a time and see where you’re led. Be curious and open to your experience.

The journey ought not to include checking your 401K hourly. Ditto, checking the news constantly.

Don’t fight it. Don’t deny it. Let go of resistance.

When in doubt, distract yourself with something productive, fun and/or relaxing. That’s not denial, it’s accepting things as they are.

There is not much we can do about COVID-19, apart from practicing good citizenship by staying home and maintaining the appropriate distance when out. We can check in on people, help neighbors, and give charitably when possible.

How long will this last?

You can stream plenty of live music free, late-night shows broadcast without audiences, as do other live shows, but for how long?

How long until you can go to a restaurant? A show? And how long must you live without live sports? This is a major upset.

The fact is, no one knows how long this will last. Dealing with that ambiguity is another challenge. What a great opportunity to work on your coping skills.

Whether it’s your favorite friend, yoga tribe, or team you’re missing, consider how great it will be to finally get back to them. It will be a unique moment to feel truly appreciative and grateful for all we have.

So keep calm and carry on… In time, we’ll all be back to a new normal.

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Judith Tutin, PhD, ACC, is a licensed psychologist and certified life coach. Connect with her at her website where you can request a free coaching call to bring more passion, fun, and wellness to your life.