As each day goes by with increasingly restrictive measures put into effect in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19, I find myself grasping for my usual comforts that help stabilize and ground me. Typically, I would reach out to get together with a friend, go to the gym, or visit the library or a museum to decompress, but right now these options aren’t possible. And as far as we know, they may not be for a while.
So what’s a stressed out, antsy person to do?
How can we stay connected to each other and manage the growing feelings of anxiety while still carefully following public health and safety measures during COVID-19?
I’ll share some suggestions and resources that can be added to your toolbox of things to reduce your sense of isolation and fear during these uncertain times.
Engage in shared activities virtually
There are many virtual (video/audio) platforms like Zoom, Google Hangouts, or FaceTime. Use these to connect with a few friends and do any of the following together:
- Watch episodes of a show or movie
- Do a workout class
- Try out a new recipe and cook a meal and chat while enjoying it together
- Catch up about whatever is on your minds while drinking wine and eating snacks
Maintain small doses of virtual interactions with members of your work community
It’s important to maintain some parts of your usual routine as possible, while also being flexible about how you go about enacting them. For those of you who work in a community of colleagues, reach out to engage in some small doses of interaction throughout the week with a bit of face time so it’s not all a series of conference calls without a semblance of “human” interaction.
Idea: Schedule virtual coffee or lunch breaks. Schedule a video “coffee chat” where you all can talk for 10-15 minutes during the day throughout the week, or eat lunch together virtually as you might at work.
Catch up on e-mails and write a friend or family member
Remember those emails you never wrote to your friend or relatives? Perhaps you haven’t had a chance to write to them because work and other obligations were taking over. Now’s just as good a time as any to “come out of the blue” and say “Hey, with everything going on, I thought I’d check in. How are you?”
Take some time to consider someone who has been on your mind and don’t be afraid to reach out.
Managing your anxiety and stress levels
Because our routines and normal ways of life are being upended, our bodies can start to have a stress response. Here are some tips for managing your anxiety and stress levels.
Minimize exposure to the stressors that may ramp up your stress level:
- Reduce time you spend reading or listening to the news or mindlessly engaging with social media. Stay informed by selecting one or two reliable and trusted sources and keep your updates to a minimum (ideally 1-2 times a day or something that’s more reasonable for you).
- Minimize contact with people who tend to stress you out and amp up your worries and anxieties (you know who they are
Double down on the things that can help you stay grounded:
- Keep engaging in the things you do enjoy to the maximum amount you can.
- Listen to calming music or sound effects
- Light your favorite scented candle
- Take longer baths or showers
- Engage in slower and mindful activities like reading, writing, stretching, yoga
- Engage virtually with the people in your life who bring you joy
Keep getting the support you need
Right now is all the more important to prioritize your self-care strategies and practices. You also don’t need to go at this alone. Many healthcare professionals including psychotherapists are offering remote services because of self-quarantine measures. Feel free to reach out and connect to a mental health professional for additional support during this time.
I am a big podcast person. I’d love to recommend these timely episodes I found helpful and hope you will too!
The Happiness Lab – Check out the most recent episode “Coach Yourself Through a Crisis”
How To! With Charles Duhigg – Episode How to Stop Being Anxious
Yesel Yoon, PhD is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with a private practice in Manhattan NYC who helps adults learn new ways of managing the negative habits and emotional barriers that get in the way of their personal and career goals. She specializes in helping people overcome perfectionism, recover from chronic stress and burnout, and coaches clients through job searches and career transitions. She’s an active and supportive therapist who helps clients work towards their therapy goals and concerns and values insight. deeper connections with a healthy dose of humor with her clients
This post was adapted from Yesel’s recent blog post on her website. Read more in original post about staying connected during a time of isolation.