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COPING WITH THE EMOTIONAL IMPACT OF COVID-19
March 17, 2020
Guest Blog by Nicole Sartini-Cprek, M.Ed., LPCC, IMHP
Co-Founder, Clinical Director, Therapist | Bridge Counseling and Wellness
If you are feeling anxious, thank your body for alerting you that there is something to be concerned about. It is doing what it is supposed to do. Take note, and practice good hygiene, eat nutritiously, drink plenty of water, keep an eye on your temperature and engage in social distancing as recommended by the CDC and WHO. Then find ways to assure your body you have things under control as well as possible by using the following coping tips.
Remember the difference between productive stress and destructive stress. Productive stress encourages us to take action and work toward solving a problem. Destructive stress does not change anything and depletes our energy and mental wellbeing with very little outcome. We can’t avoid stress, but we can choose to gear it toward the productive kind and use healthy coping skills when we find ourselves stuck in more destructive cycles.
We can be with our discomfort when it does arise. We can handle difficult feelings. We can survive pain. We can overcome challenges. If we try too quickly to escape our feelings, we are reiterating the disempowering idea that our feelings are more powerful than we are. Do your best not to push away or over attach to feelings. Just acknowledge them, be curious about what this experience may hold for you, and let them go when you are ready.
Remember that we operate best and think most clearly when we remain calm. By practicing relaxation exercises, meditation, yoga and anything else that supports our nervous system, we are also decreasing inflammation and increasing immunity. Try Yoga with Adriene or sign up for an online meditation course like this one: Just Breathe.
Reconnect with nature. Among the obvious pleasantries of the onset of spring, sunlight increases vitamin D and regulates serotonin which lifts mood, improves immune function and can and help regulate sleep. It also helps our T Cells, which are responsible for fighting infection, function optimally. Organic compounds found outdoors called phytoncides also boost both mood and immune function.
Notice that while this pandemic is indeed a tragedy, many people have been looking out for each other. Notice the ways communities come together when faced with shared challenges. We are so much stronger together, and times like these remind us of that. Check out The Mutual Aid Project at http://tinyurl.com/mutualaidlou where people are exchanging needs if you are seeking new ways to be a part of the coming together. If you are outside of greater Louisville, look for a similar organization in your town or start one using the above as a model if it doesn’t yet exist.
While we are paying such close attention to keeping surfaces clean and rationing our home goods, please also pay attention to the parts that are working and all that you are grateful for. There is beauty that exists among the fear and heartache if we keep our eyes and hearts open to it.
Recognize many of us finally have an opportunity to slow down. Our culture in the U.S. is notorious for overemphasizing work and achievement. Not everyone has the privilege of slowing down, so if you are able to do it, be curious about what slowing down means to you and reevaluate the pace at which your life normally flows. Consider being productive in a new way: nurturing our relationship with ourselves, our loved ones and our community. Or finish up a fun project that you had to put on hold to keep up with the daily grind.
If you are not able to slow down because you are a medical professional, first responder, because of finances, or for any other reason, there are many of us eager to help however we can. Giving can be healing, and the experience of receiving help can be a corrective one if you have a history of repeatedly not having your needs met. Ask for what you need, and you will have a better chance of getting the need met.
BREATHE. Not too close to each other perhaps, but please remember that deep breathing helps calm the body and mind. Try the 4-7-8 breath to activate the vagus nerve and parasympathetic nervous system which can act as a brake for slowing-down anxiety. A big deep breath in for a count of 4, hold for 7 and release slowly for a count of 8.
We have been through difficult things before, and we moved through them. This too shall pass. Do your best to take a healthy authority over what you can control, love on yourself and your neighbors (from a distance) and find ways to appreciate the opportunities within the obstacle. We are in this together.
WRITTEN BY Erica Sartini Combs
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