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We have seen our lives turned upside down in the past week due to COVID-19, and one result is increasing levels of anxiety about our health, safety, security, finances and more. Anxiety is a natural reaction to this virus that has upended schedules, routines, and daily lives. Unfortunately we can’t change that COVID-19 is in our communities. We only control how we react to it, and our reaction should include healthy coping strategies such as mindfulness, reminding ourselves that it won’t be like this forever, and doing things we enjoy.
To do our best with the upheaval in our lives, we can start by focusing on security and order. If you haven’t already done so, make a daily schedule that keeps routines consistent. There is a tremendous emotional benefit to waking up at the same time daily, exercising or going outside, eating a healthy breakfast and getting dressed that will set a tone for the rest of your day. Our minds are more focused and ready to work when we have taken care of ourselves and feel good about the way we look.
We need to have a connection with others, which might be more challenging when we are isolating and keeping a safe distance. Technology offers us through video chats to get as close as we can to real-life, in-person interactions. There is no need to miss your regular book clubs when you can use a Google hangout or the Zoom platform. Pour your favorite beverage and fix your favorite appetizer, and you might find you are in for a great time. Get creative with how you can interact with each other.
All humans also need a purpose. Some of us can transition our jobs online. For school-age kids, they need to feel like the schoolwork they are doing is critical and that every day, it is something they need to complete. Contributing can also be in the form of service to others. This week, many organizations were looking for people to deliver essential goods. If you are looking for a place to make an impact, donate blood, they are dangerously low on supply.
With all the seriousness of the COVID-19 impact, it’s easy to lose our humor. Fortunately, there is no shortage of funny memes on social media. Laughing has a visceral reaction in our bodies, releasing endorphins that make us feel joyful. Also, sharing your thoughts and feelings and having others validate them is key to remembering we are all in this together.
It’s also inspiring to look away from the neverending news cycle and appreciate the humanity that shines in times like these: This week people have been reaching out to check on neighbors, serving and delivering meals, donating money and stepping up in every way we safely can. By making a choice to practice social distancing and limiting non-essential activities, we are putting the needs of our communities and society ahead of our individual needs. This is a great reminder that none of us is more important than all of us, and we are willing to hold that value.
Each of us has been impacted, inconvenienced, and disappointed by this virus’s impact. It is, at the same time, allowing us to reflect on what’s vital to us-health, security, safety, contributions to society, community, and relationships. Be patient. Be flexible. Be kind. This too, shall pass.
Sarah Lloyd is a licensed clinical professional counselor and co-owner of the Geneva-based Action Consulting and Therapy.