When the reality of COVID finally sunk in for a lot of people, it felt like many of us were entering unknown territory. We couldn’t depend on so many of the things that we’d taken for granted up until those moments: our careers, our health, our social lives and our future plans all became far less predictable.
New stresses. New anxieties. New fears.
It was as if life had thrown us each a wild curveball.
And then, for the months that followed, it became a question of how we would react and cope with change so uncommon, yet so complete.
If you felt unsure or overwhelmed, you were certainly not alone.
In the face of tumultuous change and uncertainty, you found the strength to continue on. Sometimes we have to remember that we actually are capable of adapting when we have to. And there are many lessons we learn throughout. Here are some Stronger Minds ideas that may have inspired you to face the day.
Accepting what you can’t control…
COVID is beyond our means of control, and it still shapes our lives.
A healthy strategy is to accept that, at this time, nobody really knows how long this will last. Instead, you can commit to knowing that it will certainly be over at some time, and to finding ways to get through it.
Focus on accepting that the future is uncertain and commit to facing it with your values, strengths, compassion and optimism. Rather than worrying and speculating about a distant and uncertain future, focus on problem-solving in the “now” of this day, this week and this month.
Mindfulness is the intentional practice of bringing your attention to the physical sensations, thoughts or emotions of the present, in a non-judgmental way (in other words, without labelling those experiences as good or bad.)
Research has shown that mindfulness can reduce anxiety and stress, improve working memory as well your ability to cope with physical pain. Moreover, it has also been shown to improve metacognitive awareness – which is your ability to think about your thoughts and watch them like an outside observer.
In doing so, we are able to observe any thoughts, emotions or physical sensations from a distance and create a buffer between these experiences and any reactions you might have, effectively cutting off unhealthy habitual patterns of thinking and behaving before they spiral out of control.
Dealing with job anxiety…
Trying to work harder for longer at home? This isn’t a sustainable approach – especially when you consider that the situation won’t likely change for a while.
If your work demands feel like they’re increasing and causing you more stress than usual, it is important to first set boundaries for yourself. This includes designating time to relax, unplug, unwind and take care of your personal life. You may also want to consider setting up a workspace that is fairly separate from your main living area, so you can transition from work mode to home mode easily.
You may also be concerned about the state of your job in the months ahead, however it is important to identify just how realistic your fears are – when we are feeling overly anxious, we tend to make dire predictions about our future. Instead of worrying about a future you can’t predict, try focusing on the present day and the work tasks you can accomplish in the right now.
Sticking to a schedule helps…
Because of COVID-19, your schedule has likely been severely disrupted and you are probably feeling a little lost.
People like routines. A few days on a beach at an all-inclusive resort without a schedule can be great, but after a few days, most people start to settle into a routine. They also start to get restless and bored, which is on the way to being depressed and anxious, so they start look for interesting things to do and make plans to participate in scheduled activities.
We have natural daily, weekly and monthly biological clocks and rhythms that keep us healthy. You stay set and on track by doing things like going to sleep at night and being active and outside (if possible) during the day. A schedule helps us create stability and predictability in our daily and weekly lives even when things are unpredictable, uncertain and out of control.
Preparing for a Second Wave…
The good thing about something being a “second,” is that there was already a “first.” We now know the drill – lockdowns, restrictions, distancing, stocking up on essentials. And you got through it. Recognize the strength and resiliency you’ve already shown and draw on it.
What is working for you right now to help manage stress or anxiety? What isn’t? Are there areas of your life that need more attention? How many video calls a week is your sweet spot? What helps you stay connected to friends? Taking stock now will help you build a roster of go-to’s when anxiety or stress creep in again.
It’s also possible that there won’t be a second wave. But, try to think and act as if it will happen. Prepare yourself for how to be ready to continue with the current restrictions, working from home and changes to our daily lives. This isn’t easy – but setting clear expectations now on what may come helps to lessen the “surprise,” which in turn puts us in a better position should we need to hit repeat on pandemic life
A pandemic that imposes distancing has ironically brought us closer in many ways – a common bond that strengthens a sense of community. So, remember, that even if the virus returns – we will again get through this, together.