COPING WITH COVID
By Margaret Heaton, LMFT
Kelsey Tunney, DPT
Shauna Malo, LMT
As part of our Coping with COVID series, we’ve decided to weigh in on how to help someone struggling through this pandemic. Coping is a collaboration between the body, mind and spirit. Here are 7 ways to get you mentally, physically and emotionally in a better place to get through COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Turn off the news - Screen time has increased dramatically since March, and much of that time is spent by what has been dubbed “doomscrolling,” or reading one doomsday story after another. Kevin Roose of the New York Times describes his nights as “falling into deep, morbid rabbit holes filled with coronavirus content, agitating myself to the point of physical discomfort, erasing any hope of a good night’s sleep.” I think many of us can relate. The biggest step is to become aware of the behavior and make the conscious effort to stop the scrolling. To help you avoid it, keep your news apps off of your home screen and leave your phone to charge in another room at night.
2. Get outside - According to healthline.com, exposure to sunlight boosts the release of serotonin, a mood boosting hormone. This doesn’t mean you need to go wild with the suntan oil! Just catch some rays on your hands, arms or face for up to 15 minutes a few times a week. You’ll also be soaking in Vitamin-D, the immunity boosting vitamin which can be difficult to attain from foods alone.
3. Stay in touch with those you love - Because we can’t spend time with our elderly parents or that friendly next-door neighbor, we are all starting to feel a little isolated. Socially distanced back yard meetings are great, but can still cause anxiety for many. It is more important than ever to keep in touch with the ones that you love. Recent advances in technology such as video chatting make it easier than ever to feel human connection from miles away. Or you can go analog and mail someone a handwritten note, because it’s sure to make someone’s day to receive actual mail.
4. Practice mindfulness - This is something that we recommend to almost anyone because of its proven effectiveness in stress reduction, minimizing chronic pain, reducing anxiety, lowering the symptoms of depression, and so much more. There are countless resources you can find online to guide your practice, but here is the short version; To practice basic mindfulness meditation, spend 20 minutes per day sitting quietly and focusing on your natural breathing or on a “mantra” (i.e. “quiet,” “relax”) that you repeat silently. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breath or mantra.
5. Take a break from stress - Recognize the warning signs of when you start to stress and become overwhelmed. These thoughts tend to begin with "What if..." "How can I..." "I can't believe..." "How will I..."
• Start your stress break with a minute or two of deep breaths - following your inhale all the way in and your exhale all the way out. Nice full breaths. If stress related thoughts pop-in your mind, let them go right on out. They can come back and visit after your stress break.
• From there you get to decide what you need on your break: do you need a laugh, do you need a change of scenery, do you need to sit on the couch and put your feet up, do you need to try journaling to write your feelings out? This is 10 minutes for you. Another option could be to search Youtube for a 10-minute progressive muscle relaxation or 10-minute guided mediation video.
6. Nourish your body with lots of fruits and vegetables - It should come as no surprise that eating well can affect your mood! Diets rich in whole foods like fruits and veggies fuel your body to fight off depression. This is due to several factors including boosting energy, fulfilling nutrient requirements, helping maintain a healthy BMI, and eliminating the guilt of binge eating processed snack foods- a habit that almost all of us have engaged in at some point during isolation. If you need help packing in the produce, head to page 10 for some immunity boosting smoothie ideas!
7. Practice daily intentional movement - Staying active helps your body in countless ways. Exercise decreases your chances of developing heart disease, keeps bones strong, helps flush bacteria out of the lungs, slows the release of stress hormones, and releases endorphins - the “happy hormone.” Even those who find exercise difficult can practice daily intentional movement to achieve the results listed above. Practice a series of stretches and positions to get the blood flowing for just 20 minutes, a few times a week. Need guidance? Visit the app store on your smart phone, or try doing an internet search for videos and inspiration.