Updated: Sep 23, 2020
The information circulating on COVID-19 (Corona-virus) is overwhelming. What we need are clear strategies to build and optimise our resilience. To make it easier, I am providing a summary of strategies drawn from a literature search conducted by the Massachusetts General Hospital Psychiatry Academy on strategies for managing adjustment to Corona-virus. The literature search draws from 26 reputable sites. This information has been combined with my own clinical experience, almost thirty years, assisting people adjust to change, critical incidents, life events and trauma.
We will get through this world crisis and recover. In the meantime, we need empowerment. Empowerment is achieved by acting within our circle of influence to maintain and further build resiliency. Below is a list of strategies to optimise your ability to cope. These tips will enhance your mental and physical health. Poor health and anxiety adversely impact on our immunity, so these strategies will optimise your immune system and resistance to COVID-19 and minimise its impact if you acquire it.
1. Keep informed - identify and access a reliable source of information such as official government media sources. Avoid media that is sensationalising or scaremongering, as this is not helpful. Protect children from exposure to inappropriate information.
2. Limit media exposure - while it is important to stay informed, ten minutes or so each morning and night watching news is enough. The rest of the time stay in a safe environment and enjoy listening to music or podcasts.
3. Practice good hygiene – if you must go outside, avoid touching things and wash your hands before: touching your face; preparing food; or eating. Wash your hands in warm soapy water for twenty seconds, ensuring your hands are thoroughly washed.
4. Avoid unhealthy coping behaviours – when anxious or bored, it is easy to fall into unhealthy habits. Limit the use of substances such as alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs. Avoid rumination and worry by distracting yourself with enjoyable activities. Maintain regular mealtimes and avoid snacking and overeating.
5. Increase positive healthy coping behaviours – eat healthy meals, stay well hydrated, exercise, relax and keep your mind active and positively engaged.
6. Be aware of your emotions – recognise negative emotions like fear, anxiety, anger and blame. Accept them as a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. Use them to drive positive behaviours. Understand others are also experiencing mixed emotions.
7. Model positive coping behaviours – to support children, encourage discussion and apply the information in this list to demonstrate good coping to build their resiliency.
8. Manage emotions – with acceptance, relaxation, mindfulness and pleasurable activities. Seek and share positive stories, videos and memes and humour.
9. Manage thinking (cognitions) – work within your circle of influence and accept elements outside your control. Reframe challenges by looking at the positive and being optimistic. Develop solutions to problems by being creative. Do not focus on the negative and catastrophise. Keep the situation in perspective.
10. Stay connected – with family, friends and community in creative ways.
11. Learn to tolerate uncertainty – despite what we think, the world is forever changing. Sometimes change is too great or fast and feels threatening. Understand that change is part of life and accept it rather than fight it. Accept, adapt, don’t resist.
12. Giving – find ways to positively support others, be kind.
13. Gratitude – reflect on aspects of life for which you are grateful. Especially reflect on those emergency service and health care workers on the front line trying to heal the sick and minimise suffering under extraordinary and unprecedented conditions.
14. Live in the moment – avoid ruminating about the past and worrying about the future. Enjoy the present moment.
15. Be opportunistic – take advantage of this opportunity to spend more time with loved ones with whom you are living. Share activities and play games with children. Be creative and learn new skills like cooking, drawing, etc.
16. Maintain routines - during the week, including sleep hygiene. Maintain hygiene routines and change out of your pajamas each day.
17. Plan – how you will access groceries and medicines while minimising risk to yourself and others. Try shopping online, if available.
18. Spoil yourself – use this time to self-indulge in self-grooming activities.
19. Boundaries – if you are working from home, maintain physical, temporal and psychological boundaries between home and work activities. Set up a work-space separate to the rest of your home. Maintain a work schedule. If living with others, respect their space and needs.
20. Be resourceful – listen to music, podcasts and social media, read, clean up and out.
21. Understanding human responses to change – understand that humans respond with a range of emotions when confronted with change. This varies between individuals.
22. Seek professional help – Counselling Psychologists are used to dealing with change and supporting people through adverse events to optimise lifestyle, well-being and quality of life. If you need additional assistance you can book a session to speak with us.
Future articles will explore some of these strategies in more detail. Other resources are available on the iflow psychology website at www.iflowpsychology.com.au
Please share and discuss this information to build community awareness of positive strategies to keep us all safe and optimise our well-being during this time.
May you stay safe and make a full recovery if you are unwell.
Principal Counselling Psychologist/Director