Get the Facts
Be Smart in Keeping Yourself and Your Family Safe
- Stay home if you have cold or flu-like symptoms and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw the tissue in the trash.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom or before eating. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your face – especially your eyes, nose and mouth – with unwashed hands.
- Limit trips to public places unless necessary and practice social distancing.
Engage in Self-Care
This may sound silly, but if we let go of taking care of ourselves we reduce quality of life and our mental health. If you don’t take care of yourself, you will also have lowered capacity to take care of those you love. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
Physical: get 8 hours of sleep nightly, eat a nutritious diet, continue to take your medicines as prescribed, and exercise regularly to increase those positive brain chemicals that help your mood and cognitive abilities. Do something fun, go for a walk, do some stretches, play with your dog, take a bubble bath, try a new hairstyle, etc.
Emotional: Challenge negative self talk, journal, watch an uplifting show or documentary, watch comedy, talk to an encouraging friend, reward yourself for an accomplishment, forgive someone who’s hurt you, unfollow someone who drags you down on social media.
Mental: Read a book, learn something new, list mentally or in a journal all of the things you are grateful for, take a self-help or personality quiz to learn about yourself, try a media fast, try painting or another hobby, play a new game that stimulates your mind whether sudoku, a word game, etc. Stop reading everything you find about COVID-19, there is such a thing as too much news and at a certain point it only heightens the likelihood of anxiety and depression.
Spiritual: Pray, read your bible, try a devotional study, spend time in nature, share encouragement with other believers, write a letter to God, say the serenity prayer, meditate, look for God’s blessing in your life despite hard circumstances. If you are a Christian read or memorize scriptures that can help you not to live in fear: Matthew 6:25-27, Matthew 6:34, Colossians 3:15, 1 Peter 5:7, Philippians 4:6-7, and more.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
If you are fighting intense anxiety or panic, try these relaxation techniques to calm your mind.
Try deep breathing: breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to breath out longer than you breath in as this signals your autonomic nervous system to regulate and calm down.
Practice progressive muscle relaxation: Breathe in and tense your toes (hard but not to the point of cramping) for 10 seconds. Breathe out, and completely relax those muscles for 15 seconds. Notice how the muscles feel when they are relaxed compared to before. Then repeat this process for your feet, your ankles, your calves, your thighs, your butt, your abs, etc. from the bottom of your body to the top. This exercise can calm your system and can be useful in helping you get to sleep as well.
Visualizations: Picture a relaxing scene (your happy place). Try to imagine all of the details using all of your senses and imagine yourself in this scene. What do you see in your mind, what smells, is there a breeze, are you warm and comfortable; what sounds do you hear? If you are a Christian, try imagining Jesus in the scene comforting you.
Practice Social Interest- Get Outside of Yourself.
It’s hard to stay anxious or depressed when you focus more on the needs of others than yourself. Social interest protects us from mental health issues, improves mood, improves our resiliency and coping abilities, and helps us to be our best selves.
Don’t be that person. Stop hoarding toilet paper, disinfectants, perishable items, etc. Don’t buy medical masks unless you are directly treating those who are infected or are sick yourself. There is not a shortage of these products except in their distribution due to a few greedy or panicked individuals. Online sales platforms like amazon are starting to crack down on those who initially tried to take advantage of public panic and stores are increasingly taking measures to ensure that supplies are available to those who need them. If we all return to our normal shopping habits, there will be plenty to go around. If you have a neighbor who is out of a necessity—share. Let’s care for each other.
Consider your friends and neighbors who may be at a higher risk or face financial challenges. Protect them from exposure, but consider sending a grocery gift card to a family in your neighborhood who may struggle with interruptions to income, childcare challenges, etc. Ask if there are ways you can help those who may be more impacted by community isolation measures. Donate to local organizations that help our communities. Give to your local church to continue their ministries.
Consider your Asian and Asian American friends and neighbors who may have faced unfair prejudice due to the origin of this disease and be sensitive and kind. This is no time for racism and undue fear—it is time for us to come together and love one another.
Reach out by phone to your vulnerable loved ones. Call a family member in a nursing home or a friend with an underlying health condition. Send a letter to someone (these are paper correspondences people used to send to share encouragement and connect). Email someone about why you appreciate them. Post something encouraging or funny in your social media. Be kind to others online even if you disagree with them.
If you are a person of faith, pray. Pray for your loved ones, pray for the world, pray for the medical professionals treating those infected, pray for the scientists working on finding treatments, pray for those in leadership making decisions to keep us safe, pray for peace and a calming of fears. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control.” -2 Timothy 1:7
I hope this has encouraged you to take positive action rather than Living in fear. This crisis (whether it is a medical crisis or one of systemic issues in response) has created a lot of uncertainty, but my hope is that we would all remember who we are and choose to express the best of humanity. Practice discernment, hope, and love and know that you are not alone.
March 2020, Jenny Beall, Counselor, Threads of Hope Counseling.