By Stephanie Craig
A few short weeks ago, I woke up, took a beach walk, got the kids off to school, went to work to counsel people in person, and stopped on the way to a baseball game to pick up a few things from the store including toilet paper and lunchmeat. This week, I woke up, the beach is closed, the kids are doing school at home, all counseling sessions are online, no baseball games, and walking the empty toilet paper and lunchmeat aisles at the store sparks anxiety. Most things that felt normal and gave daily structure to life a few weeks ago are now completely different.
Experiencing so much change at one time in the daily infrastructure of our lives is disorienting and overwhelming. You aren’t alone if you’re experiencing brain fog, forgetfulness, exhaustion, depression, irritability, fear, anxiety, anger and grief. It is overwhelming to the brain to have so many life anchors cut loose simultaneously. Your brain has shifted from doing everyday tasks automatically to having to intentionally think through things that were simple a few weeks ago. Any room your brain had to give to higher level thinking about your goals, dreams, relationships, and life satisfaction has been overrun by crisis mode focused on basic needs and survival.
The good news in the midst of our current difficulty is your brain is created to change and adapt. Your brain will embrace a new version of normalcy after about 3-4 weeks if you engage in some repetitive daily practices that help you feel normal even in the midst of very abnormal circumstances.
5 Ways to Stay Mentally Healthy During Coronavirus:
Be intentional about your sleep, nutrition, exercise, social connection, spiritual support, and medication regimen. Make intentional, reasonable efforts to take care of yourself in these areas while also being mindful to lower your expectations of yourself and others.
Adopt five daily practices to keep you grounded in a sense of purpose and connection to others. Personalize your five practices to what helps you feel normal, hopeful, and a sense of accomplishment each day. My five daily practices include: laying eyes on the ocean, walking outdoors, listening to hopeful/spiritual podcast or sermon, send an encouraging message to a friend/family member and naming 10 gratitude items. Make a meaningful effort to engage your five practices daily, giving grace to yourself when you aren’t able to make it happen.
Connect socially. Whether by phone, text, Facetime, Facebook, Zoom, Marco Polo or talking to your neighbors from across the yard, find a way to communicate with others. Talking with others reminds us that we aren’t alone in the current struggle and serves as mutual encouragement that we can survive the challenges we are facing. Don’t hesitate to share struggles with a trusted friend.
Engage in Self-Care. Find time each week to do something that feels calming and soul nurturing. Take a bath, read a book, watch your favorite show, call a friend, get outdoors, hold your pet, etc. Your brain and body need a break from your higher stress level.
Limit News Consumption. While we need to be wise and informed, there is wisdom in determining an amount of trustworthy news that feels informative and helpful for the day vs. falling into a black hole of fear mongering and confusion.
As we are navigating this new, socially distant, stressful world together, don’t hesitate to seek extra mental health support. Many therapists are accepting new clients and providing online counseling sessions to accommodate increased mental health needs in the community including Journey Bravely.
Stephenie Craig is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in practice for over 16 years providing counseling to those ages 11 and up for issues like stress, anxiety, depression, life transition, divorce, boundaries, managing emotions, and healthy coping. She recently moved cross country with her husband, Todd, and their three sons 14, 11, and 7 to make a home in our area. She loves to support individuals, families, and the community in being emotionally, physically, and spiritually well. Connect with Stephenie at her private practice, Journey Bravely, at journeybravely.com, email@example.com or (918) 221-9987.
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