Finding Health in the Face of the Coronavirus
1. Please continue to engage in self-care (e.g., restful sleep, good nutrition, exercise, make time for fun). Stay connected with your social support system so you do not feel isolated. For example, try scheduling time to Skype with a distant friend or family member; arrange to take a walk “with” a friend (you can talk over the phone as you each take separate walks at the same time). Try this Gratitude exercise if you’d like to try something new:
Gratitude exercises can help:
· reduce stress
· promote savoring of positive life experiences
· increase happiness
Gratitude practiced during adversity also helps you adjust, move on, and begin anew.
· Select a time of day when you have several minutes uninterrupted time
· Ponder 3-5 things for which you are currently grateful
· Consider small and large things (e.g., the flowers finally bloomed, the dryer is fixed, child took her first steps, the beauty of the sunset)
· You can focus on things you are good at, what you like about where you live, goals you have achieved, your advantages and opportunities
· Remember to consider specific individuals who care for you, contributed to your life
Research results suggest you will get the biggest happiness boost from this activity if you do it once a week, on average, but see what works for you. Try alternating the focus of your gratitude (e.g., professional life, family, accomplishments, social interactions). You may also want to share your blessings list with a gratitude partner.
2. Make a conscious effort to manage your stress/anxiety level so you do not become run down. There are many ways to do this (e.g., relaxation exercises, physical exercise, restful sleep, learning stress management skills). If you would like to start with a simple relaxation exercise right now, try the tactical breathing technique outlined below:
Tactical breathing is a simple technique that takes advantage of the fact that the body is physiologically more relaxed during the process of exhalation (breathing out). This technique basically involves learning how to extend the process of exhaling to enhance relaxation. Like anything else, it requires practice, but practice is worthwhile because this technique can help:
· decrease muscle tension
· reduce blood pressure
· restore energy
· quiet down thinking and mental chatter
· foster mindfulness
Instructions: Take a moment to notice how your body feels. Give yourself a rating from 0-10 (0=very relaxed, 10=extremely stressed/tense). Then begin by focusing your attention on your breathing. In order to more fully relax, your exhale (breath out) should be longer than your inhale (breath in).
1. Inhale slowly (through your nose, if possible) for 4 counts (1, 2, 3, 4)
2. Hold for 2 counts (1, 2)
3. Exhale slowly for 6 counts through your mouth (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6); the air should flow over your lips, as if you were softly blowing through a straw or flickering a candle without blowing it out
4. Hold for 2 counts (1, 2)
Note the sensations of relaxation and calmness that develop as you exhale each breath.
Build your skill: Many of my clients find they can calm down quite a bit after only 5 breaths. See what happens when you start your next practice session with 5 breaths as in the example above, but then extend the exercise by increasing your counts (e.g., inhale 6 counts, hold 2, exhale 8, hold 2, and so on).
Once you are done, take another moment to notice how your body feels and rate it (0-10). Compare your rating from before and after this exercise to see if this technique was helpful for you today.
(Adapted from Meichenbaum, Donald. Roadmap to Resilience: A Guide for Military, Trauma Victims and Their Families (Kindle Location 1707). Crown House Publishing. Kindle Edition.)
3. Stay away from general media/social media reports about the pandemic. Find 1-3 trusted professional/scientifically informed sources and rely on only them for updates and guidance about how to keep yourself safe during this time. These types of sources are more likely to gather and communicate accurate information. For instance, you may choose to rely on your primary care physician, or consult the resources provided by the websites below:
4. Learn more about how to talk with your children about the coronavirus situation—paste this link into your browser to be directed to a website with extensive tips about talking to your children about the coronavirus: https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources-and-podcasts/school-climate-safety-and-crisis/health-crisis-resources/talking-to-children-about-covid-19-(coronavirus)-a-parent-resource