For the past two weeks we have been collecting stories from our patients. Some of them are doing well in the face of the turbulence caused by coronavirus and some of them are struggling. We decided to collect stories from those who are doing well in order to identify ways of coping with this stress and perhaps have some suggestions for those who are having difficulty.
Four ways of coping emerged from our conversations.
Activity stands for daily physical activity and also for getting outdoors.
Almost all of the people we talked with who were coping very well said that they were getting outdoors at least every other day, and most made a conscious effort to get outdoors every day.
Coronavirus has reminded us of the value of walking and what I call the territorial sports – sports that involve exploring the world around us – such as running, bicycling and hiking.
However, with rain and rules on avoiding crowded areas, walking can be a challenge. And with gyms closed, it takes some creativity to find ways to be physically active.
One person has taken to walking up and down the stairs (a stair climbing machine at home!). Another person started using an old set of exercise bands. Several found aerobic routines online that required no equipment. Many people commented that it was important to try to keep to a schedule of exercise, and to set aside a space in their home for physical activity, even if the space is a corner of a larger room.
Based on Values
Our patients said that making choices based on what matters to you (your values) is very important in a time of uncertainty. You can’t change the reality of the pandemic, but you can make choices about you do with conscious intent. With so much anxiety about the future, making value based choices will help you to feel more grounded.
One person decided to take a certification test that she had been avoiding. In the midst of studying for the test she said that…
All of the sudden I found that there was no more room for my depression.
Another person decided that she would really get serious about her mindfulness practice and began a half an hour a day of guided meditation with Headspace.
A young woman started a blog to encourage friends and family to focus on the positive, she collected inspirational quotes from various sources, as well as TED talks and video clips, and shared them online, building up quite a readership in a short period of time.
I just want to help people to acknowledge they have a choice between acting out of fear and separateness or love and connection.
Here are some resources for a reflection on what values based action might mean for you…
Commit to Values Based Action – An article on MoodSurfing, our other website.
Reinvigorate Your New Year’s Resolutions: Connect Change with Your Values – Another MoodSurfing article.
Are You Living a Life You Value?
Daily social contact and regular meaningful conversations become more important during a period of relative isolation. Especially for those who live alone.
People are using email and text messages to stay in touch, but these often don’t seem adequate in the face of “shelter in place” mandates. We need more contact.
Online meetings via Zoom or other video meeting sites have become popular. One of the people we spoke with set up a virtual dance with Zoom, another had a Sex and the City girls’ night.
Existing groups have become more important, whether it is a group of friends, or a social or support group. AA and other twelve step meetings are migrating to the internet. If a group that is important to you has not made the leap, volunteer to create a virtual meeting room for the group yourself.
Those who are still working are staying in closer touch with “chat” applications, such as Slack and Teams.
We probably talk more than before because people are anxious and they want to reach out more.
If you are feeling alone, you can bet that many other people you know are also feeling isolated. Hosting a meeting is a better choice than staying lonely.
It really helped to set my wake up and sleep times, to have regular meals and get support from others for my schedule.
People who were coping with the challenge of coronavirus mostly kept to a schedule that was very close to the one they had before they began “sheltering at home.” They did not think of this as an opportunity to “go on vacation.” If they were now working remotely, they tried to have the same schedule, and if they were no longer working, they filled their weekday time with online learning and other activities that were not just about being distracted from the news.
People working from home often gave extra thought to setting up a place to work within their apartment. When the idea of a separate office was unrealistic, they set aside part of a room for work.
For more thoughts about this topic here are several articles on MoodSurfing…
The Morning Ritual – Daily Routines Part 1
A Morning Ritual Improves Mood
Limiting News Exposure
It didn’t fit easily into the pictogram, but one final idea that seemed important was limiting news exposure. All of us have probably fallen prey to the temptation to search out any and all news stories about coronavirus. The problem is that so much of what is written looks at the story from the perspective of a newspaper that needs to catch your attention with a piece of information that is urgent and tantalizing.
Often what is urgent is distorted in some way. One of my friends illustrated this neatly when she told me that more people were out of work now than during the Great Depression. I pointed out that there are more people now than in the 1930s. In fact there are nearly three times as many people in the US now.
After the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco my family huddled around a radio listening to tales of fires and looting. There were fires. And there was looting. But when we woke up the next morning we discovered that both of these phenomena were localized.
My point is that you want information that has a context. And many news stories don’t put things in context.
Two things seemed to help.
- Limiting the time that you spend reading the news.
- Choosing news sources carefully.
Many people set aside a half an hour a day to catch up on the latest news. Devoting time to reading the stories also allowed people a chance to do some background reading when a story seemed particularly important.
People also decided not to read random articles chosen by their smartphone based on how “interesting” they were.
They subscribed to a reputable news source. Some choices to consider…
Christian Science Monitor – the CSM is an international news organization that tries to provide unbiased, thoughtful analysis of current information. This article is an example… Combatting and infodemic.
New York Times – Although the NYT has more recently become a bit more focused on “breaking stories” it is well written, and, especially if you read the entire article (the first couple of paragraphs of a story can be a bit sensationalist) you will get a clear picture of a topic.
NPR’s All Things Considered – This radio and online program remains a good source of news and information.
Comments and Updates
We are adding this heading to encourage readers to add their thoughts and observations.