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Coping Tool Kit: COVID-19

“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor” - F.D. Roosevelt. This pandemic is totally opposite to a calm sea. And this is a time in where we either become lousy or resilient sailors. Learn some steps to cope and survive the fear and anxiety that this threat brings.

Some of us feels like a huge, prolonged, and disastrous storm has hit the world. Stress, fear, anxiety, despair and panic have become the “normal” emotional reactions. The threat of getting sick, fear of death, of the financial outcome, of the uncertain, come along with many unpleasant emotional states and some ineffective behaviors. Even though fear in this situation is congruent with this as well as a certain level of anxiety, we must agree that the excessive or high emotional states are not helpful and limit our ability to respond behaviorally, immunologically and effectively. Causes an overload of ruminations and worries that affect you internally and can affect others around you.  

Take a moment and follow these steps. Go to a room or place in your house in where you feel comfortable.

STOP

Scream loud in your mind STOP, say It loud or download a STOP sign image in your smartphone and just concentrate in the image or the word. Thoughts are running and running… I know. Makes you feel like is too much or that you are losing your mind. Step in and take control.

If you are too anxious and need to relax more, close your eyes and start breathing. Take a deep breath (inhale) through your nose, hold it and count till 5 and exhale slowly through your mouth.

Acknowledge

Be compassionate and kind with yourself during this step. Accept your thoughts and feelings. Describe how you feel and all the thoughts that are running around your mind as non-judgmental as you can. Example: I feel super stress because I don’t know what is going to happen? I don’t want to get sick. What is going to happen to my house if I can’t pay the mortgage? When is this going to end?

Describe what you feel and how your body is sensing the emotion. Example: I feel my chest tight…is so difficult to breath!

From what is worrying you, identify what are the things that you can control and those who are not under your control.

Listen to me:

  • You don’t control the future
  • You don’t control the Pandemic
  • You don’t control what other people do
  • You don’t control your boss.

You only can control for sure what you think, what you do and, in that continuum… you can change your emotional state.

Stay present and ask yourself: in the here and now, what can I control?

Maybe writing the list down in a piece of paper might help you. Keep the list of the “I Can Control”.

Prioritize and Plan

Let’s say that you decided to control the pessimistic thoughts, your activities during the day and the behaviors that you want to practice during this situation. Plan!!!. In other words, structure your day based on the new ways and practicing proactively this new set of thoughts and behaviors. Anxiety and fear are going to be with you, and the goal is for you not to allow them to rule your life.

Example:

I am going to stick to the thoughts that are congruent or consistent with what I can control, are pertinent with my new routine and with the activities and responsibilities. I am practicing the STOP step when I catch myself ruminating or thinking about the things out of my control. I am going to practice some physical activity (knowing that now more than ever is extremely important), I am going to learn to cook new dishes that me and my family could enjoy, I am going to read those books that I being wanting to, I am going to spend some quality time with my kids, I am going to organize my closet, I am going to call all the friends that I haven’t being able to talk to because of my busy life (before COVID-19) and so on.

Your plan needs to be a flexible one and you will have to prioritize according to the thinks that today or present you can control.

Commit, Engage and Redirect

Commitment towards your plan is important. Consistency is the key. Staying at home and social distancing is the new normal. Is going to take us practice and consistency to feel more adapted and to diminish the normal anxiety that uncertainty and change brings.

Be mindful when practicing or doing something. Are you doing dishes? Try to feel the soap in your hands, smell the sent of the soap, pay attention to the bubbles and the circular shape. When you find yourself wondering and to much in your head, STOP and name 5 things that you see, 4 things that you hear, 3 things that you can touch, 2 things that you smell and 1 thing you can taste. Grounding allows us to connect again with our senses and our body.

Redirect your attention as often as you need to the here and now. Are you playing UNO cards with your kids? STOP the intrusive thoughts, do grounding and engage again in the activity.

** Commit to the prophylactic (preventive) steps to avoid the possibility of getting infected. Wash your hands, social distancing, disinfecting surfaces, isolating more vulnerable family members, etc.  

Externalize

Talking aboutemotions and thoughts could be hard for many but is important for us to learn to externalize and describe what we feel and think. Writing down is a good way of externalizing when we don’t have anyone to talk to. But I am pretty sure that now is easier for us to talk to someone (since we all have more time I our hands) that you trust. Make a call and open up.

Find some resources in your community. Online counseling has become a perfect way toget professional help.  

I hope this few techniques helps and remember…. this is not going to last forever.

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