Still Coping … with Today

A few days ago, I shared some of my thoughts on COVID and how it is affecting me and my family, and how it might be affection you and yours. Now let’s get into some advice – what can we do during COVID to try to effectively
deal with our emotions, thoughts and concerns?

Well, I don’t have one answer, but I have a few ideas.

Here’s one place to start:

  • Take a moment and reflect on what you have control over today.

When we focus on what we can’t control, anxiety or depression naturally rise. In a time where adults feel controlled by the whim of the government’s decisions, focusing on the news and waiting for updates you will certainly
eventually receive, may only heighten anxiety.

This is where coping skills come in. I also think this is where many people’s productivity comes in. When I am home on a cold and rainy day, my family and I may do something fun indoors to let out some energy.

But this isn’t an option right now. So what do I want on this cold and rainy day? What would make ME feel better? For me, I really wanted to paint the trim on my foyer doors. Yes. It’s something I have been wanting to do for years and I finally had some time to be in the house using the supplies I already had. Once I did that, I immediately felt better, useful, accomplished, proud to make a positive aesthetic improvement on my home.

So let’s talk about you. You may feel angry that you can’t see friends. How can you connect with friends? Send a letter, make them a playlist, safely share games and puzzles you won’t play anymore? My point is this, focusing on what we don’t have control over makes us anxious, angry and sad. Denying that you feel something is also not helpful.

What I am recommending is that you do what you can, do what you need, do the things you can do to make yourself feel the way you want to feel (which is probably not how you feel right now). If we all made decisions based on our feelings, we would probably overwhelm Netflix, eat chocolate cake in bed and wear solely joggers (ok, this isn’t perhaps all of us but I am rather speaking of myself).

  • Take a moments to stop and reflect to think about how you’re feeling.

What are you thinking, feeling, and what is your body telling you. I often say that we are like strings of Christmas lights. If we don’t acknowledge thoughts, feelings and our body as both separate and connecting pieces of ourselves, we are just as good as Christmas lights that are plugged into one end and not connected. Of course they aren’t going to shine!

If you have thoughts and just react to those thoughts without acknowledging how that makes you feel and how your body responds, you give more control to your thoughts. Focusing only on feelings, which are like waves coming up to shore, denies us the opportunity to appreciate how our feelings fluctuate. Ignoring what your body is telling you is ignoring the alarm system (or perhaps focusing too much) that is inside of you. One key observation I have made is when people struggle to identify how their thoughts, feelings and body are connected they invariably have physiological symptoms such as headaches or stomach issues. My point? Don’t focus on just thoughts, feelings and your body.

Connect all three parts. I’ll share more ideas next week.

What questions/concerns do you have? Share them in the comments so I can address them.

Jen Yensel, PhD.