In a pandemic situation, it is not easy for us all: every day we hear new alarming messages from different countries, the usual rhythm of life changes, many are in forced isolation, which is also not easy to experience – both alone and even with loved ones.
We asked psychologists and psychotherapists to tell how you can help yourself in this difficult period.
Don’t read too much
The first thing you should start with is to limit reading news about a new coronavirus to once a day, for example.
It is advisable to get acquainted with the information not in the morning and not in the evening, but during the day. Screaming media headlines, exclamation marks, photographs of people in protective suits and masks are, in principle, alarming: you have not yet understood the contents of the article, but are already tense.
It is recommended that you select several reputable reliable sources and use only them. Do not waste time reading unverified information and private opinions of people.
Think about what in your power
The pandemic has affected the whole world. It is clear that with anxiety a person will not be able to change the whole situation in the world – even if he sincerely, from the bottom of his heart, will worry about what is happening.
Therefore, everyone should honestly admit to themselves that he will not be able to change the whole situation in the world, but he can do something that depends on him personally. For example, observe basic hygiene measures.
The good news is that people care more about themselves in terms of hygiene. The bad thing is that people with obsessive-compulsive disorder on the topic of cleanliness or vulnerable to it can get worse.
If a person is most of the time absorbed in thoughts about the disinfection of the room and the corresponding actions, bought up a supply of cleaning products for six months, he should think about whether there is an alarm behind this and whether to seek psychological or psychotherapeutic help.
Come up with short-term plans
Most often, anxiety levels increase uncertainty. People do not know when it will end, whether there will be a curfew, or whether cities will be closed. What is important for everyone to do?
To formulate short-term plans for yourself – for a week, two – about what a person will do, how he will spend his time.
It is important to create a routine that will help set priorities – for example, to do what you like, but for which there was not enough time before. Maybe this period is suitable to implement the pending plans: books, shows, languages, hobbies.
The task here is to look at this period as something unusual. Most likely, it will remain in history, you will talk about your experiences to children and grandchildren.
Do not drop what matters to you
It is important to be true to your values no matter what. Continue to do what is important to you, even in isolation and quarantine.
Gyms and fitness clubs have closed – keep practicing at home, find online programs, order inventory.
If you had plans to go to Italy and you had to eat pasta, but instead you stay at home and it’s hard for you to put up with it, my suggestion is to make yourself an exotic food at home.
Communicate – but not just about the virus
Maintain social connections. But remember that besides the new coronavirus there are many other topics for discussion.
I notice that people share unverified information, this provokes an infection with anxiety. Do not let fear and anxiety control how you interact with other people.
Consider a plan of action for the future
If a person is worried about his income or work, I suggest that all efforts be directed to think about how to deal with this.
Maybe do some financial planning, think about how you can make money, and also about the possibilities of online work and online training.
Anxiety takes a lot of energy and strength, but there is zero effect from it. If you spend energy thinking about plans and what you will do with a specific problem, if it occurs, this will result in a result.
Chaotic anxiety will only take resources, a person will feel exhausted, tired and desperate.
Master mindfulness practices
If anxiety covers, and a person does not find a place for himself, it is very good to master the practice of awareness.
For panic attacks, there is the Anti-Panic application, you can take elementary principles of working with yourself from it. It is important to save energy and not give groundless anxiety to take all the reserves of the body.
Allocate time and space for yourself
I saw some cool advice addressed to people who are not alone.
The main thing here is to cooperate or even negotiate: how to arrange life so that every person has time for himself when no one asks for anything and is not watched.
It is advisable that other people at this time go about their business. If this cannot be done in different rooms, the main thing is for others to diligently act as if the person is not nearby.
It’s better to write down the arrangements and, for example, make a schedule. Periodically return to them and test: we have lived like this for a week – does everything suit us?
I would hang the rules on the wall so that there is a visual support that you can return to.
Do one thing at a time
We must do our best to structure our activity so that the plans do not run into each other. So that there is no feeling that if I cook breakfast for myself, then I should work at the same time. Agree with yourself to do only one thing at a time.
Some people write that they merge day and night, work with rest. This happens so often, but the house has it. Some suggest using rituals, but I am convinced that people can find their own ways.
Do not hammer all the time with deeds
It is good that there is a time when we act purposefully: we have a goal and we build our actions in accordance with it. But it’s also good that there is a time that we agreed not to structure with ourselves. It is worth making sure that both are on a daily basis.
For example, watching a series until it fits, talking with friends on Skype and drinking wine – this is the time we use non-purposefully. When I solve work tasks or disassemble a cupboard, this is purposefully spent time.
Do not fight anxiety
In the current situation, if we are anxious, there is no need to fight it. The first thing to do (it’s easier to write than to put into practice) is to admit to yourself: yes, I’m worried, yes, I’m very afraid, I’m terrified.
Firstly, now the alarm is legalized – everyone is restless, everyone’s plans, businesses and normal life are collapsing, and those who say: “In general, I see no reason to worry, you just need to look at things positively,” will now be in the minority.
Secondly, the more we struggle with anxiety and forbid it to ourselves, the stronger it grows – we can’t win in this fight, we can only exhaust ourselves to death.
So our task is only to reduce anxiety to a level from which one can breath normally.
Use exercises to reduce anxiety
There are very simple exercises to calm down. For example, counting in your head seven by seven: 7, 14, 21, 28, 35 … Somewhere at 77, at most at 84, you will probably be calmer.
The prefrontal cortex (which is responsible for expense, logic, and analytical thinking) takes control of emotions. If you do not like seven – you can count nine, seventeen, as much as you want.
Another great exercise: to sit or stand comfortably, try to relax the muscles of the neck, chin and forehead.
And look around you for five different colors (gray sofa, white wall, cherry hat, ash-beige napkin and so on), five different textures (plush sofa, glass is smooth, the cup is warm and rough…), five different smells.
After that, you can recall five different tastes, so as to directly experience them in the language. This will take for some time the analytical part of the brain and give us time to calm down.
There are slightly more complicated tricks. For example, write out on a notebook sheet all the main fears that come to mind.
Get infected. Die. To infect mom, and then she will die, and I will be to blame. Poverty and starvation. Never see the sea again. Become a victim of looters. Write until fears run out – let it be a large sheet of a notebook or even two.
Then, with each fear, draw out two arrows: what can I do to prevent this from happening (sometimes an honest answer – I can’t do anything), and what will I do if it happens.
This exercise takes a lot of time, but you can quit it as soon as you get tired or as soon as you become calmer. And then start over if necessary. A set of fears, most likely, will change from time to time.
Everything connected with the body works perfectly – for example, stroking yourself and hugging. Stand on one leg, trying to maintain balance as long as possible (lost – get up again and hold again). To stretch. Raise your legs higher.
Remember when you were well
Refer to the good, successful periods that have happened in your life. Well, have you been? When everything turned out and you did not doubt the slightest in your omnipotence.
Remember what music you were listening to, what films you watched, what books you read. This music and these films are your keys to that past state of calm and joyful confidence.
So now is the time to pull out the old playlist from the archive in order to borrow a bit of this state from the past.
Do not avoid your feelings
What to do in a situation when panic, anxiety, fear, despair, a sense of hopelessness and fatigue breaks out? Many may experience depression.
First you need to understand that all these feelings are legal. You have the right to worry and worry when chaos is happening around and it is not clear when it will end.
Do not try to suppress these feelings or avoid them. It can only get worse. Allow yourself to be sad and even cry if you want. So you will avoid possible panic attacks.
If you feel that anxiety is rolling, give it a place, be aware of it and take pity on yourself. You are the most important for yourself. It is important to take care of yourself, to give yourself the right to feeling – too.
If there are people who depend on you, they will also be better off if you let yourself relax and return to them more balanced. Children are better off with calm parents, couples – in peace with each other, elderly parents – with stable adult children.
If you are afraid that anxiety will reach you too much, give yourself time to experience the timer.
One of the psychological practices is to give yourself about fifteen minutes to tears, then to return to your usual routine.
If tears act liberally on you, cry how much you get. You have the right to feelings during this difficult time.
If you have light panic attacks, you can help yourself in simple ways: count to a hundred and back, list objects around you out loud, drink water in sips, breathe fresh air, take a warm bath and over-the-counter sedatives.
In more severe forms of panic attacks you should consult a doctor.
Do not demand much from yourself
Now is the time to learn how to live “at the minimum” – not to demand too much from yourself, to notice how little you need for life: shelter, food, warmth, loved ones.
You can slow down and wait until this storm is over. Surround yourself with pleasant things and activities: watch a movie, listen to music, sing, dance, look out the window, walk away from people, relax.
If you have children, try to minimize children’s commitments such as learning as much as possible. Now it’s more important to survive and stay calm.
I especially recommend couples to support each other, to share responsibilities equally, to share experiences and warmth with each other. If you feel that you need external support, you can turn to a psychologist for help.
Remind yourself that this is a temporary situation. Yes, it is not known how long it will last, but, watching China, we can see that people are gradually starting to return to their usual rhythm of life. It’s hard, but it will end.
Keep track of the body and the space around
In a pandemic situation, it becomes more difficult for everyone to cope with emotions, amid anxiety, ordinary problems worsen.
To support yourself in this situation, first, pay attention to your bodily well-being: take care of your body, do self-massage, rhythmic exercise, use practices that focus on bodily sensations, drink enough water.
Secondly, do the beauty around you: create it yourself (any work, needlework, cleaning) and enjoy the art (music, movies, online galleries).
Thirdly, filter information coming from outside (restrict reading news and publications on social networks), communicate with friends on topics that do not include the virus.
Think what is valuable to you
The first thing to decide is what is the subject of our anxiety or depressive state. Of course, working with anxiety and depressive states is different.
But if we talk about how you can support yourself, it is important to see how much what happens to us internally is reflected in reality. As far as we come up with reality, we are trying to construct it ourselves in a depressing or alarming direction.
It is worth trying to look at your life stories, at what worries us, from the perspective of how this or that story matches your values.
One of the indicators of the phenomenon of the so-called psychological flexibility, which ensures psychological well-being, is a good contact with our values and with the reality that surrounds us.
In this case, it is important, firstly, to realize what is happening to us. Secondly, to understand what values we have, what is important to us, our ideals, which makes us move on. And thirdly, to what extent our actions and actions are consistent with these values.
For example, when we feel guilty and understand that it is connected with the fact that we have broken contact with our own value, let’s say honesty is important to me, but I lied.
Here we can understand the reason for what is happening – why it is so difficult for us with this feeling of guilt. This helps at least to have a clear subject with which you can work, rather than abstractly worry.