For many of us, life as we know it is or soon will be gone, be it socially, professionally or personally. Being aware of and expressing our thoughts and feelings during this crisis is important to our mental and emotional health.
Sudden change often creates anxiety. To help reduce your stress, focus on what you can control; add structure to routines; develop near-term plans (i.e., days or one week out); avoid obsessively watching the news; and talk about your feelings with friends and family. One quick way to calm yourself and stay in the present moment is to do a simple grounding exercise.
Pick up an object and concentrate on its weight, shape, color, texture and scent. You can also learn relaxation techniques like mindfulness and meditation through free online apps and eBooks specific to anxiety. Helpful websites include anxiety.org and www.adaa.org.
Feelings of grief and loss are also normal. Grief may come out of nowhere, completely consuming you. But you can have some control over your response. For example, you can schedule a specific time for grieving. Then when it strikes, tell yourself “Not now, later.” Then at the specified time allow yourself to grieve. Free online apps and eBooks related to grieving and depression are available. For additional resources go to griefcounselor.org, nami.org and nihm.nih.gov.
People who we thought were strong may need our help and emotional support. For example, trauma victims and those with mental illness already have compromised emotional and psychological resources. Additional stress may weaken their existing coping capacity and lead to more symptoms.
The effects on children of long-term school closures, social isolation and daily interaction with parents who are now their teachers are unknown, meaning they may also need support. Under stress, it’s normal for kids to regress and act younger. Once parents determine and address what’s wrong, normal behavior usually returns.
Extra reassurance and encouragement are vital to a child’s emotional well-being. One way for parents to help their children feel valuable is to ask what they’re learning at home, from them, about relationships. Resources for helping children include kidsmentalhealth.org and acmh-mi.org.
Loving relationships during this time can improve when partners discuss what works and what hurts, provided they don’t provoke or ridicule each other. For instance, partners who keep fighting the same fight without anything changing can explore why this happens; learn to admit when they behave like enemies and choose instead to fight together against the real enemy – destructive relational patterns.
Relationships between senior citizens and their adult children can also improve. Elders have the wisdom of a lifetime and can still teach their children about hardship. Elders can have a renewed sense of purpose; not only as a teacher but as a loving parent, once again soothing their child’s anxiety, and the adult child can feel their parents’ care and concern. Resources include caregiver.org and elderlyparentresources.com.
We have an opportunity right now for personal reflection; to acknowledge and address unresolved personal difficulties. Now may be the time, for example, to stop feeling like a bad person when you’re not. Now may be the time to stop procrastinating. Now may be the time to admit and deal with a façade of being alive while privately feeling quite different. Now is the time for self-honesty; to confront your abuse of alcohol, drugs or porn, or overworking, lying or cheating. Now is the time to try out new ideas, to build character and self-confidence. It may be time to ask for help.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for other resources.
If you are facing mental health or substance abuse disorders, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National confidential hotline at 1-800-662-4357 (HELP) or go to SAMHSA.gov for additional resources.
Domestic violence victims can call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or go to thehotline.org for more information.
Working with a professional counselor can provide you with emotional support while helping you navigate through these difficult times. For referrals in your area go to psychologytoday.com or apa.org or aamft.org. You can also call the 800 number on the back of your insurance card and ask for mental health referrals.