Ways to Cope During COVID19 Pandemic
By, Tonisha Joanis, Ph.D.
As a psychologist, I have noticed an increased number of mental health referrals during this pandemic. For some people, being quarantined for the past year has had a significant negative impact on their emotional well-being. Increased social isolation, uncertainty about the future, lack of control over life, work related changes, and physical health challenges, seem to be common problems individuals struggle with at this time. In addition, there are notable increased reports of symptoms indicative of an anxiety and/or depressive disorder. And, many people are presenting to therapy with exacerbation of an already existing mental health condition. During any crisis, such as the present pandemic, it is critical that one remains mindful of their mental health symptoms, is intentional about seeking professional help as warranted, and is also incorporating self-care techniques into their lifestyle.
Securing time for self-care is likely to result in decreased distress and an increased sense of psychological peace. One example of self-care involves creating, what I like to call, a “Spiritual Breather Box” (SBB). Figuratively speaking, this box holds an unlimited amount of healthy activities, carefully selected to promote emotional stability. Upon completion of certain activities, the goal is for you to feel as if you took a deep breathe in – and then slowly exhaled and released any negative energy occupying your mind and body.
Some suggested activities to include in a SBB are:
Psalm 18:33 reads “He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights”. (Bible Gateway New Living Translation, 2105). Having a solid religious and/or spiritual foundation during moments of distress, can serve to re-store mental balance, hope, faith, and renewed strength to move forward. Prayer, study of scripture, and listening to religious music are some ways to help reach a state of being emotionally grounded in times of distress.
2) Food and Exercise
Clean eating and exercise can have positive benefits on your mental health. According to an article by the American Heart Association (2018), research suggests that certain foods have a positive impact on emotional well-being. Furthermore, research confirms that with exercise, your body produces natural endorphins that, simply put, make you feel good! (Cafasso, 2017)
3) Social Supports
If you find you’re feeling lonely and disconnected, consider reaching out to close friends and/or family members. If you are unable to see them in person, try alternative technologies such as zoom, face-time, or even a simple phone call. Carefully think about the type of friend or family member you choose to connect with. Maybe you need to speak with someone who is known to make you laugh? Or, maybe you need to talk with a person who is a great listener, and allows you vent without judgment? Just remember to choose a trusted individual who is genuinely caring and encouraging.
Set realistic short and/or long-term goals to accomplish during this pandemic. Perhaps you have always wanted to learn how to play the piano, read more books, or return to creating paintings? Use this time to try out new hobbies, or re-engage with old ones. Increasing pleasurable activities into your lifestyle may help distract you from distress and boost your mood.
5) Mindfulness Activities
Research has shown that use of mindfulness techniques can help alleviate distress. (Cresswell and Khoury, 2019) There are numerous online resources and apps to guide you through these methods. (Schiola, 2015). A personal favorite is the diaphragmatic breathing technique. Ultimately this approach results in bodily equilibrium and promotes a state of relaxation. (Johnson, 2020)
In conclusion, many people are experiencing heightened levels of distress during this pandemic. It is important to be intentional about engaging in self-care activities designed to give you a temporary sense of relief that will allow you to cope through the days. This is a challenging time for many people. Remember to allow self-compassion. And, try using a daily mantra such as “I speak to myself with kindness and I treat myself with kindness.” (Booth, 2018).
Bible Gateway New Living Translation (2015). Bible Gateway.
Booth, J. (2018 December 23). These 15 Self-Care Mantras Will Help you Be Kinder To Yourself In 2019. Bustle. https://www.bustle.com/p/15-self-care-mantras-for-2019-that-will-help-you-be-kinder-to-yourself-15534185
Cafasso, J. (2017, July 11). Why Do We Need Endorphins. Healthline.
Cresswell, J.D., Khoury, B. (2019, October 30). Mindfulness meditation: A research-proven way to reduce stress. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/topics/mindfulness-meditation
Food and Mood. (2018, June 25). American Heart Association.
Johnson, J. (2020, May 27). What To Know About Diaphragmatic Breathing. Medical News
Schiola, E. (2015, September 14). The Top Five Best Free Meditation Apps for Iphones and