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“Quarantine, shelter in place, flatten the curve, N95 masks”, are some of the terms that are dominating our daily conversations as we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic.

We have all experienced hardship, loss, despair and pain of deep magnitude. It is important to remind ourselves that we rose from that darkness stronger than ever. We learned resilience and found our way. However, like most of life’s challenges, we don’t get through it elegantly. For the next couple of months, it will feel messy and scary, but we got this. Afterall, when in our lifetime has the entire world been on the same side, fighting for the same goal and praying for the same outcome?

So, I do not have to reiterate the need to social distance or to avoid touching your face. You know what you need to do. We also are very clear about what we cannot do. We comply to protect ourselves, each other and save lives.

Now, let’s look at what we can do to help us all adjust emotionally to this new life. In the morass of ever changing, frightening news and minimal social interaction, how do we guard against irritability, depression, anxiety, over-eating, abusing alcohol, loneliness, boredom, fighting with our family?

Here’s a few thoughts on keeping it together when it seems like the world is falling apart.

  1. Maintain a consistent bedtime. Quality sleep makes us less irritable and boosts our immune system. Waking up at the same time supports following a routine which in turn creates a sense of order that is stabilizing.

 

  1. Try to plan healthy meals and stick to a meal time. Remember the Freshman 15? Grazing when we are bored will result in us all bemoaning the Covid-19 20! Pay attention to your intake of comfort food; in sweat pants those pounds have room to multiply.

 

  1. Limit your news intake. There is a difference between being informed and being traumatized. We are on an inescapable 24-hour news cycle. My suggestion is approximately 10-15 minutes in the morning should do it (really). Check the CDC.gov or WHO web pages for the most accurate and REAL updates. Repeated exposure to upsetting events can result in PTSD. After 9/11, this phenomenon because very apparent. And please, don’t listen to the Covid-19 updates before bedtime!!

 

  1. Exercise daily. At least some movement should be outside in fresh air. Get on your bike, lace up your running shoes or simply walk. Do some yard clean up. If you have a home gym, clean the stuff off of it and use it.

 

  1. Make a schedule. It is easy for a day to slip by and you discover you are still in your pajamas. Get up. Get dressed. Get moving. Write your schedule down and commit to following it. Do the same with your kids They have basically the same needs- good sleep, quiet time, exercise, healthy food, laughter (and a little school work). (Those of you who love lists, have already done this!)

 

  1. Make sure there is laughter in your life every day. Now is not the time for apocalyptic movies or books. It is the time to revisit funny old favorites- best comedy show? Favorite funny movie? Laughter is healing as it is said to strengthen the immune system. Plus, it just feels so GOOD.

 

  1. Listen to music that makes your heart soar. For me that is music of my youth. I am listening to a lot of Motown and Beatles these days as I reminiscence about the time when my biggest concerns were passing algebra, and ironing my hair.

 

  1. Do something every day to bring joy into your life. Yesterday I bought some pansies from an outdoor stand (maintaining social distancing while supporting a small business) and planted them in clay pots. That simple activity brought me joy.

 

  1. Miss eating out? Call your favorite independent restaurant, order take out and while you are at it, buy a gift certificate to use at a later date. It gives you something fun to look forward to and helps our small eateries stay afloat.

 

  1. Make this time count. Are you one of those people who say, “if I had time, I would write a book? Do more yoga? Learn to play a musical instrument? Visit all the museums of the world? Study a foreign language? Take a painting class? ” Here’s the good news; you have both the time and thanks to utube and generous posting of professionals on Facebook, you now have the resources. Time is no longer the problem (even if you are working from home, your weekends are open.) and many previous costly ventures are now affordable as companies offer their products for a reduced price or no cost at all.

 

  1. If you are feeling helpless (and who isn’t?), there are things you can do. If you sew, uTube is filled with videos on how to make masks. Or if know some people who have N95 masks or latex gloves, collect them and donate them to your local hospital. Or call your local senior center or food pantry and ask how you can help. There are many ways to shake that helpless feeling while keeping a safe distance.

 

  1. Please stay connected to others. Reach out to a couple of friends a day. Especially if you live alone. Being solitary is different than being isolated.

 

  1. If you live with others, please schedule quiet alone time to meditate, pray, read a book, walk in nature, journal or simply enjoy the stillness.

 

  1. Practice gratitude. The last pandemic was 110 years ago. We have so much more in our favor now.

 

  1. Lastly, it is ok not to be ok. Our lives are disrupted in a way we never could have imagined; there is no playbook for this. Fear, doubt, even moments of terror are going to hit you in this “New Normal’. This will pass (the virus AND the terror!). Remember you have been through rough patches before and emerged on the other side! Be gentle with yourself and when those moments of fear or frustration grip, bring yourself back to gratitude and humor and good food and good music and even the Internet. And Spring. Because even the Covid-19 virus can’t stop Spring!

 

Be safe. Be healthy. We are all in this together.

 

Copyright 2020. Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC, LLC is a psychotherapist in Farmington for over 30 years focusing on adults in transition. She is the author of “From Ex-wife to Exception Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce” and many articles related to life transitions. She is spending her “shelter in place time” learning teletherapy, experimenting with new recipes, anticipating the spring garden, taking long walks with her dog Sadie and watching all the episodes of The Office. She has not cleaned out her closets yet, but it is on the list.

 

 

 

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4 Comments

  1. CJ Golden on the 23. Mar, 2020 remarked #

    Donna, this is exactly what we need now – you sharing your warmth, wisdom, love and experience. I thank you for you.
    CJ

  2. Wendy on the 24. Mar, 2020 remarked #

    Thank you, as always, for your words of wisdom!

    • Donna Ferber on the 24. Mar, 2020 remarked #

      How are you doing with all this? Crazy times but we will get through it!

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