• Megan Johnson, Ph.D.

Love in the Time of COVID19 (Coronavirus)

It’s here. We can’t get away from it in the news media. Our schools. Our workplaces. Our churches and places of worship. Our gyms and workout studios. March Madness is canceled. NBA and NHL have hit the pause button. MLB is pushing back opening day. Broadway shows and tours are canceled. Coachella and Stagecoach have been postponed. Travel plans are being rearranged. A lot of us have been told to work from home. And the freeways are wide open during rush hour. Are you feeling overwhelmed yet? Because I certainly am. And that is hard to admit that because my job necessitates that I don’t get overwhelmed. That I carry the anxious burdens of others without getting crushed beneath the weight. This task has become exceptionally hard given the collective anxiety our world is experiencing right now.

But I deeply believe that no matter how dark things get, we are never completely helpless. So I’d like to contribute to a feeling of hopefulness and add to the conversation on COVID19 and coronavirus and giving a felt sense of safety and security back to those of you feeling powerless. Here's how you can take reestablish a sense of security in uncertain times.

1. Avoid excessive media exposure: Stay informed but do not let the 24-hour news cycle play in the background. Stop scrolling through Facebook reading every update from your friend vacationing in Europe. Do not constantly check the number of confirmed cases in your town.

The reason we compulsively reach for more information is because we wrongly believe that it will instill a sense of comfort in times of uncertainty. But because it does not give us that reassurance that we long for so desperately, it exacerbates our sense of vulnerability and draws us back for more. It’s a vicious cycle and you disrupt it by getting off the hamster wheel.

Here are some helpful strategies to stay informed without giving into the hysteria:

  • Limit your news consumption to a certain time period. Maybe set aside 20 or 30 minutes each morning to read some trusted news sources and get a sense of what is happening in the world today. For a quick overview of the day's top stories with a witty delivery, I suggest The Skimm (Not an endorsement, I just truly enjoy them).

  • Only seek information from trusted sources. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and your county’s health department are great places to start. Stay away from reddit, twitter, your family text thread your crazy aunt Joanne’s Facebook page (we all have one). They're great for entertainment and terrible for spreading misinformation.

  • Listen to scientists – epidemiologists, infectious disease doctors, medical doctors, and nurses. Don’t listen to politicians and pundits. If they are trying to sell you something or will benefit monetarily from your attention, they are likely not a reputable source.

  • While you’re at it, also stop checking your retirement account, stocks, and other investments. They aren’t doing great right now but that’s ok because there WILL be a market correction. Unless you are retiring or liquidating all of your assets tomorrow, you are ok. Speak to a trusted financial advisor, but also recognize that your bank account going up or down does not have to dictate your mental health.

2. Reframe canceled plans/time off/quarantines. Many of us have been instructed to or are choosing to remain in our homes as much as possible. While this can be viewed as depressing, it can alternatively be positively reframed as a time for rest and relaxation. Pick up knitting. Read that book you always wanted to read (Amazon is still delivering – check out my reading list if you need recommendations). Try a new recipe. Do an at-home yoga routine (I love Yoga With Adrienne on YouTube). Get a head start on Spring cleaning. Call your friends and family members. We all have a tendency to complain about not having enough time to do the things we want to, but we view this forced downtime as your opportunity!

3. Maintain a schedule and daily self-care routine. Just because the rest of the world is put on pause does not mean you need to feel an internal disruption. The best way to maintain balance is to keep a routine. Continue to wake up at a similar time each day and go to bed at the same time each night. Eat your meals at appropriate times and keep your self-care and physical fitness routine. Try to do everything you would normally do - even if you have to do it virtually

4. Use humor. Laughter truly is the best medicine. There is a lot wrong with the world right now but there is also some great, humorous content out there when you need to lighten the mood and get your mind off of the heavy stuff for a minute. For those of you quarantined or confined to your couch for the foreseeable future, Netflix has some great comedy specials and sitcoms. And when in doubt, the memes being produced at the moment are top notch.

5. Seek support. Just because social distancing has been encouraged does not mean we need to be socially isolated! Thankfully we live in the age of technology and can avoid isolation. Reach out to loved ones – particularly those who are vulnerable. In other words, call your grandmother! Check in on those with little kids who have likely had school canceled. Encourage your friends in the health care field and service industry who cannot work from home. And allow yourself to receive support and encouragement from your community. One important way you can do this is by continuing therapy. Many offices are shut down right now, or you may be quarantined, but ask your mental health provider if they offer phone or video sessions. We at Gideon Psychology certainly do! Now more than ever it is important to reach out and get the support you need.

6. Use common sense. Wash your hands. Try not to touch your face. Practice good hygiene. And don’t hoard necessities. We all need toilet paper and water, please only take what you need and stop giving into the scarcity mentality. Respect one another as we all do our best to take care our ourselves and our communities.


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