Scientists warned that the United States would soon become the country hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. That moment arrived today, March 26, 2020.
I have been combing the internet to find therapy blog posts that could offer significant support to our readers. Unfortunately, they are few and far between. We intend to exclusively focus on blog posts that help couples keep their families and marriages safe during these critical times.
I was delighted to find this wonderful blog post by Jennie Steinberg, LMFT, LPCC at her website, www.throughthewoodstherapy.com.
We invited Jennie to share this post with our CTI readers, and she kindly agreed.
50 Coronavirus Self-Care Tips
About five years ago, I wrote a blog article called “100 Strategies to Help You Practice Self-Care”, and to this day, it is still the most viewed post on our site.
True to its name, it’s a list of 100 ways to take care of yourself, broken down into categories of how this applies to different situations.
For example, ways to take care of your body, ways to take care of your mind, ways to take care of your emotions, self-care for people who have more time than money, self-care for people who have more money than time, etc.
A Sudden, Strange Situation
But all of a sudden, we all find ourselves living in a very strange situation.
A lot of the ways we used to find peace, solace, and joy aren’t available to us anymore.
In this time of the coronavirus pandemic, we are experiencing unprecedented amounts of fear, uncertainty, and overwhelm.
Some people have lost their jobs and fear for their financial security.
Others are suddenly trying to balance homeschooling their children with a jerry-rigged work-from-home set-up.
(As an example, check out this Jimmy Kimmel clip where his daughters interrupt his show!) And some people are mostly just bored.
In the last week and a half, we’ve developed a whole new way of living, and a whole new vocabulary around it. “Shelter in place”, “safer at home”, “social distancing”, “self-quarantine”, and, for some reason, “hunker” have all become words we’re saying a great deal.
Something that I’ve found to be grounding is to find an idea that feels reassuring, and fall back on it when everything feels like too much.
For me, that idea is: “If we do everything right, it will seem like we overreacted.” Feel free to borrow it, or to find something else that soothes you.
And, while you’re searching for that idea, here’s a list of 50 ways to take care of yourself during the coronavirus pandemic. The best approach to this list is to find one or two that sound helpful, rather than trying to take on everything at once.
- Listen to your feelings about what feels safe and what doesn’t. If you engage in an activity and feel uncomfortable afterward, it’s okay to shift your boundaries to be more rigid.
- Practice self-compassion and be kind to yourself.
- Spend time outdoors (safely) when the weather is nice.
- Take care of health basics: nutritious food, moving your body, getting plenty of sleep, and staying hydrated.
- Don’t forget to find pockets of joy. Laugh as much as you can. Watch stand-up comedy specials. Reminisce with friends. Sing and dance around your home.
- Practice gratitude.
- Remind yourself that as scary as this time is, and as hard as it is to sit with the ambiguity of not having a timeline, it won’t last forever.
If You Feel Bored:
- Engage in creative endeavors that you had previously put on the back burner.
- Write. A memoir, a screenplay, a poem, a blog article.
- Make music like these amazing folks.
- Learn how to do something new.
- Sing along to karaoke tracks on YouTube, or find a virtual piano bar. (For Broadway show tunes, Marie’s Crisis is streaming sing-along sets.)
- Do something mentally stimulating, like a crossword puzzle or Sudoku.
- Read a book. Find something new or reread an old favorite.
- A lot of museums and zoos are offering virtual tours. Pay a “visit” to one. (I also really enjoyed this 30-second tour of the Houston Aquarium, as led by its flamingo inhabitants.)
- Sign up for an online class.
- Plan a vacation that you’d like to take once coronavirus is no longer a threat.
If You Feel Lonely:
- Have real, vulnerable conversations with friends and family. Avoid small talk – it doesn’t fill the “loneliness tank”.
- Schedule Zoom “coffee dates”, Zoom “happy hours”, and Zoom “family gatherings”. (The free account allows unlimited one-on-one time and 40-minute long group chats.)
- Consider fostering a pet. The oxytocin (the cuddle hormone) will do you good, and it will give you something to focus on.
- Create something collaborative that can be done remotely.
- Stop scrolling through social media. Counterintuitively, this can make you feel more isolated, not less.
- Play online games with loved ones.
- If you are young and healthy, practice altruism. Offer to do favors for people who aren’t so fortunate, like picking up groceries for a neighbor who has a health condition or is over 65.
- Call someone and express gratitude to them for something they have done for you.
- Tell loved ones you feel lonely. Labeling the feeling can help you feel more connected to those around you.
- Engage in your community by having conversations with your neighbors – from opposite sides of the street.
- Have a social distancing get-together with someone in an outdoor space. Sit on separate picnic blankets on the grass, six feet apart, or take a walk on opposite sides of a track.
If You Feel Overwhelmed:
- Make a list of things that you can still control in your life. This is especially important if you tend to seek control in unhealthy ways (eating disorders, substance abuse, etc.).
- Make a list of your fears, and then brainstorm ways to be okay if they come to fruition. Be specific: Instead of “I’m worried about money,” write “I’m afraid that the company I work for is going to have to lay me off, and I won’t be able to afford to pay my rent.”
- Talk to someone about how you’re feeling. Most therapists have transitioned to offering telehealth by video sessions. This may be worth investing in.
- Cultivate a home practice of yoga or meditation. (Yoga with Adriene and Headspace are great resources for this.) Use grounding exercises to decrease feelings of stress or anxiety.
- Practice healthy escapism by immersing yourself in fiction that centers around a fantasy world.
- Set media boundaries and limit the amount of time you spend reading the news each day.
- Exercise to sluff off some of that stress. A lot of gyms are offering online memberships, and there are a lot of free YouTube videos. But this can also be as easy as walking or jogging around your neighborhood.
- Break tasks you usually outsource into smaller pieces. If you’ve asked your housekeeper to stay home, make a list of the things they typically do for you and assign one to each day of the week. If you suddenly find yourself homeschooling your children, don’t expect that you will have the bandwidth to teach them things for 6-8 hours (or that they will have the bandwidth to learn for that long). Instead, focus on one thing a day.
- Find ways to delineate when you are working and not working. Designate part of your home as your “workspace”, or choose an item of clothing you will only wear when you are “at work”. A friend who used to work from home a lot once told me he would wear a tie any time he was working – even if it meant he was just wearing boxers and a tie.
- If your feelings of overwhelm are related to your membership in an at-risk category (older folks, people with pre-existing health conditions), ask for help from people who aren’t in these groups.
If Your Relationships are Taking a Toll:
Note: This section is for relationships that are strained, not abusive. If you are living with someone who makes you feel unsafe during this time, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.
- Practice “generous assumptions”. That is, assume that your loved one’s intentions are good before reacting.
- Recognize that everyone is managing this situation differently, and make space for that to be okay. If you feel that someone is being reckless in this scary time, express it from a place of love, kindness, and concern, rather than from a place of making demands.
- If you are a person who values your alone time, and you’re now cooped up in the house with a loved one, practice “spousal distancing” for at least a few minutes every day.
- Remind yourself that this is not the time to try to be the perfect partner or parent. We’re all a little bit more on edge than usual, and doing the best we can.
- Consider online couples therapy.
- Express “wishes” instead of “demands”. Say, “It would really help me if…” instead of “I need you to…”
- Reconnect by planning a “date night” at home, and play a game or watch a movie together. If you have children, do this after their bedtime.
- Use “I-statements” when expressing your wishes. Don’t say, “You always leave dirty dishes in the sink”; instead say, “I really value having a clean kitchen, do you think you can help me with that?” (And remember, “I feel like you’re an idiot” isn’t an I-statement, even though it starts with the word “I”!)
- Use the “feelings first” principle when working to resolve conflicts.
If You Get Sick:
- Follow your doctor’s recommendations.
- Practice super-charged self-care. Sleep as much as you need to. Eat as well as you can. Stay home. While you are quarantined, use as many of the items from the above “if you are feeling lonely” list as you feel up for.
- Don’t blame yourself. Coronavirus is not selective based on virtue. Some people will be reckless and not get sick; others will do everything right and get sick anyway. Getting coronavirus is not a cosmic punishment. It’s a random bad thing that happened to you.