The Art of Staying Sane During a Global Pandemic

In the words of the great spiritual teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, “Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”  

As I stop and reflect on the recent devastation that the outbreak of COVID 19 has caused on a global scale, I can’t help but wonder: How does one find meaning in such difficult times? 

Working in the mental health field has taught me that no one is immune to the hardships that life might throw them– in fact all of us have experienced some form of adversity at some point.  So, what makes this situation so different?  

Well, if we examine things from a positive psychological standpoint, I would say we are all in this together! Not just a single person, not just a single city or state, not even a single country, but all of us as an entire population of people are fighting this pandemic together. That’s really powerful if you think about it!  I can’t think of another time in history like this.  Every single person on the planet can work toward a unified goal of stopping the spread of this virus. 

I bring awareness to this because it gives me hope that we are not fighting this battle alone– even though most of us are isolated.  We have the opportunity to unite (through social distancing and closed doors of course) to fight this virus together.  Some of you may be asking, “But Andy, from a licensed professional stand point, how do we keep our sanity during these trying times?” Well my friends, I will tell you! 

Here are my top 5 tips for surviving a global pandemic:

Reframe the way you look at isolation

 

As mentioned in the beginning paragraphs, no one is fighting this battle alone. Everyone is being asked to do their part in controlling the spread of this disease.  In my own clinical practice, most of my telehealth clients have been telling me that they are dealing with a tremendous amount of anxiety, fear and depression. I am encouraging people to reframe the way that they view isolation. 

Feelings of anxiety and depression have existed long before COVID-19 came on the scene.  From a scientific standpoint a major cause of depression and anxiety can stem from the stress of everyday life. When people become stressed, they tend to ignore their own internal feelings and needs which lead to depression and anxiety. Most people complain about not having enough time or needing vacation time. 

I am not negating or minimizing the effect that this pandemic has had, but I encourage people to stop, slow down, and listen to what heart, body, and soul might need. Developing a state of mindfulness can be difficult, especially if you are not used to sitting with your thoughts and feelings. But, the more you practice and develop your internal awareness the more manageable your anxiety will become. Start simple. This can look like connecting with your higher power, making a gratitude list, doing yoga, praying, meditation, and sitting with one’s breath.  The isolation will not last forever, so use this time to reconnect with your own internal needs. 

 

Try learning something new

 

This advice speaks for itself, but think about that dusty guitar that needs to brought out or remember that project you where meaning to do but couldn’t because you kept putting it off. Try to embrace your inner creativity or look for new opportunities to develop creative habits.  For at least the next month we will be self-quarantining at home, so people might as well try to make the most of it.  Also, there is only so much Netflix and episodes of Tiger King diagnostically acceptable before succumbing to despair.  Here of a list of suggestions:

  1. Learn a new instrument
  2. Learn to cook
  3. Read a book
  4. Develop a household project that involves the whole family
  5. Learn a new language
  6. Catch up with old friends
  7. Learn a new skill
  8. Teach your kids a new skill
  9. Karaoke 
  10. Pay attention to your animals (My dogs are personally loving all the attention they are getting.) 

 

Stay active

 

This advice really depends on your current living situation. Some are not able to leave their homes and others are able to go outside and to the park. The point is; continue to do some form of physical activity for 45 minutes to an hour each day. Living a sedentary lifestyle can create more anxiety and depression.  I have personally been practicing yoga and watching workout videos on YouTube.  As an individual who needs daily physical movement, I can’t stress the importance of continuing to find some way to be active. Try involving your friends on Zoom or Google Hangout.  Most large chain workout facilities such as the YMCA have virtual classes you can still take.  The important thing is to have fun but challenge yourself to stay active!

 

Pick and choose your battles

 

Look, I get it.  Spending a majority of your day quarantined with your significant other, spouse, or family can be daunting–especially when your fight is over who used the last roll of toilet paper! It’s important to remember to be empathetic to your partner’s needs and give them the space they need to re-center themselves.  Whatever your current living situation may be, don’t sweat the small stuff.  It’s not worth getting into an argument over who at the last Dorito. 

 

Even though you’re physically isolated, don’t be an island

 

This may seem like a contradiction given the first tip, but it is not healthy for human beings to be isolated. This time of social distancing can be especially difficult for the elderly, addicts, those with limited mobility, those suffering from mental health issues, and those dealing with domestic violence.  Obviously, it’s important to maintain social distance, but use technology to your advantage to stay in the loop.  

My advice is never to stop reaching out.  Luckily it is 2020 and technology has made it easier to connect with others from every corner of the globe—even Antarctica!  One of the beautiful things about the company where I work, The Becoming Counseling & Wellness, is that we offer a wide range of service via telehealth and can accommodate the mental health or wellness needs of those that seek our services. Our therapists and clinicians come from a wide variety of backgrounds and we are here to work with you during this challenging time. 

If you’re a person in recovery there are numerous groups that meet online. I have found them to be an excellent opportunity to continue to stay sane. Also, reach out to family members and old friends you may not have contacted in a while.  Keep a rotation of people that you call or text for daily check-ins.

If you’re living in a dangerous situation or in a bad place mentally, please reach out to your local authorities or dial 911.  

Finally, remember you are never really alone even if you feel alone and are physically alone. There is a unifying consciousness that unites us all. If we are willing to embrace this consciousness, we will learn the true meaning of connectivity.  My thoughts and prayers are with you all during this time.  For more information on how to connect with our services or me personally please visit the www.thebecomingcounseling.com or email me at [email protected] 

Be blessed,

Andy Dozier- LPC-MHSP