I am a fairly calm person, but these are extraordinary times. It’s natural to feel some anxiety in the middle of a pandemic. The issue isn’t if I will feel unnerved by COVID-19, but rather how I am going to manage my reaction to this global turmoil.
In the past week, I felt like I was coming down with COVID-19 about ten times. Each case lasted about an hour, and each incident could be traced to stress rather than a coronavirus exposure.
Here is what helps me maintain equanimity or re-center when I lose it:
- Confine the number of times I check the news. I aim for twice a day, but it often creeps to three times. After two sleepless nights, I stopped looking at news after 6 pm. When I hear news in the evening, it interferes with my sleep, which makes me tired the next day, leading to imaginary virus symptoms.
- Maintain my health. I participate in some sort of physical activity nearly every day. For those who are completely housebound, browse the internet for exercise programs you can do at home. Some gyms offer free work-outs online. Between yoga, strength-training, and aerobic actives, there are programs for all sorts of fitness levels. YouTube is a great place to find programs.
- Employ stress-reduction tools and use them often. In addition to my own meditation practice, I participate in a live guided meditation compliments of the folks at Ten Percent Happier. This occurs every weekday at 3pm Eastern and is free. You can listen to previous meditations as well. These meditations are also on YouTube. I look at the news before the meditation; not after.
- Limit social media. We need each other, and it is essential to connect. However, it is important to balance social media with other activities, especially ones that move the body.
- Help others. There are all sorts of ways we can help others. Keep in touch with people who live alone or are having a hard time. Donate money to charity.
- Look for pleasure, beauty, humor, and toilet paper. We need all of these things. There are some fun posts on the web about hand washing songs. When washing my hands, I say a 20-second loving-kindness meditation that not only keeps me safer, I’m holding good thoughts for others. I step outside every day and look at the sky or birds near my house. I’m reading a detective novel, and although I didn’t stock up on t-paper, I have enough for now.
If you are having a hard time, the crisis hotlines are still up and running at 800-273-TALK (8255). If you need help with drinking, drug use, addiction of any kind, or are concerned about a loved one with a substance use problem, there are online meetings in many communities across the country. For information about these, call your area AA, NA, Alanon, etc.
How are you weathering the COVID-19 pandemic?
If you want to read more about COVID-19 or other health-related issues, I am also blogging at hepmag.com.