In the last few weeks in the US, COVID-19 has impacted our lives in ways we likely never thought imaginable. As we hear about people that we know and don’t know contracting the virus, the reality of it sets in. As a psychologist and executive coach, I wanted to share some of the ways that can be helpful to maintain some grounding during this very difficult time.
Your Professional Life
So, many of us are working from home, which can be fraught in some many unexpected ways (i.e., you may have children that are not longer attending school, so you may not be distraction-free to work; you may not have a private place to work at home; you may still have to go to work because of what you do).
What can you do to create some structure and normalcy during this time?
- Craft schedules for you and your children. Schedules can be very grounding and normalizing. Create to-do lists and plans for the day.
- Take breaks. Have meals. You may even get some opportunities to do things that you don’t normally get to do during your work day (e.g., dinner with the family.)
- If you have small children, you may want to consider periods when it is important for you not to be disturbed because you have a meeting or need concentrated, focused time to work, and plan out how your kids will be occupied or monitored.
- If online schooling hasn’t begun yet, consider online education platforms that can form a stopgap for now. As a homeschooler, one of the resources that I have loved is the Homeschool Buyers Coop. They are even offering free resources for people whose children’s education has been affected by COVID-19. Especially for young kids, you can also set up goals and rewards which create incentives to move forward. At lot of online education can have fun rewards and activities built in as well.
- Do not spend a ton of time on social media and the news because you are not in the office. It’s better to limit your time to official news sources (e.g., municipal and state government, your state DOH, and the CDC) and not getting caught up in hours and hours of news to stay informed. It heightens anxiety.
- If you have a business especially one that has been affected by all the changes, consider exploring some of the support you may be eligible for from your local government, the Small Business Association (SBA), professional associations/unions, and insurance. This may help you in the preparation of documents that you may need to file a claim.
- If you are a business owner, this also may be a good time to consider ways to adjust or develop other revenue streams that will keep you solvent during this time (e.g., changing your delivery method, creating new online offerings) and benchmarking others in your field to see how they are adapting.
- Don’t stop your job search. Many of the positions that are now posted were approved a while ago and may likely be viable. While the interview process may be delayed or become virtual, it’s still important to stay in the game.
- Keeping up your networking, if you can, through virtual video or phone meetings. They can be incredibly helpful in keeping your ear to the ground about any trends going on as a result of the virus, and how you should adapt.
- At this particular time, caring for your mental health is another vital aspect of what you should be focusing on. Here are some things that you may want to consider to manage your internal life at this time:
- If you are seeing a mental health practitioner or psychiatrist, do not stop the regularity of appointments (i.e., if you see your therapist weekly, continue to do so). Most therapists are moving to virtual (either HIPPA-compliant video or phone) sessions in some of the places hardest hit.
- Meditate daily. Most people can agree that it would be beneficial, but balk against trying it. If you use it regularly, it can be incredibly helpful in emotional regulation. Start slow and minimal and work your way up in a manageable process. Consider using the popular apps (e.g., Calm, Headspace, Brainwaves — a favorite app of mine especially for sleep) or my favorite is coherence breathing which is a simple breathing technique, where you breathe at a cadence. You can find the directions here.
- If you are feeling unnerved and are having trouble meditating, consider working on grounding. Here are some great exercises for grounding and helping yourself to feel back in your body.
- Keep exercising – 30 minutes of cardio can significantly positively affect mood. Since many gyms are closed in high impact areas, consider online programs.
- Engage in good thoughtful sleep hygiene — keep to a regular time to go to bed and wake up, minimize blue light, get 10-15 minutes of sunlight during the day, and try not to use the bed for anything, but sleep if you are having difficulty.
- Be aware of when you need to spend time with others and when you need to spend time alone. Be conscious of that for those in your household as well and be respectful of what they may need. Pay attention to identify concerns about people in your household’s mental well-being and if it gets concerning, reach out to their mental health professional or PCP.
- If you don’t live with anyone and much of your time is spent alone, consider setting up virtual get-togethers by Skype or FaceTime and do it at the cadence that helps you feel connected.
- Don’t forget to do tank filling activities for yourself and be very careful not to get caught up in soothing the anxiety with activities that can be problematic long-term like regular drinking of alcohol.
- Be kind to other people and yourself. This is a very traumatizing and disconcerting situation and everyone has their own reaction. Being compassionate to yourself and others can be incredibly helpful to everyone.
I am wishing you, your family, friends, professional life and business much health and hoping that this public health crisis ends soon.