Physical Distancing, Not Emotional Isolating
However the coronavirus outbreak has changed your life, know that you’re not alone. We’re all in this together—only from a safe distance apart. And remember that we’re physical distancing or sheltering in place because we care so much about one another. Still, it’s new and that takes some adjustment.
“Take it day by day and give yourself time to settle in and get situated,” said Talkspace therapist Amy Cirbus, Ph.D, LPC, LMHC. “Just be really mindful of what you need to do to be healthy for yourself and the people around you.”
Prioritize physical health
Cirbus suggested taking care of your physical health first. Practice good hygiene, assess your risk and make decisions based on that. Ask yourself what you need to feel safe and comforted.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help if leaving the house isn’t safe for you. Neighborhood groups on Facebook are offering help. Grocery delivery services can drop food at your door. Use a mail-order pharmacy that can deliver your prescriptions to your mailbox.
If you’re feeling well, make sure to incorporate some physical activity into your day. You might enjoy swapping your commute time for a daily walk or trying some YouTube workout videos. Many gyms and fitness studios are streaming classes.
From there, do what you need to do to feel mentally healthy. Cirbus said some of her therapy clients are even seeing the benefits of additional time at home. It’s an opportunity to do those things we want to do, but don’t seem to have time for like trying a new recipe or reading a book.
“Things that you’re always longing for, allow yourself time to do them,” Cirbus said.
She suggested that households discuss what everyone needs, such as time alone or sharing a meal together. Keeping work to work hours can also help make things feel more normal.
Sarah Springer implemented a stop sign system at her house in Richland, so she can still get her remote work done. If it’s red, her kids know they should only enter if it’s an emergency. Yellow means she’s focusing and interruptions should be limited. Green means come on in!
Everyone’s life is disrupted right now. It’s a shared experience, and it’s OK to talk about that and your feelings. This unprecedented time can spark feelings of fear, anxiety, isolation, and also anticipation. Cirbus suggested talking to others about how you’re feeling. Therapists often warn of too much time with technology, but now is a great time to use it.
“We have these amazing resources of live video, chat conversations. Schedule in some of that socialization that you would usually engage in if you were headed to work or to the office,” Cirbus said.
You might also find value in finding something you can do or can control. Maybe that’s going for a walk every day after work or FaceTiming with a friend.
“We can socially isolate but not emotionally and mentally isolate,” Cirbus said.
Extended news coverage takes a toll on mental health. Cirbus reminds that it’s the news networks’ job to be on all day. That doesn’t mean you have to watch all day.
“Check in once or twice a day,” she suggested. “If you have it on all day, it’s not necessarily new information.”
Remember to get news from reputable sources, too. Scientists are still learning about this virus and there is a lot of speculation that shows up on news programs and fills social media feeds. That can lead to fear.
Dr. Neil Kaneshiro stressed that it’s important to stay calm and follow public health instructions. You can take comfort in knowing that essential systems are still operating. Farmers are still farming. The food supply is still strong.
Get professional help
A professional can help you navigate this uncharted territory. Talkspace offers access to licensed therapists you can see through text, phone, or a video call.
“It might be more of a marathon than a sprint,” Cirbus said. “Reach out if it gets overwhelming.”