As a psychotherapist, one of my central approaches to helping others is the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This approach is founded on challenging distorted thoughts that tend to foster anxiety and negative self-talk. So, applying the avoidance of catastrophic thinking to my own life, I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be writing a blog on how to emotionally survive a quarantine during a pandemic. Yet, here we are – feeling as if we are in a movie scene. And, given the unprecedented state things are in, I feel that it’s my responsibility to not perpetuate fear, but to remind us about ways to cope with a situation that feels more bizarre each day.
While some of us are still able to work (which is something to celebrate in itself!), don’t forget the importance of routine. Even if you have nothing you have to accomplish that day, get out of bed after you have had a healthy amount of sleep. Get dressed. Even if you are not going outside, dress as if you are. Keep things as “normal” and routine as possible.
Go outside! Social distancing does not mean that you cannot go outside for a walk to get fresh air or hear the birds sing. Research shows that exposure to forests and trees boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, improves mood, increases energy levels, and improves sleep. And, who doesn’t need a little of all that right now!?
Find Ways to Still Connect
Now is the time to take advantage of how technology-driven our society is. Even if you cannot (or should not) leave your home, can you schedule a daily video or phone call with friends? With your mom? With co-workers?
Explore what options help you stay connected while we are #hometogether or #togetherathome. (Maybe even follow these adorable hashtags!) Google Hangouts has a feature where you can watch a movie together with friends online. Use the time you have to re-kindle relationships that may have faded or that you feel like you just never quite had enough time for.
Filter your Intake
You may want to stay up-to-date about all of the breaking news stories related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. But, here’s my question to you: is that really helping? Consider filtering what you are exposing yourself to via your screen time. Or, consider re-prioritizing who you follow to only get updates from those sending positive messages of hope and support out into the universe. We are what we see and our thinking becomes what we expose ourselves to. So, what kind of internal environment are you creating for yourself?
Learn Something New
Now may be the perfect time to pick up that new hobby that doesn’t require you to leave your home. Have you always wanted to try painting? Have you been interested in doing a silent meditation retreat but never took the plunge? Could you brush up on your guitar lessons on YouTube? Keep your brain active by getting your creative juices flowing as you learn something new.
Foster your Love
If you are isolated in your home with other loved ones, even though the constant tight-quarters may cause life to feel like a tense Thanksgiving dinner 24/7, use this as a time to get to know each other better. Recognize that you have been given the gift of quality time. Play board games. Talk to each other. Turn off the ever-updating stream of news and look each other in the eye. The reality is that the connection of humans, not technology, is what will get us through these hard times.
Unleash your Inner Mother Theresa
I have always been deeply inspired by how saints (whether literal or metaphorical) like Mother Theresa or Princess Diana would go right into the thick of those who were ill. They weren’t afraid of the “what ifs.” They just helped. They held space. They worked for the highest good. They may have been in the middle a Leper colony or at the bedside of taking their last breath in a battle lost to AIDS, but they were there.
Know your limitations and risks relative to your own health and what you can or should do outside of your home to help others, but remember to be there for others. It may be small steps like buying a neighbor some extra groceries while you are out anyway. Or, if you prefer to stay at home when blessing others, order someone a meal in with DoorDash. Share the extra Lysol wipes you happen to have with someone who has run out. Start a Facebook group for your local community so that you can swap encouragement and needed items.
One of my favorite quotes during times when things feel grim is by Margaret Meade: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” To be hopeful and to be able to give support, it also means that we must practice receiving it. So, reach out when you need to talk.
Use resources like the Crisis Text Line, Suicide Prevention Hotline, or your local crisis hotline (here’s the one for those in Kalamazoo and surrounding locations in Southwest Michigan) when you are feeling overwhelmed. And, remember, just like now, you have survived 100% of your worst days thus far. Have confidence that you can continue to take in one day at a time. After all, we’re all in this together!
~Ashley Carter Youngblood, LMSW, LMFT, CADC, ADS, CMHIMP
Ashley Carter Youngblood is a licensed Clinical Social Worker, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and a Certified Mental Health Integrative Medicine Provider who has been in the field since 2007. She offers counseling at her woman-owned business, Inner Peace Counseling, PLC, for those in Kalamazoo, Portage, Mattawan, Battle Creek, Paw Paw, and the surrounding areas of Southwest Michigan. She is passionate about her work with clients, whether it’s providing individual counseling, couples counseling, family therapy, life coaching, or education about one of her growing passions and areas of expertise: the connection between nutrition and mental health. Her specialties include holistic healing/mindfulness, counseling for women, anxiety, couples counseling, and addictions/substance abuse.
I welcome you to contact me or leave any questions or feedback you have about this post. Please keep in mind that the above information is the opinion of an individual, should not be considered medical advice/treatment, and is for entertainment/educational purposes only. I write these blogs as an expression of my passion for wellness and with the hope to be able to help as many people as possible. So, for more information about how to safely navigate this website and to what terms you are agreeing upon use, visit my Disclaimer page. And, as always, if you are experiencing an emergency, contact 911 or present yourself to your nearest emergency room.
Thanks for reading.