The key to getting through this tough time is to be “gentle and generous” with yourself. Here are some ways to do that.
Pay attention to your breathing; it’s a regulatory system for our bodies.
Often when people are in distress, they either forget to breathe enough or they hyperventilate. Something as simple as slowing down your breathing can signal your mind and emotions to slow down, too. Try the 3 part breath used in yoga, which involves the belly, the ribs and lungs, and the chest. This simple exercise involves fully expansive breaths that we feel through the whole centre of our bodies, to decompress the stress that is building in our bodies on any given day.
Find an activity that helps you slow down physically. Whether it’s listening to music that you enjoy, taking time to read a book that you’ve been working your way through, whether it’s writing in a journal and reflecting on what you’re feeling and experiencing, or walking your pet. The idea is to find something that helps you disconnect from the urgency of the moment.
Create pockets of calm and build rhythms into your day.
Stopping to pay attention to the lunch you are eating or taking a break for a couple of hours in the middle of the day. Try not to succumb to the push to be productive all the time. Commit to a schedule and close your laptop at a set time each day, for example.
“When you’re working from home, it can be very tempting to not set healthy work boundaries, but it’s really important that people set up a schedule for the day. Set up your schedule in a way that everyone in your home is clear on what’s happening. Schedule breaks and designate blocks of “no screen time” to ensure you get a break from the news and social media.
Connect regularly with people who are important to you.
Most people have maybe four or five intimate friends, people who could really rescue them in a time of crisis. The message to people is actually reach out to them more than normal.
Focus on one or two tasks you want to do well each day.
There are so many external factors we can’t control these days and hundreds of things we may feel compelled to do. To avoid being overwhelmed by all the tasks that need attention and feeling a lack of control, identify one or two goals each day and focus on them.
When to Get Help
It’s important to know what reactions are normal at a time like this and when you should seek professional help. Anxiety is a normal response, but you shouldn’t spend all day worrying.
It’s important to take care of your mental health on a day-to-day basis so that it doesn’t reach excessive levels, so that you can keep your stress under control.
Many people experience interrupted sleep, and that is to be expected. People experience deep sleep only when they feel safe. But if you can’t sleep at all, if nightmares overwhelm you, or if you wake up with panic attacks, you may need more support.
The stress of a pandemic can also lead to agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder in which people avoid places and situations that frighten them. They don’t want to go and walk the dog or get out and smell the daisies — all of which are good things to do.
People also may experience changes in appetite, concentration, or mood. They’re all signs that you should seek professional help.
We need to address the things we have control over. You have control over getting help for yourself. Now may be the time when you want to work with your EAP Assist counsellor to help you get through this difficult time.