These 12 tips are specific to living through a pandemic (COVID-19) where there are multiple tragic events and crisis occurring at once on a worldwide scale.
A brief overview of the destruction that COVID-19 has caused
• People are ill and dying from a virus.
• People are socially isolated from family and friends.
• People are restricted in where they can go and what they can do.
• People have lost jobs and are financially unstable.
– Connected to all of this is the person’s identity because people identify themselves through going out and participating.
• Political issues, finger pointing and name calling are a big part of this pandemic.
• People wear face masks to reduce spread of the virus, but the mask also hides smiles.
• Anxiety, depression and suicide is on the rise.
• People are silently hurting.
The benefits of these tips are (but not limited to)
• Increased happiness
• Connection to others
• Raising awareness
• Fostering positivity
• Finding value and meaning in life
• Learning coping strategies
• Finding help
Keep in mind that this article isn’t telling you to ignore, dismiss, or minimize what’s going on around us. It is important to sit with the difficult emotions and thoughts, to process, and personally grow from what’s occurring in our lives. We can’t run, there needs to be a resolution to do something about it, but there needs to be a balance and healthy approach.
Let’s cover the tips on getting through
1) Limit your time on social media and watching the news. Be informed and have proper understanding about what’s going on around the world, but don’t allow the information to overwhelm and carry you away. The information on social media and the news shouldn’t occupy a good portion of your day.
2) Mute or unfollow people on social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram if they are posting unhelpful information on the pandemic or are posting frequently on the pandemic. Always check the resource of what they post to make sure it is true and accurate. There is a lot of information being shared that is inaccurate or highly one-sided. Be your own researcher, fact-checker, and it is beneficial to try to see from both sides of an issue. Widening perspective allows us to have a more open mind and gives us a little more breathing room.
3) Use social media and technology to your advantage. Since we have to limit being around others or can’t be around people at all, use social media to connect and to lift up others. Post something kind or funny. Post a beautiful picture. Have an engaging conversation, but leave out the pandemic and political issues surrounding it. You can lift someone’s spirit and your own!
We use video platforms on almost a daily basis now, continue to use it to connect. Talk to a good friend who you haven’t seen in a while. Use video platforms to check-in with a person’s mental health, you don’t know who is suffering in silence.
Are you feeling unsure about how to check-in? This link will lead you to check-in questions:
Do you have a favorite hobby or interest? Join and follow social media groups and pages to motivate and fuel your interests.
4) Virtual tours, adventures and visits. If you are looking for something new and interesting to do without leaving your house, take a virtual trip to a National Park, zoo, museum, etc. Think of somewhere that you’ve never been and would like to go. Read about it, look at pictures, watch videos, and take a virtual tour. This is fun activity to do with kids and it’s educational.
If you’re religious or spiritual, consider attending a virtual service or practice.
5) Teach someone about your hobby or trade. Write, blog, create social media content, and make a video to do so. Engage with people, answer their questions, and provide them with credible resources so they can learn more.
5) Increase your self-care. Do more of what you enjoy and try new things, even if you don’t feel like it. Take care of your body and mind. Try to keep to a normal schedule, this includes proper exercise, diet, and staying hydrated. If you’re overwhelmed with work, schedule in self-care. Slow down, read a book, take a bath, watch a movie, call someone you care about.
6) Make a vision board to stay focused on your long-term goals. Read how here:
8) Practice mindfulness, breathing and or meditation. Find someone who provides these services online if you need help getting started. Create a YouTube playlist of relaxing music and sounds that you can practice to. Don’t give up if these exercises don’t immediately benefit you in an impactful way, it takes time to learn them. It’s a process.
9) Use online presence to raise awareness or funds for a cause that you’re passionate about. Help people learn more, support people who need it the most, connect to others who care about the same thing as you. Feel good!
10) Use positive affirmations and practice them regularly. Read more and find examples here:
11) Have a safety plan and an emergency plan. For the safety plan:
• Write down what triggers maladaptive behaviors.
• Write coping strategies for each trigger that you can participate in right away.
• Write down three positive affirmations or favorite quotes.
• List three people whom you can trust to call and talk to and receive support from (Do ahead of time: make sure that they know they are on your safety plan list and tell them how they can best support you if you contact them.) (Ideas on how they can help: this can range from a phone call to recall favorite memories or to meet up for coffee.).
• If your situation turns into an emergency, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 or your local mental health crisis lifeline. Add these emergency phone numbers to your safety plan.
12) Speak with a professional counselor. They can teach you several coping strategies and powerful tools like cognitive reframing. They are someone who will be present with you, be non-judgmental, listen, and provide feedback. They will support you and give you space for you to process your strongest emotions and thoughts.
Check out these other benefits to seeing a counselor:
This is a popular grounding technique, and it is for everyone.
This technique engages all 5 senses, which reminds you of the present moment, and builds awareness. This is a calming technique that can help you get through tough or stressful situations. Taking a deep belly breath at the beginning and end of this activity can feel calming and will help prepare you for the next thing that occurs. As you do this activity, saying the things that you sense out loud will reinforce your present state of being and awareness because you are hearing in your own voice what your brain is telling you and what your body is actually experiencing.
Take a deep belly breath to begin.
5 – LOOK: Look around for 5 things that you can see and say them out loud.
Example: “I see a dog, a chair, a lamp, a window, and a cup.”
4 – FEEL: Pay attention to your body and think of 4 things that you can feel. Say them out loud.
Example: “I feel the dog, the cushion that I’m sitting on, the sun coming in through the window on my skin, and the carpet beneath my feet.”
3 – LISTEN: Listen for 3 sounds and say them out loud.
Example: “I hear the dog snoring, the air conditioner running, and the birds outside singing.”
2 – SMELL: Say 2 things that you can smell. If you can’t smell anything from where you are, you may move to go smell something or say your favorite scent.
Example: “I smell the candle burning and the fabric softener on the chair throw.”
1 – TASTE: Say 1 thing that you can taste. If you can’t taste anything, then you can say your favorite thing to taste.
Example: “I taste the toothpaste mint from when I brushed my teeth.”
Take another deep belly breath to end and notice how you feel.
Download this technique below to store on your device or to print it out and share!
When choosing what to write in, consider all of your options and what best suits your needs. A journal can be a spiral-bound notebook, which is an easy to find and cheap option. Combination code or lock and key journals can provide privacy and are usually well-made. A journal can be kept electronically in a secure computer. It is convenient to access and saves your hand from becoming cramped in writing position.
Relaxing and stress relieving.
A coping tool.
A way to vent or express emotions and thoughts.
Makes your thoughts more apprehensible.
Improve and train your writing.
Set and achieve goals.
A way to become more organized.
Develop improved understanding of yourself and situations occurring in your life.
Allows for creativity.
Provides you with a way to reflect and consider new ideas.
Record new ideas on-the-go.
A place to keep memories.
Provides you with a record of events, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. You can use this record to track patterns over time, which can lead to problem solving.
Can help you feel a sense of accomplishment.
You will learn new things.
Can provide you motivation and inspiration.
And many, many MORE!
Use your journal however you’d like! Decorate it and add pictures. Slip a photo of a favorite memory, person or pet inside. Write in different colors or use black ink. When you start a new journal entry, include the date, so that you have that information if you ever need it. Write about your day freely or choose a prompt. It might take you a little time to get used to writing, you might encounter writer’s block, and you may struggle to find what time to write. Don’t stress, it’s okay! Writing should become easier overtime and this isn’t meant to be stressful, it is meant to be therapeutic and enjoyable! Aim to write everyday because it will help develop a habit and really reap those benefits. If you end up writing most days of the week, that is still good, just keep in mind that you might get out of habit of keeping your journal if you don’t write frequent enough.
Materials: Poster board or large paper; magazines; newspapers; printed out images from online; quotes; scissors; glue; pen; pencils; markers; stickers; glitter; tiny, lightweight objects (travel ticket; concert ticket; key chain; charm…).
Instructions: Ponder and visualize a long-term goal (a few months or years ahead). What does it look like? What are the details of your vision? Where will you be, what will you be doing and who will you be doing it with? Using your materials, cut out, print, draw, paste anything that could be a part of your board. Add quotes, mantras or positive affirmations to remind you of your long-term goal, and to motivate and inspire you. An extra element to consider is a letter-sized envelope. It can hold: tiny, meaningful items; a sticky note with a short-term goal (that can be accomplished in one day); sticky notes with something positive going on in your life; sticky notes with a memory that will make you smile. Glue the envelope to the side or bottom of your board. Everyday (or as frequently as you’d like), pull one thing out of the envelope. It adds a little extra fun and interaction. Do a “rough draft” of your board before gluing things to it, just to make sure that you are satisfied with the layout. Glue on the cutouts, pictures and objects. Let the board dry. Lastly, on the back of the board, add “reminders” (important things to remember). The reminders should be uplifting.
Vision Boards are fun and easy to make. They remind you of what you are working towards, your long-term goals, dreams, and aspirations. This motivational collage project is something that a child, adolescent or adult can create. Check out my Vision Board and reminders.
I think of the graph as an umbrella. The emotions on the edge of the circle are related to the “main” emotions (or the emotions that we most commonly identify), which are in the very center. For example, when we feel confident and successful, we feel proud, and we feel happy.
If someone is struggling to pinpoint or identify what they are feeling, just seeing all of the emotions in front of them might be helpful.
This graph is good for teaching kids about other emotions, not just the “main” ones. So, when they feel happy about receiving a good grade at school, proud, confident and successful can be introduced to them.
This worksheet helps with recognizing what our bodies do for us and what is unique about us. Think about the abilities and all that our bodies achieve every day, there are several! Walking, speaking, reading, thinking, feeling, eating, and reproducing, just to mention a few. Our bodies are elaborate and designed to do absolutely astonishing things! This worksheet is for anybody to complete: children, adolescents and adults; use in the classroom setting with children; use in a group setting, so that you can learn from and relate to others. I have used this as a tool when working with people who struggle with body image, eating disorders and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) in a group therapy setting.
We may be dissatisfied with certain parts of our bodies and find it difficult to accept them. The focus tends to be on our flaws and sometimes we long for our bodies to appear or function differently, in unattainable ways (distorted thinking). As you work through the uniqueness section of the worksheet, remember that everybody is different and that if we weren’t, then how dull this world would be! Things that make you unique are your talents, special abilities, personality, a birthmark, etc… again, there are several!
A word about going against negative body image obsessing… we can battle our distorted thoughts and beliefs about our bodies by really thinking through body positivity and appreciation. Positivity and appreciation will increase self-awareness, and when we accept our bodies as they are and their unique characteristics, we can find peace and satisfaction. As we focus on these positive qualities, stay clear from thinking about what we view as flaws or what we dislike about our bodies because it is most important to be grateful for them and not judge ourselves. For example, you may not like the appearance of your birthmark. Try not to think about the appearance as much, give thought to a meaning behind the birthmark. Does or did anyone else in your family have that birthmark? How does your birthmark make you unique? At times, we are our most critical judges. Through this whole process of learning, appreciating and accepting, we gain self-esteem and it becomes easier to love ourselves as we are. Don’t give up if you become stuck, take a short break or ask for help.
Lastly, about taking care of our bodies and meeting our basic needs. Self-care sounds simple, but when there is a struggle accepting and appreciating our bodies, it is complicated. It is key to know ways that we can take care of our bodies to help them stay strong and healthy. Eating well-balanced meals, exercising the appropriate amount, practicing good hygiene, going to the doctor’s, dentist’s, chiropractor’s office when necessary, are all perfect examples of taking care of our bodies. There is an endless list of creative ways to take further care, such as, feng shui the bedroom to get better sleep, practice dance or yoga therapy, head to the spa, do simple stretches for your muscles, breathing exercises, etc. Self-care means feeling better, having gained confidence and love towards our bodies.
Materials: an index card; colored pencils; markers; crayons; stickers.
Instructions: this crafty project is for children and adolescents who need a little reminder of their most effective coping skills or ways to help them to stay safe when they are feeling overwhelmed or escalated. Having a safety plan written on an index card is accessible, can be kept hidden to protect privacy, or shown to a trusted adult (teacher or family member) when additional support is needed.
A safety plan can contain any number of coping skills or strategies that will help de-escalate a reaction to a situation. I like to ask children and adolescents to choose five things that they find most helpful to do when they feel like they are losing control or feeling unsafe. Five is a good number because it gives a variety of options to choose from. The child or adolescent can choose what they feel will be best option for in the moment.
When creating the card, sometimes figuring out coping skills and strategies is challenging and requires children and adolescents to really think; an adult who knows the child should help come up with ideas. These need to be things that can be used immediately, in the here and now. Try to avoid requiring any specific toys or equipment because that requires extra effort. The things also need to be very detailed and specific. Being detailed and specific will promote brain change and way of thinking. Write the coping skills and strategies on the index card and decorate it!
Examples of coping skills and strategies:
Counting to ten in my mind while taking deep, easy breathes.
Notice five things in the room and what color, shape or texture they are.
Sing a song.
Think about my favorite memory.
Think about my favorite pet.
Use a fidget toy.
Read a book.
Listen to music.
Think of a positive self affirmation.
Curl and uncurl my toes ten times.
Stretch my legs and arms.
Ride my bike.
Notice three scents and where they are coming from.
Feel the texture of my clothing.
Where to keep the safety plan
This card can be kept in many different places, but keep it easily accessible, which means carrying it around:
In a pocket.
In a desk, locker or lunch box at school.
In a backpack.
On the refrigerator or a mirror at home (better if there are two or more are created).
Kept on a coffee table, dining room table or night stand.