May 6th, 2020
Co-authored by Dr. Holly Holmes-Meredith and Bill Yarborough.
If your stress level has exploded during the Coronavirus pandemic, you are not alone. The federal government’s Disaster Distress Helpline (1-800-985-5990) provides counseling to people during natural and human-caused disasters. CNN reported that In March, the helpline saw a 338% increase in call volume over February and an 891% increase compared to March of last year.
Here are some helpful ways to cope with fears of contracting the Coronavirus, surviving economic hardships, and conquering personal challenges introduced with extended sheltered-in-place.
Meet socially online. Experts emphasize the vital role a social community plays in maintaining both emotional and physical health. With the shelter-in-place restrictions, many people have experienced a sudden loss of community gatherings and socializing. Many social organizations now conduct virtual meetings on Zoom, Skype, streaming, or other video conferencing services. These include churches, service clubs, social clubs, exercise classes, etc. Their websites typically have instructions on how to access virtual gatherings and activities.
For example, if you miss going to your exercise class, many gyms are holding classes on-line where you can follow your familiar exercise instructor. There are other social activities to explore on-line such as computer game applications for Scrabble, Pictionary, bridge, and others, which can be interactive and involve multiple participants.
Establish your own virtual connections. Rather than just reaching out to family and friends via phone, you can create small or larger gatherings using Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, Google Duo, and other services. Even if you feel technology challenged, these services may be easier to use than you think and are often free. For example, Zoom offers free unlimited video conferences for up to 40 minutes, and you can download their application for no charge. People have converted cocktail hours, book clubs, and dinner gatherings to virtual video chats.
Make masks. With the new mask requirements in Contra Costa County, you may want to learn how to make them. There are many sites on the internet that show you how. Individuals who have done so report that it can have a calming influence. You can donate the masks to those in need and gain a sense of purpose from the activity.
Meditate. If your mind is swirling with the frightening “what if’s” of the pandemic or you’re now working at home alongside your partner and school-age kids, you may prefer an inner journey to find quiet time and peace. Meditation is a popular technique to do so. But there are a variety of other methods, including prayer, deep breathing exercises, Tai Chi, and Reiki, an energetic palm-healing technique. There are online resources to assist you with meditation, such as headspace.com as well as on-line Reiki classes.
Mindfulness is another helpful practice to contend with stress. It involves the sense of being more present in the moment observing your thoughts, feelings, and habits. This can help lead to a greater focus on what you can do as opposed to things you cannot control. There are also resources on the internet to assist you in mindfulness, such as mindful.org.
Focus on new opportunities. With the extra time you may have at home you could take stock of your life and refocus on things that are important to you or open yourself up to something new. In the Chinese language, crisis and opportunity are the same character, and there is no telling what you could discover if you venture down new avenues.
Engage in creativity. To take your mind off loneliness or financial worries you can also engage in creative activities, like completing a jigsaw puzzle, gardening, cooking, painting, writing, or quilting.
Change bad behavior. In our April Emotional Health’s column, we offered recommendations to boost your immune system during the pandemic by reducing chronic fear and anxiety. We suggested you avoid bad sleeping and eating habits and excessive alcohol consumption. Changing such behaviors is not always easy, but there are professional practitioners who can work with you via video conferencing. They offer a variety of techniques such as hypnotherapy, teaching self-hypnosis, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), and others to address the underlying emotions that drive addictive behaviors. Professional practitioners can also assist you with depression, grief, anger, and other emotions triggered by the Coronavirus, and there are teaching professionals who often have interns charging minimal amounts.
Additionally, there are sites on the internet that demonstrate techniques such as EFT, which are easy to learn and involves tapping on body pressure points to get release from negative emotions. Some other suggestions we addressed in our last month’s column included listening to peaceful music, exercise, stretching, and walking (be sure to follow local SIP requirements such as social distancing when walking).
By Dr. Holly Holmes-Meredith, D. Min., MFT, Board Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist and Bill Yarborough, CHT and Certified EFT Practitioner.
Below is the link to the May Diablo Gazette. Our Emotional Health column is on page 14.