• Neha Jain

Coping with a Pandemic

In the times when social distancing and working from home are becoming a new normal, our bodies are responding to it through various changes manifesting in the form of changed sleeping patterns to gained body weight. Alongside these, a heightened amount of anxiety, distress, frustration and restlessness has been creeping in our lives. As all of us move through this uncertain situation, here are some ways that might help you cope with the current situation:

1. Practice a feel-good activity daily: First of all, know that it is okay to feel distressed during these times. We are all experiencing this uneasiness collectively and it is okay to allow yourself to acknowledge these feelings. What is going to help you feel a little better is practicing one small feel-good activity regularly. Think of what is that one feel-good activity that you can engage in to respond to the distress? Maybe you can try drawing, talking to a friend, talking to a therapist, meditating, journaling, reading, cooking? Anything that keeps your heart going. Start small with maybe 5-10 minutes and then slowly build up the time that fits with your intention and purpose.

But at the same time, please know that doing nothing is also okay if that is what keeps your heart, mind and body happy. It is okay to sit with your feels, and travel with your thoughts and just daydream if that is all you can do to keep yourself healthy and happy. The larger systemic structures have fed this idea of productivity to us, but know that, sitting with your thoughts is the highest form of productive activity as it allows you to turn inward.

2. Practicing mindfulness: We are always juggling with thoughts from our past and the future to live in the present, that we end up not noticing and living in the present to our fullest. In these times of uncertainties, I want to invite you to just be in the present for a while. Just stay here, and slowly notice and become aware of your body, emotions, and thoughts. Try being curious to all possibilities and see what comes up. If you see that your awareness is drifting off, try using an anchor to gently bring yourself to the present moment. This is how a ‘mindfulness’ practice looks like. Would you maybe try being mindful daily for 5 minutes and see what it makes possible?

Also, please know that it is okay to not know all the answers. The possibilities ahead of us are infinite. Just keep on keeping on. In these times what is required is surviving and just being. Let yourself to just be. Make space for new possibilities and new blanks that you don’t know the answers for. Stay curious and invite openness in your life. This is the time to Pause, Notice and Reflect.

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3. Practice self-care: Start from the basics, eat well, hydrate well, move your body and take out some ‘me-time’ in the day to check in with how your mind and body have been feeling. With the changing normal, practicing self-care would allow you to make space for all emotions and thoughts.

4. Use Media mindfully. Our anxieties get heightened due to continuous exposure to news and social media. Notice how these mediums are affecting your mind. Try reducing your screen time slowly by taking social media breaks, and/or designating a particular amount of the time for usage. It is okay to take a break from the news too if it is costing you your peace. Staying informed and exposing yourself to news that is constantly demanding your attention and inciting distress are two different things. You can stay informed and yet take a break.

5. Communicate with near and dear ones: Social distancing doesn’t imply emotional distancing. Call your friends, go to your balcony and say a warm hello to your neighbour, video call your family, anything that allows you to nurture your interpersonal relationships in these times. People are all we can hold on to.

6. Maintain a schedule: Our circadian rhythms and sleep schedules have been largely affected due to the pandemic as our bodies are slowly learning to cope with the changes. What would be helpful is to try maintain some kind of routine. Even a small morning routine sounds fine to get you started.

7. Maintain boundaries. Times are tough, and on some days, you might not feel like doing anything. There will be days when you won’t feel like moving, there will be days when you won’t feel like talking to anyone and know that it is okay to feel this way. Maintaining boundaries at this point is extremely necessary, so that you give yourself the space to process all your emotions. Boundaries may sound like, “I know this is important and I am unable to continue working on it past 5 pm today. I am clocking out for the day; I shall check back in tomorrow morning at 9 am.” “I appreciate your willingness to listen, but I am not ready to talk about it.” “I am struggling with my own mental health right now, and I don’t think I can be your support system right now.”

8. Create a shared understanding with family members: Communicate within the family, and divide household chores, create roles and responsibilities for everyone, and maintain schedules routines and rituals. Stay respectful to each other and know that everyone has different ways of responding to the same problem. Stay kind to each other by giving each other space. Do family activities like, playing board games together, watching movies, eating together, exercising together. Stay nonjudgmental and try to support each other. Have conversations on the lines of - “How can we support each other doing these times?”

9. Worry Jar: When you notice yourself overthinking and worrying a bit too much, write down your thoughts on a piece of paper and put it in a jar. Designate a time of the day when you go back to the jar and read out all the thoughts and notice the change in your thought pattern. Try asking yourself, “What is the evidence for this thought?”

10. Use positive Self-talk: When the thoughts keep asking you “What ifs?” Staying curious, ask back, “So what?” Notice your thought pattern changing. Tell yourself, “I am feeling the distress coming in right now. It is okay. This too shall pass.”

Lastly, make space for hope, kindness, and patience. Stay gentle with yourself, know that being soft with yourself is empowering. You are doing everything that it takes to survive a pandemic, stay kind to yourself and stay hopeful. Ask yourself, “What can I do more to show up here and be supportive to myself at present?”

Moreover, just allow yourself to be. If possible, try checking in where is this distress coming from? When you feel this distress creeping in, how does your body feel? What are the sensations that are telling you that this is distress? How would you choose to respond to this distress? If you were to have a conversation with the distress, what would it say to you? These are some of the questions that might help you to navigate through this feeling. Take a journal out, and without being judgmental, pen down the thoughts when you read the questions above.

P.S: All coping mechanisms are valid. Know that this will soon be okay and a vast majority of us will do well.

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