We are all living in extremely stressful times right now and the Coronavirus crisis has drastically changed all of our lives in one way or another. This type of change triggers anxiety, fear and uncertainty. The level of fear some of us are facing is very real and I want to validate that for everyone. There is a wide spectrum of losses we are going through. Some of you are facing the worst scenarios in which you have tragically lost a loved one to coronavirus. Others are losing their businesses, incomes and sense of security. For those of you who are more fortunate, you are balancing the act of working from home while homeschooling your children. Parents have lost “the village” that once helped them juggle life as a parent. We are all wired for human connection and being confined to our homes has really done a toll on our mental health. Mindset is so important in helping us to get through the Coronavirus crisis. So I wanted to share a few things you can do to improve your mindset. There is a scope of challenges for everyone out there and what you are telling yourself about all of these things can make or break you. Here are 6 ways to improve your mindset during the Coronavirus crisis.
Mindfulness is a state of being in which we actively focus our attention to the present moment and become aware of our thoughts, feelings and body sensations, without judgement. It brings us into the here and now and takes us out of the state in which we project our worries into the future or look back on the past to what has already been done. Mindfulness practice is a muscle that you build over time. You can’t expect to have a six-pack after working out for one week. It takes time, practice and dedication.
You can practice mindfulness by starting to take mental notes of what your thoughts are about every night before bed. Most likely during the Coronavirus crisis, your thoughts will be about the future. When are the kids going back to school? When will I work again? When will I see my friends again? When will life go back to normal? Anxiety is worry about the future, and if our mind is in the future we are not really living in the present. If you are not really in the present, you are not making your best conscious decisions. We all need to think about the future and it is essential to plan and be prepared for things, but that does not mean we need to live in that type of worry 24 hours a day.
Practice “Radical Acceptance.”
Radical acceptance is a term we use in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and it means that you make the choice to accept reality for what it is. This is extremely hard and uncomfortable, but greatly beneficial for us. It does not mean you agree with the reality or like the reality, you just choose to accept it. There is a range of really awful situations that people are going through during the Coronavirus crisis such as losing their jobs, getting sick, loved ones dying, postponement of big events, and not being able to walk at college graduation. Denial is a normal part of loss, but denial leads to suffering. It makes you think of solutions that do not exist and once you realize there is no solution, you get angry. When you get angry, you escalate and can’t think clearly.
Acceptance of reality ends the loop of suffering. You cannot change what is or what has already happened. You can recognize what is in your control and what is out of your control and choose to give up what you cannot change. Let it go. Acceptance then leads to change and creativity on how to handle situations. It’s not what happens to us, it’s how we react to what happens to us. If you think the next few weeks are going to be awful, then they will be. Your subconscious will make efforts to prove that it is awful. If you tell yourself that you are open to creative possibilities and are willing to finding ways to make the next few weeks tolerable, then your subconscious will act in ways to prove this to you as well.
Recognize when you are “Catastrophizing”
Catastrophizing is an irrational way of thinking that causes us to believe that something is far worse than it actually is. It is one of ten “cognitive distortions” that we teach in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. We have our clients learn these common thinking errors, recognize when they show up in their own minds and teach them how to challenge these unhelpful or ineffective thinking patterns that lead to uncomfortable emotions.
Catastrophizing is usually a result of a thinking loop that we get stuck in and start to believe will become true. It creates anxiety and fear, which then triggers our fight or flight response. Once this system is turned on in your brain, you will not be able to think of an effective solution to the problem at hand. You can only worry about so much at one time and we are often worrying about outcomes that may never even happen.
Stop Comparing what you are Doing During your Coronavirus Quarantine with what other people are doing with theirs
We watch so much of what other people are doing during their Coronavirus quarantine through social media and we may feel guilty if we aren’t being as productive as others appear to be. Everyone varies in what they need to do in order to get through this time. Some people may need rigid schedules and need to accomplish new projects daily to feel okay. Others may need a loose structure and downtime in order to feel good. There is no right or wrong answer to what you do with your time during this crisis because it will vary for everyone. You do not need to cook the gourmet meals or clean out all the cabinets. You are allowed to just veg out if you want to!
Limit the Content that you and your Family Consume
It is okay to not watch the news every day. It’s also ok to take breaks from your social media accounts or unfollow people who have been unhelpful for your mental health. You may even need to set boundaries with friends and family members about what you share with each other and talk about during this time. You are in charge of what you expose yourself to everyday and be mindful that someone else’s panic can easily rub off on you.
Talk about the Silver Linings with your Partner or Family
It is so important to recognize the good that has come out of this situation. For some, it may be the new level of family time and the ability to reconnect. For others it may be more downtime to read, exercise or start that project you have been putting off. Maybe it’s just realizing everything you took for granted before and will no longer as you move forward. Take a moment every night at dinner to share what the silver lining of the day was. The silver linings can be big or small, but they will bring in new healthier perspectives.
About Justine Carino
Justine Carino is a licensed mental health counselor with a private practice in White Plains, NY. She uses a modernized approach with her clients so therapy can feel more relatable. She specializes in working with teens, young adults, families and pre-marital couples. Justine provides individual, family and couples sessions as well as workshops for parents and teens. Website: www.carinocounseling.com Instagram @_thoughtsfromthecouch_
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