Quarantine– we are in the thick of it people. So I wanted to bring on a true professional to talk about tangible ways to cope with the feelings that have come with quarantine. My good friend Jenny Mehrer is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist here in San Diego. She is here to share with us ways to cope and manage quarantine– this is our adult edition ( kids one is next).
Jenny Here– I am sure many of you are feeling completely off, anxious and/or depressed as a result of the “shelter in place” orders mandated by your state. The thought of getting groceries may feel like a tremendous challenge to face. The unknown nature of the COVID-19 crisis has completely changed the way society functions as a whole. People are taking on new roles and are feeling stretched beyond their capacity. Then the anxiety about wearing masks, sanitizing every surface in your home and the “if’ and “when” someone in our family gets sick with COVID only adds to this feeling of being overwhelmed.
I know in my house we are struggling. Our routine, which I personally thrive on, is gone. We have been working for about a month on adapting to a new normal. And with an infant and a toddler, it has been a challenge. I have found that adding in ways to cope with this new normal has significantly reduced the reactivity and stress levels in our home. These ways of coping include physical activities and mental activities.
Before we talk coping strategies I want to introduce the concept of radical acceptance. This is a concept used in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and I think it applies well to the situation we are currently facing as a nation. Radical acceptance is the act of accepting a situation that we cannot change in order to reduce our feelings of suffering. Why try practicing radical acceptance? This is tricky, but if you are in a situation that you cannot solve the problem (we have no cure for COVID-19 at this time) and cannot easily change feelings about the problem (it is near impossible to not have big feelings around COVID-19 and its impacts) then you are left with three options.
- Make things worse, forget the orders and risk resuming normal life. This choice is a risk for yourself, your family and society as a whole. The consequence of this risk is far greater than the temporary relief it will bring.
- Do nothing. Continue to feel the anxiety, overwhelm and stress from the COVID-19 crisis.
- Radically accept the situation. This means to accept, though not agree or like, things that we cannot change. We accept that we may not be spending face to face time with friends, dropping our kids to school, going in to work for a full day or leisurely strolling the aisles of Target. We also can hold on to the knowledge that there will be an end to this. We can accept that we have to face challenges along the way, as we strive to return to normalcy.
I want to add, we are all human and facing this unknown challenge together. I want you to remember that you will not be able to practice radical acceptance ALL the time. This is when I want you to extend grace to yourself (and your partner, family and friends). We may have a short fuse and end up yelling at our child. We may make harsh comments to our partner. We may become increasingly frustrated with our 60+ parents who continue to go to Home Depot. These things will happen and that is okay. When they do, take some time and reflect on the interaction. Then take time to sincerely apologize and check in with the other person. This is especially important to do as parents, because it is an opportunity to teach your children how to resolve conflict, regulate emotions and apologize when appropriate.
Ways To Cope With Continued Quarantine
Start small, 30 seconds at a time and work up to extended periods of time. Some tips on how to practice mindfulness. First, be fully present in the moment. Pick one thing to focus on (an object, a taste, an activity) and bring your full attention to that object of focus. Random thoughts and worries will intrude this process. That is okay, welcome them in and allow them to leave just as easily. Try not to judge them as good, bad, annoying, etc. Just expect them to come.
Care For Your Body
To quote Elle Woods from Legally Blonde “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” Go for a walk, run or jog. If you have a pool (Hey readers in AZ), swim some laps. Try at home yoga or other exercise courses. My husband and I have been doing these videos and I am loving it. Now, I understand that there are limitations to this, and for some adding in exercise is not an option or not a healthy option. Try other ways to care for your body: take a bath, have your partner give you a back rub or spend some time practicing deep breathing/meditating.
Limit Media Consumption
Be very aware of what you are consuming from media. There are plenty of articles that are valid and reliable. And even more that are full of misinformation that fuels fear. Hide your uncle that posts 1000x a day about the state of our economy, stop googling. Try filling your newsfeed with positive stories and news that will bring hope. Upworthy and Good News Network are usually good for this.
Face time, zoom and houseparty are great ways to connect with your friends and family while keeping a distance. Schedule a GNO or Happy Hour with friends. Pick a pen pal or a few, and send snail mail. Make cookies and drop them off at a neighbors house with a little card (using all safety precautions). In the process of connecting with others, identify a few friend/family members that you can have real conversations with about your successes and struggles during this time.
Allow yourself to grieve. There have been many losses during this time and it might not be things you did not think you would be grieving. Many are missing significant events and having to reschedule things that have been looking forward to for weeks, months or years (weddings, IVF transfers, graduations). And for some, there are losses of loved ones.
If you feel that you are not doing well (which is okay!!!) and your anxiety or depression feels unmanageable, please do not hesitate to reach out to a therapist. Many are offering telehealth appointments (through HIPPA approved sites). How
I recommend searching Psychology Today or contacting your insurance for therapists in your location and network. Here are some therapists in San Diego, including myself, that are available if you feel you need some assistance:
Photos credited to Pinterest