The Status Quo
We’ve all had to find a way to make the homefront a comfy haven during this time of crisis. Many of us have morphed our homes into business offices, classrooms, makeshift gyms and family reunion venues. While channeling our inner Martha Stewart, we are bombarded with pandemic news alerts in the background. Multi-tasking takes on a whole new level of stress as we contemplate our country’s physical safety, foreign relations and economic survival while running on treadmills, cooking family meals, maintaining our careers and schooling our kids — all from home.
Finding effective ways to stay healthy and happy in uncertain times is like getting the first assignment of a new job. Like any assignment, we need a vision of what successfully reaching our goal looks like. For situations that have no clear end date, achieving desirable results are best reached when the focus is on rating the overall productivity of each day — and not solely on individual tasks, for example, seeing success in the mood and functionality of those in the household or remote network. Success can refer to an environment where each member is engaged in outside communication, recreational time with the family, work or school, and some physical activity.
Writing down the more specific tasks, such as paying bills, canceling appointments and following up with doctors helps maintain organization. Being organized results in a steady momentum of productivity. A clear “to do” list with strategic checkmarks is much more visually friendly than a pile of phone numbers, bills and Post-It notes.
Depression and Anxiety are the Enemies of Success
Depression and anxiety are often experienced as a pair. Structure, routine, certainty and connection to others help to combat depression and anxiety. Open communication with others fosters connection. By heading this depression/anxiety duo off at the pass, physical stagnation, emotional sadness, sickness and other symptoms are bypassed. Thinking about the needs of others while trying to be helpful and supportive takes your mind off your own problems and can fill you with a sense of gratification.
We Still Have Choices
In mid-pandemic, we still have control over our behavioral choices. We still get to choose how we spend our time, how we conduct ourselves with others in our lives, and how we use our resources. Take satisfaction in knowing that you have the power to chart your course and sort your priorities in the basic things in life that really matter.
A Reciprocal Relationship
Physical and emotional health have a reciprocal relationship. Focusing on physical health is focusing on emotional health. Steps for maintaining physical health include implementing a set sleep routine. Sleep routines typically start with winding down an hour or so before your desired bedtime. The next two vital steps are keeping a balanced diet and getting steady exercise. All three components — sleep, diet, exercise are important, but sleep is first for a reason.
Under times of psychological stress, the body and mind need time to recharge. This need to recharge with sleep is always paramount but heightened in times of crisis. This recharging through sleep shows the mind-body connection; The body recharges, the balance of brainwaves and hormones are restored, and clear thinking is enabled — free from the clutter of emotional upset.
Echoes of Past Fears
During a crisis situation, memories of past trauma that were securely filed away can feel almost magically transported right back to active status. Different crisis situations can have similarities in terms of what those involved experience. For example, someone who survived a hurricane may remember the fear they felt at that time. Fast forward years later to a national pandemic and the feeling of fear may remind them of their previous fears from years ago. The result is enhanced fear — today’s fear is enhanced with yesterday’s fear drawn in. Being mindful of this in terms of self and others may make it easier to have understanding and patience.
Finding Deeper Meaning
Now is an ideal time to seek out spiritual and motivational messages from books, videos and media. Often, finding some meaning or a way of making sense of the circumstances results in a higher level of peace. Viktor Frankl’s book, “Yes to Life In Spite of Everything” sits on my nightstand. Reading his renowned book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” has left a deep impression on the lives of countless readers. After surviving multiple Nazi concentration camps, Dr. Frankl created Logotherapy, which translates into finding meaning in life. In this form of existential therapy, the therapist and client work to identify the deeper meaning within the client’s pain.
Don’t lose sight of the
Each and every one of us faces a daunting set of challenges. Even people who are writing articles such as this one. No one is above the fray.
We are being stalked by a world-wide health crisis causing fatalities and catastrophic illness within an adversarial cross-fire of world leaders, medical organizations, individual experts and self-appointed know-it-alls.
We are throttled by a co-occurring economic crisis that is also within an adversarial environment of combatants that include federal, state and local officials, business leaders, and medical experts – all competing for medical and financial resources.
We face the personal challenge of maintaining our own physical and emotional health while helping our families to do the same.
We must draw upon all our resources and deepest strengths for basic survival to meet our home, work and school responsibilities. Keep in mind, we have the choice to drown in resignation and despair or to opt for health and happiness by finding meaning in this crisis and using it as an opportunity to exercise the muscles of not just our bodies, but our character as well.
About the author: Pamela Garber, LMHC is a therapist in private practice in New York City. She is a contributor to professional journals and trade publications in addition to appearing as a guest on radio talk shows.