by Kayla Noodelman
Note: This blog is a purposeful attempt to help lighten the mood while sharing meaningful information.
It is about staying mentally well while the world tries to flatten the curve of Covid-19 cases. It is written for those of us working remotely from home, adhering to social distancing, and dealing with a lot of uncertainty while trying to maintain a semblance of normalcy.
My heart goes out to anyone who has already been impacted by COVID-19 and to those who will be impacted in the future.
The panic from COVID-19 is leaving much of the world breathless. Over the last week, I’ve seen most of my clients, friends, and family shift into isolation. They are working from home, stockpiling for doomsday, binge-watching Contagion – or if you’re old school, Outbreak (love you, Dustin Hoffman!), and feeling generally overwhelmed by their emotions and the frenzy of today.
I feel moved to use some of my expertise to help facilitate psychological wellness amid so many changes and uncertainty. The following is a list of my most useful psychological hacks to keep you cool as an Iced Frappuccino on a frigid spring day in Toronto. My hope is that they will help you to stay relatively productive (and sane) in the new normal, so that you can make good decisions for yourself and your family and continue functioning as close to a normal human as possible under these unusual and disturbing circumstances.
Is the news bombarding dread all over you? Try these:
– Have some coffee and put on your pants (I know, a necessary evil of adulting) before checking your phone and the news in the AM
o Fully waking will let you use more of your brain for problem solving and contextualizing what you see and read
o Pro tip: pair some food with that coffee to avoid hangry associated mood volatility
– Use time-blocking as your strategy for staying up to date. Dedicate a specific amount of time at a specific time of day for checking in with the news and loved ones
o Info-overload, especially of the negative kind, morphs productive humans into burnt toast
o Pro tip: be mindful of your news resources – use credible news outlets and trusted friends and family
Going stir crazy working from home? Try these:
– Have dedicated and separate spaces for working, eating, and (Netflix-and-) chilling out
– Get some fresh air – open the window, go for a socially distant walk
o Pro tip: use your best memories of spring to pretend it’s warm outside
Living with someone? Try this:
– Remember to ask for the things you need directly, such as: space, a hug, a game plan, a picnic on the floor of your condo, a reduction of Star Trek references – you name it!
o Pro tip: avoid relying on body language and subtle cues to communicate; humans are generally horrible at decoding such things
Live alone? Try this:
– Connect with loved ones more meaningfully by upgrading your texts to a phone call, Facetime, or shared video.
Is your mind racing like you’re competing at the Crossfit World Games? Try these:
– Journal, journal, and then journal some more. Your anxious thoughts and worst-case scenarios are better left on paper than swirling around in your beautiful head
o Pro tip: I mean it, until your pen runs out of ink or your hand cramps up!
– Prioritize sleep like the Cookie Monster guards cookies
o Sleep positively correlates with emotional stability and general awesomeness
– Spend time talking to your Yoda-like wise friend and soak in their chill vibes
o Why? Emotions are contagious (thank you, mirror neurons) and just like panic spreads, so too, does calm
– Make space for positive emotions and gratitude
o Cliché, but tried and true
o Pro tips: sing out loud, watch cat videos, dance while you cook, write down three things that went your way today and why
Pearls of wisdom for your physical self:
You need your body much more than it needs you, so stop channeling your inner Regina George (Mean Girls reference for my OGs) and show your body some love in a time of stress:
– Feed yourself nutrients
– Sleep like a queen, and get out of bed in the morning
– Make time for stretching and exercise (helps both physical and mental self)
– Pick a meditative activity once a day (they help calm down your nervous system – running, yoga, meditation, puzzles)
If the world itself could speak, it would be sharing (on my therapy couch) how it is anxious and overwhelmed and in dire need of some more information. There is so much that we can’t control right now, but taking care of ourselves is absolutely in our wheelhouse. Be good to yourself and be good to each other.
Blog by Kayla Noodelman: pandemic ponderer, wellness warrior, full-time therapist.
Edited by Robin Noodelman: last seen atop a mountain of toilet paper and Ramen Cup Noodles, part-time editor.
Bastiaansen, J. A. C. J., Thioux, M., & Keysers, C. (2009). Evidence for mirror systems in emotions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 364(1528), 2391–2404. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2009.0058
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Ullrich, P. M., & Lutgendorf, S. K. (2002). Journaling about stressful events: Effects of cognitive processing and emotional expression. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 24(3), 244–250. doi: 10.1207/s15324796abm2403_10