This extraordinary time in history has called for an equally extraordinary response from the people entrusted with caring for the most vulnerable among us. That these people—who work in healthcare, at grocery stores, as delivery people, for public transportation—have been willing to give so much of themselves while dealing with tremendous personal risk and anxiety is remarkable.
If you’re an essential worker, hearing the nightly applause (if you live in a big city) or gratitude from your neighbors may leave you drifting between feelings of pride and anxiety throughout the day. Staying calm, clear-headed, and positive during such extraordinary times calls for focused effort. Here, some tested ways of keeping calm and fending off negativity in turbulent times.
Make Up a Mantra
Words have power—as do the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what we do. Reciting—aloud or in your head—powerful phrases such as “I am here to help my community” or “My work is making a difference” can help you instantly reconnect with your purpose in those moments when you need a boost. Acknowledging that you’re a critical part of the team keeping your community running will give you a greater sense of purpose. Repeating these phrases or other mindful mantras when you start or end your day, or whenever the going gets a little rough, may help you find a sense of stress relief.
If you’re going to work right now, you’re spending at least a little time outside, even if it’s just walking the few steps between your front door and car. Use this nature break to help restore a sense of mental health, says Marc Berman, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at The University of Chicago. Taking a few moments to study the shape of a tree or tune into the sounds of birds chirping can give your brain a well-deserved distraction from stress and increase your sense of well‑being. If you’re safely able to spend longer periods of time outside, all the better.
Write Away Some Worries
The act of journaling can help relieve stress, especially when you focus on the positive. A recent study tested the effects of regular 15-minute bouts of journaling on people who were anxious about existing medical conditions. When they wrote about uplifting topics—responding to prompts such as “What are you thankful for?” and “What did someone else do for you?”—they felt better mentally as well as physically. Although it’s important to stick to positive topics, feel free to interpret the idea of journaling in whatever way feels right to you. You could write entries in an actual journal, or on a computer, through social media, or even via correspondence with a friend.
Take Micro-Moments to Reset
If you feel overwhelmed, whether at the beginning of your shift or during a trying task or interaction, reach into your toolbox of calming techniques. You can take a single long, deep breath, do a body scan or body-part scan (such as focusing on your feet connecting to the floor), hum a favorite tune, conjure up a mental picture of your loved ones, or recall a verse or snippet of a meaningful poem or piece of scripture. By using such methods to shake off immediate stressors you’ll be better able to return to your work feeling grounded and present.
Look for Silver Linings
Even in trying times, there can be a bright side—especially when you stay in the moment. Keep a lookout for the small things for which you are grateful and give thanks. For example, due to shelter-in-place rules, your daily commute may be shorter or less stressful than usual, with fewer cars on the road or passengers taking the bus. Or the customers or patients with whom you interact may be especially appreciative of your help right now and express that to you. Amid the backdrop of a colossal pandemic, such moments may seem small and last for only a few seconds, but keeping watch for silver linings can help you break negative thought cycles and create feelings of gratitude.
Find Ways to Unwind
Whether it’s listening to heavy metal, having a Zoom dance party with your nieces, or getting lost in a breezy audio book, enjoying your off hours will help you rejuvenate. “Keeping in touch with friends and family can also help you manage anxieties,” says Murray Zucker, M.D., chief medical officer for Happify.
Take Note of Kindness
Between social distancing and the growing use of protective face masks, the ways people are “nice” to one another are changing. Rather than holding a door or giving a big smile, kindness during the COVID-19 outbreak can mean giving others a wide berth or making eye contact while saying thank you. Notice how people are changing their behaviors to show support and appreciation while keeping others safe. Seeing this group effort toward the greater good may help lift your spirits.
Know That the World Is Rooting for You
Whether you believe in prayer, positive energy, or the power of working toward a global goal, the collective thoughts of people near and far are for you to stay safe and healthy as you play your important role in beating COVID-19.
By Jessica Cassity
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Our team of experts are providing online consultations and treatment for teens, young adults and families struggling during this global time of unprecedented stressors.
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