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5 Ways to Maintain Emotional Health During a Pandemic

We need to take proactive steps to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

Here are some tips for managing household relationships and working from home, creating structure, enhancing resiliency, and practicing self-care during these challenging times.

1. The pandemic is hitting all countries hard but it is doing so in a staggered manner. Different regions within the same county are reaching periods of peak infection at different times, which means hardship, isolation, fear, anxiety, stress, loss, and grief will be with us for a while. So, we need to be prepared for a marathon, not a sprint. Especially because as humans, it can take us time to truly absorb how dramatically life as we knew it has changed. Try as we might to be our ‘best selves,' we’re all going to have moments of intense COVID19-related emotion. Consequently, the three psychological skills we need to strengthen most at this time are (A) patience (B) forgiveness and (C) compassion, both toward others and especially toward ourselves.

2. For those of us working from home, it’s important to create a boundary between work and non-work times and spaces so we can try to recharge and recover from the workday. When we lack a physical boundary between work and home we have to create a psychological one. To do so, at the end of the workday change clothes and use music and lighting to shift your mindset and transition your space from work to home. Use these and other ways to ritualize your transition from workday to home life.

3. Even in darkness, there is light. Now more than ever, it's important to practice gratitude and remind ourselves there are still ways in which we are fortunate. For example, I'm grateful for brave healthcare and other workers on the front lines of this war. I'm grateful for posts on social media about loved ones recovering. I'm grateful for scientists and medical professionals who are racing to discover effective treatments and vaccines. Start a gratitude journal and begin each day by writing 3 things for which you’re grateful.

4. These are extraordinary times and we're dealing with extraordinary stresses. We cannot assume we know how our family members and housemates are feeling. Communicating openly and honestly is key to aligning expectations, minimizing conflict, and resolving tensions. Hold household meetings at least once a week and ask everyone these questions: (A) What is working well for you? (B) What needs to be tweaked? (C) What isn't working and needs to be reconsidered. Once everyone has voiced their opinion begin problem-solving and negotiating to resolve any issues as best you can.

5. Being stuck at home for extended periods of time is psychologically challenging. As much as possible, we need to maintain normalcy when and where we can. This is especially true for children. Therefore, try to stick to your regular schedules and routines as much as possible. When you cannot do so, try to tweak old routines or develop new ones that you and members of your household can follow for the duration of the crisis. In a time of such intense uncertainty, routines and schedules offer islands of certainty and stability and serve as psychological anchors.

Copyright 2020 by Guy Winch

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