Coping With COVID-19
Updated: May 21, 2021
2020 has turned out to be a scary year for the whole world. COVID-19 is causing death, shutting down normal life as we know it, and destabilizing the global economy. The situation is bad and the next weeks and months are unpredictable. We can all acknowledge that this situation is horrible. The question before us is, “How will we cope (survive, respond, deal with it)?”
The good news is that the Internet is full of blogs, podcasts, and other resources that help people adapt to the pandemic (particularly resources in English). In fact, there’s almost too much information so that it’s difficult to know where to start! Although I am nowhere near to being an expert, I hope this article can consolidate and summarize some good ideas and research from experts around the world in a way that will help you experience better health, wellbeing, and calm during this crisis.
Most of the ideas I will share are not rocket science. Many of these ideas are promoted by countless (many) psychologists, doctors, researchers, and authors. So I won’t attribute (give credit, cite) each idea to a specific source, but I am including links to resources that have influenced my ideas below in case you want to explore more resources. I trust that these ideas can be a reminder for us all of what we already know and also shed new light (give new perspective) on how we can adjust to COVID-19 in a way that is healthy and resilient.
At a time like this, it’s useful to acknowledge how we feel. Maybe it’s fear, sadness, anger, or helplessness. We might have to slow down and make some space in order to figure out and name (state, pinpoint) what we feel. Why not take a moment right now to close your eyes, place your hands on your heart, take a deep breath in and out, and ask, “How do I feel?”
Once we know how we feel, we can let ourselves know that it’s okay to feel that way. From that place of acceptance, we can examine that feeling as something separate from our identity. “I feel sad, but my identity is not sadness.” Knowing that our identity is not the same as our feelings gives us the freedom to start looking at the root of that sadness. “Why am I sad? I’m sad because people are dying, the economy is declining, and I can’t guarantee that all my friends and family will not get sick or keep their jobs.”
Do you see what we discovered there? We uncovered the cause of the sadness. Under the sadness is in fact a beautiful care and concern for other people. So yes, sadness may seem like a negative thing, but the reason for the sadness is that I have people in my life that I care about and have deep love for. And that is something positive, and even something to celebrate.
Another thing that our feelings reveal is our unmet (unfulfilled) needs. If we know our feelings, we can also ask, “What does this feeling reveal about what need I have that is not being met?” For example, the sadness shows that my need for happiness and stability is not being met. Then I can make a plan to get what I need so badly (desperately). So in essence, feeling our feelings is the doorway to understanding more about who we are, what we need, and how we can move forward constructively.
Once we get in touch with our feelings, we can also create a meta-(higher, broader, bigger)view, or big picture of the current situation. For example, we can recognize that things could be a lot worse in my country than they are, or that I am lucky to be able to work from home, or that within a few months, things will improve. This can give us a bigger perspective so that we don’t just constantly complain and feel sorry for ourselves.
That being said, no matter who you are or where you live in the world, it’s important to acknowledge that you feel bad and that you are grieving (mourn, be sorrowful). Feeling that negative feeling is completely okay. Everyone is grieving – you included. Feel your feelings, and also remember that you are not alone in feeling that. We are in this together.
Another mindset that we can create alongside the meta-view is to cultivate (create, nurture) adaptive, creative, possibility-focused thinking that moves beyond a limited mindset. It’s easy to think we can’t be social, can’t exercise, can’t have fun, or can’t be happy because of the new restrictions. But this is simply not true! Many things are possible, but we just have to be creative and intentional about adjusting our old way of life to fit this unique season.
Sure, there are some things we simply cannot control directly. Things like how various global leaders are handling the pandemic, that we have to work from home, or that our partner or kids are stuck at home with us in a small apartment. We can acknowledge what we cannot control, but then also recognize what we actually can control.
This creative mindset allows us to reimagine what our daily routine looks like. Routine helps us get our work done, prioritize what is most important, and gives us a sense of much-needed normalcy (order) and stability. This is vital (essential) for kids, but I’d argue that it’s just as important for adults.
One important routine that we miss is social gatherings. Obviously, we can’t meet up with our friends at our favorite restaurant or see our coworkers at the office. This, of course, might make us feel quite isolated and lonely, and this in turn (results in, subsequently) makes us more likely to have a lowered immune function and increases our chances of getting sick.
Now is our opportunity to use our mindset of creativity and possibility to make intentional human connection by utilizing technology. Just the other day, I was able to celebrate my dad’s birthday on Zoom online video with my parents and siblings who are scattered around the US in Seattle, Phoenix, and New York City. All of us are self-isolating, but we could have a fun hangout time together virtually (on video). I’ve also been able to Zoom, Facebook video chat, and Line chat with friends in Taiwan, India, Australia, and Thailand. What a great way to stay connected during this crisis when we all need support.
Which family members or friends do you want to keep in touch with during this time? Go beyond the short simple text messages and set up a time to see their face, share a meal or drink, and get as good of a connection as you can through video. Now is actually a special opportunity where we all need connection and may have more time than usual to create it.
Exercise, sleep and diet are easy to forget about during this crisis. However, these things are crucial for us to stay physically and emotionally healthy. In fact, it’s more important now than ever since the virus is looming (threatening).
Exercise in particular seems tricky these days. Why not look up exercise videos or tips online, try a new type of exercise that can be done in your living room, or try yoga? If you have a park nearby, walk or jog daily as long as you can keep appropriate physical distance from other people. Or move your body by walking on quiet streets in the evening or other times that have less people. Continue to get adequate sleep and eat plenty of whole (natural, healthy) foods.
That having been said, sleeping well may be difficult when most of us are feeling heightened (increased) stress these days. There is plenty of scientific evidence that breathing exercises and meditation can reduce stress, increase concentration, and improve overall wellbeing. If you haven’t tried it before, just start by taking two minutes to focus on your breathing.
Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose (count to 4) and then exhale (release air) slowly (count to 6). This is sure to bring you calmness and refreshment. You can also explore various types of meditation, like Loving Kindness Meditation, which I’ve already written about on my blog.
Daily news intake (consumption) is probably part of everyone’s routine these days. But reading or watching news excessively (too much) is sure to cause unnecessary stress and waste your time. Why not make a limit of thirty minutes of news each day, and avoid checking it before bed. The same guideline could apply to social media. Instead, do something relaxing and calming and see how this affects you differently to watching the news all the time.
Last but not least, kindness is so important in a time of crisis. It’s easy to hoard (take more than you need) masks or hand sanitizer because we have a scarcity mindset. But the more we can be gracious and generous toward others, the more we can all get through this crisis together. Instead of only thinking about ourselves, can we think of ways to be kind to both friends and strangers? Perhaps think of someone who may need extra encouragement or support during this time and reach out (contact them and help), or donate to organizations that are helping people in need.
We would also be wise to consider how to use kindness for ourselves. You and I need to be kind to our selves. We all need more gentleness and grace at this time. It’s also useful to consider how we can extend (give) grace and kindness to others most immediately close to us. For example, our partner, kids, family, or coworkers. When we get annoyed at someone, maybe we can remember that that person is under a lot of stress and didn’t react how they wished they had.
Kindness is a great remedy (medicine, solution) for stress, and being kind makes both us and the people around us happier and healthier. And did you know that kindness is more contagious (easily spread) than COVID-19? Or at least that’s what I personally believe! Let’s spread more kindness and see what happens.
In conclusion, let’s recognize that this is a difficult crisis for all of us, and that it’s okay and actually healthy to feel your emotions. It’s more important now than ever that we create a mindset of creativity, possibility, and resilience in order to adjust our lives, so that we don’t merely survive, but thrive (flourish, succeed). We all have a choice about how to stay healthy, connected, and calm.
What kind of person do you want to be during this crisis? And how will this crisis transform you?
The Happiness Lab (podcast by Yale University professor of psychology, Laurie Santos)
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