Times of uncertainty—like the global COVID-19 pandemic—can spike anxiety in many people. Lives are upended and routines are erased. Schools are closed. Loved ones 65 years and above are homebound. Employees are working from home exclusively. And more importantly, as the number of COVID-19 cases rise across the U.S., causing concern for public health and the health of those closest to us.
How does one find solace during these difficult times? Urmi Patel, Psy.D., clinical psychologist and director, clinical care for Sutter Mental Health Services, provides practical suggestions for those who feel unsure and overwhelmed during this unprecedented time.
Social isolation may appear unavoidable right now, so it’s more important than ever to work together as a family and stay connected as a community. Dr. Patel suggests checking in on friends and family via phone calls or video chats. “Talk about things outside of COVID-19 to remind one another there are many other things to focus on during difficult times,” she says.
Dr. Patel says children will look to their parents’ or caretakers’ behaviors and emotional responses for cues on how to manage their own emotions during difficult times. Address children’s concerns or anxiety together as a family so they also see how their parents or caretakers are managing theirs.
Information is everywhere and it can be extremely valuable as the COVID-19 situation evolves. However, people should consider limiting their exposure to social media or the Internet if they find themselves overwhelmed by the information. “If need be, consider looking to trusted sources of information, such as the CDC or news media outlets, to get important information daily,” says Dr. Patel.
Given social distancing is recommended throughout the world, consider implementing other forms of physical activity in the home or outdoors, if permitted. Simple daily physical exercises can be helpful to maintain a sense of health and balance.
Mindfulness goes beyond one’s self-awareness and acceptance—it means being conscious of others. COVID-19 is impacting many countries and individuals around the world. Dr. Patel recommends not attaching the pandemic to one ethnicity or nationality, and not avoiding others due to stigma or fear. “Try to remain kind to each other during this stressful time,” she says.