As we come upon a full year of life during the COVID-19 pandemic, Pelin Kesebir, assistant scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Healthy Minds, shares 10 tips to support our well-bring during this trying time.
1) Negative emotions like anxiety, fear, and frustration are inevitable in such periods of massive uncertainty and disruption. Acknowledge your negative emotions and accept their right to exist, but do not feed them. Do your best to notice when they are hijacking your mind and leading you to unhelpful behaviors.
2) Especially if you are prone to stress and anxiety, you may currently be having a hard time coping. Remember that you are not alone in your worries. Each of us has reasons to worry about ourselves and our loved ones. Reflecting about this shared fate and how we truly are “all in this together” can help us feel less lonely and thereby ease our anxieties.
3) To counter the unavoidable negative emotions, try to find ways to experience positive emotions such as calmness and gratitude. For example, to cultivate gratitude you may think about all the things you are still able to do instead of focusing on the things you cannot.
4) As in all situations involving uncertainty, it is essential to focus on the present and on what is under your control. Ask yourself “What’s the right thing to do right now, knowing what I know?” and act accordingly. If you do that, know that you are doing the best you can do.
5) Try to get the most accurate information about the outbreak and about the precautions you need to take. Beyond that, realize that spending a lot of time on social media will potentially hurt you more than it will help. Focusing too much of our attention on the uncontrollable is a recipe for misery. Instead, concentrate on parts of your life that you can control.
6) Be aware of how much influence you have on the emotions and moods of those around you. To the extent you can, aim to exude calmness and fortitude. Remember that everybody is trying to cope with their own anxiety and frustration. So, be kind and understanding toward others as well as yourself.
7) One of the biggest antidotes to anxiety is taking action and moving toward our goals. Set yourself goals for these days and take them seriously. Pursuing these goals will give meaning and structure to your days and distract you from fruitless worrying.
8) Ask yourself what you can do to help others get through these hard days, especially the most vulnerable and needy among us. Helping others is one of the most guaranteed ways to feel good ourselves.
9) Take good care of your body. This is crucial not only for your immune system, but also your mental health. Keep in mind that everything that is good for our bodies is also good for our minds. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, get good rest, and find ways to move every day. Don’t let yourself go.
10) Do not lose sense of perspective. Remember that even the most unfavorable situations in life may contain the seeds of something positive. Once life is closer to how we once knew it, we will hopefully be better at appreciating what we may have taken for granted.
For more resources, visit the Center for Healthy Minds at www.centerhealthyminds.org.
Jen Reese is youth educator for University of Wsiconsin Extension in Kenosha County.