The new normal of social distancing and shelter-in-place is challenging for all of us, creating stress and anxiety as we face an uncertain future and timeline. Worries about our health, our finances and our loved ones seem to increase almost daily. Dr. Thad Leffingwell, a clinical health psychologist and head of Oklahoma State University’s Department of Psychology, offers the following tips for effective coping:
- Structure your day as much as possible. Unstructured days and loss of routines are fun for vacations, but they can add to the stress of our current situation. Schedule activities. Focus on things that bring you joy or give you a sense of mastery and accomplishment.
- Take care of your body and mind. Our current social distancing and self-quarantines can break our self-care habits, and stress eating can draw us to less healthy food options. Be as active as possible, and choose healthy eating options. Move often. This will be good for your mood and overall health and will help your immune system be most effective.
- Limit news and social media intake to avoid information overload. While it is reasonable and responsible to stay informed, it isn’t necessary to be plugged in all the time. Take breaks.
- Stay in the present. It is a wonderful skill of our minds to predict and plan, but sometimes that can be a trap. Use mindfulness techniques to practice returning to the here and now of this moment.
- Be patient. Remind yourself that the current situation, while stressful and challenging, is only temporary. The one consistent thing in life is change, and life will return to normal.
- Be grateful. Even in the midst of stress and challenge, gratitude is a powerful psychological antidote. Take time to count your blessings, even now, and you will find that it reduces stress and prepares you to cope with today’s challenges.