by Gretchen Anderton, LCSW, PhD
A few days ago I heard someone say “March 2020 was the longest year of my life.” Using humor is one of the ways people are finding to cope with the changes that have happened over the last month— maybe we abruptly transitioned to working from home or suddenly found that our work was even more challenging than it had been in the past. Here’s a short list of other ideas that may be helpful.
Stay connected! Even though we are engaging in physical social distancing, we can
continue to connect with others emotionally.
• Set up a virtual get-together with friends using an app like FaceTime or Google Hangouts.
• Send an email to someone who might be lonely or send a picture of yourself with a handmade card.
• If you’re in a relationship, make time for date night with your partner or spouse. This might mean going for a long walk, stargazing on a clear night, cooking a special meal together or playing a game.
• Meet someone new! The public library has virtual discussion groups, book clubs, story hours and even craft times— https://delawarelibraries.libcal.com/ (If you don’t already have a library card, you can get one here: https://lib.de.us/help/librarycard/) Check out social media for virtual events about things that interest you.
Choose to focus the things you can do rather than the things you can’t do.
If you suddenly find yourself with a lot more time than usual, think about what you’ve always said you would do “when I have time”. Maybe it was starting a new exercise routine, organizing photo albums, going to a book club or learning ballroom dance. Maybe it was reading a novel or watching a TV show. Take a moment to reflect— what was on your list? Are there ways that you can do some of those things now?
• If exercise is one of your goals, a lot of gyms and trainers have been giving free classes or access to apps during this time. The YMCA has made many of their exercise videos available here: https://ymca360.org/ and a quick search will turn up many others. (As always, use your judgement and talk to your healthcare providers about what is safe and healthy for you!) If you exercise outside, see https://coronavirus.delaware.gov/ what-delawareans-can-do/#faqs for what you can do outdoors in Delaware and guidelines for doing it safely.
• Learn something new! The library has books, videos, music and magazines available online and through their apps. Try a new cooking style, learn a craft or just explore something new. (Pro tip: The Overdrive app sometimes has waitlists, but resources on Hoopla are available right away.)
• If you’re able to do so, support a local business or charity by using their services,
making a donation or sharing your time.
Be mindful of your media. Are you noticing that you can’t stop checking the news? Do you open your news app every time you pick up your phone? Is TV news on in your house all day?
• Notice how the things you’re watching, reading or hearing impact you. Do you feel energized after watching a scary movie? Happier after watching something funny? Refreshed after crying during a tragedy? Use the things you choose to watch, listen to or read to help your mood.
• Set limits on how often you check the news online. You may be able to change your phone settings to discourage you from checking too often.
• Turn off the TV news. Plan how often and for how long you want to hear the news, and then stick to it. Get support from other people in your home.
• Know how media impacts your children. It might not look like they are paying any attention to the news, but they’re probably absorbing a lot of information .Check out https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-lifecoping/talking-with-children.html for some ideas about how to talk to children about the corona virus.
I hope that at least some of these ideas will be helpful in the coming weeks. There are many people and organizations putting out ideas for how to cope during this time and I hope that you will find some that work for you. Wishing you all wellness!
About me: I’m a mental health therapist and the newest member of the Integrative Care team at the Birth Center (I moved in a week before the stay-at-home order went into effect!) I specialize in treating postpartum depression and perinatal mental health issues, concerns related to sexuality and gender, anxiety and trauma. I see individuals, couples and families, and right now I’m working entirely through secure videoconferencing. Check out my profile on Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/gretchen-anderton-newark-de/718831