Caring for Yourself in Uncertain Times
For most of us, what was considered our normal daily way of life has changed dramatically over the past few weeks. Schools have gone to on-line instruction, people are being told to use social distancing and to shelter in place, and restaurants have been forced to close. These changes are bound to lead to a variety of intense feelings for many of us, with those people already suffering from anxiety and other mental health concerns likely to have more difficulties coping during this crisis.
…it is important to remember that human beings are resilient.
Heightened emotions at this time may include:
Fear and anxiety.
This is likely to include worry about illness striking family, friends, or one’s self. Worry about obtaining food and other personal supplies as needed, and, for some, worry about whether they will continue to have a job and a paycheck.
Depression and boredom.
Feelings of sadness or low mood related to grieving what has been lost. Feelings of loneliness and boredom from extended periods of time at home.
Anger, frustration, and irritability.
Anger and resentment towards those you are being forced to spend long periods of time with and towards those in power who have issued social distancing and shelter in place orders. Frustration related to a loss of personal freedom and uncertainty about the future.
Suggestions for self-care:
How can we all best take care of ourselves during this stressful time? The following suggestions can help deal with the new restrictions we are facing and the emotional ups and downs that might come with them.
Practice healthy self-care.
This is a time when it’s especially important to remember the things mom and grandma might have taught you about taking care of yourself. Eat a healthy diet, get adequate sleep, exercise regularly, spend time in nature, and do something positive that you enjoy each day. Maintain a daily routine, for most people this can help preserve a sense of order and purpose in their lives.
While social distancing and shelter in place orders make face to face contacts difficult, in today’s world it is easier than ever to stay connected virtually. Use phone calls, text messages, video chat and other social media to connect with your social support networks. Use these interactions as an opportunity to discuss your experiences and feelings about what is happening.
Take a break from the news.
The non-stop, 24-hour, news cycle of today’s world can be overwhelming. Set aside one or two times a day you will check-in on the news; otherwise, focus on other things. Try to focus on trusted news sources, instead of sources that sensationalize things in order to gain viewers.
Learn something new with the extra free time you may now have available.
Learn a new language, read a new series of books, start a new exercise routine, learn to play a musical instrument. These ideas, and many others, can allow you to gain something positive from the current situation. Today’s digital world can make all of these possible even if you are stuck at home.
Consider practicing mindfulness and learning meditation.
The NDSU Counseling Center’s web site has information about how to make both of these a part of life. Science has shown that both are helpful in alleviating the adverse effects of anxiety.
Seek professional help.
If you are experiencing persistent feelings of anxiety, anger, irritability, sadness, hopelessness, significant impairments in daily functioning, thoughts of self-harm, substance abuse, or thoughts of suicide, seek professional help. NDSU faculty and staff members can take advantage of the University’s Employee Assistance Program and NDSU students can seek help at the Counseling Center (call 231-7671 during normal business hours to schedule an appointment).
If you, or someone you know, is in crisis call FirstLink (the FM area 24-hour hotline).
FirstLink can be contacted by:
- dialing – 2-1-1,
- calling – 701-235-7335, or
- calling toll-free – 1-800-273-8255.
While we are currently facing a time of great uncertainty, it is important to remember that human beings are resilient. We tend to overestimate how badly we will be affected by negative events and underestimate how well we cope with difficult situations. Be mindful that you are likely more resilient than you think. While it seems that there are many things currently out of control, focus on what you can control and look for opportunities for growth along the way.
About the author:
Bill Burns is the director of the Counseling Center at NDSU. He is a licensed psychologist in North Dakota. Prior to coming to NDSU, he was the director of Counseling Services at St. Lawrence University, a private school in upstate New York. He received a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota- Morris, a Master’s degree in Community Counseling from Truman State University, and a Ph.D in Counseling Psychology from Iowa State University.
He has two grown daughters and loves to spend his free time reading and participating in marathons, ultra-marathons, and triathlons.