By Erika Pobee-Mensah, M.S., Outreach Coordinator, Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS)
Over the past few weeks, news broadcasters, politicians, and various other people on internet and media platforms have been repeating similar somber messages, using terms like “these are strange times” or describing the current worldwide crisis as “surreal.” The COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread emotions and changes in our typical behaviors and routines. It’s normal to feel a sense of grief, sadness, isolation, worry, and even panic in these uncertain and ever changes times. Considering this, CAPS would like to share some thoughts and ideas for coping with these emotions. Healthy coping helps to manage stress and prevent development of or worsening of problems, such as depression and anxiety.
Grief/Loss or Sadness: Many of us are experiencing a sense of grief. This could be related to the actual loss or illness of a loved one. It could be related to your own illness and limitations. This grief could also be related to loss of daily work, income, routine, community, or a sense of losing touch with family and friends, due to social distancing. Whatever grief or loss you can identify, it is important to give yourself time to grieve and express these emotions. Allow yourself to cry, to scream into a pillow, to call up someone and vent, or to write about how this pain feels. Don’t suppress your emotions, but rather allow yourself to feel them and ride them out like an ocean wave. When the grief is overbearing, take a moment to bring yourself into the present…notice your physical environment, pay attention to the things you can see, feel, hear, taste or touch. Take a moment to consider activities that might fill some of the empty feelings, such as reading, writing, exercising, or helping someone. If you are in need, ask for help from family, friends, or your local community.
Separation/Isolation: Feeling lonely or isolated can be a crippling sensation. Take a moment to put your doubts aside and reach out to friends or family. Strike up a conversation with an old friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. If you are more extraverted and crave social connection, schedule time in your day to catch up with loved ones, or engage in virtual socializing, such as multiplayer games, online interactive group exercise, or group chats that can provide you with a social outlet. If you are more introverted, you may still benefit from some social outlets, such as talking to a friend once per week or texting with family members. Then, fill your other time with introvert-friendly activities that cater to your internal energy, like reading, creating artwork, or watching a thought-provoking movie.
Worry/Anxiety: Schedule time to worry each day and vow to only worry about X (your worry) during that time of the day. Every time you find yourself worrying, remind yourself that you have scheduled worry time later and right now is time to do Y (an alternative behavior). Alternative behaviors might include cleaning, completing schoolwork, reading, exercising, working on a craft, playing music, writing, etc. This can prevent you from spending your whole day sitting and worrying, which ultimately does not decrease the worry and may even be unproductive.
We hope these tips are helpful in managing uncertainty and difficulties during a time when we are asked to adhere to recommendations of social distancing. On behalf of CAPS, stay safe and keep your body and mind healthy.
For more information on federal guidelines and resources, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html. If you or a loved one need additional emotional support, the following services are available 24/7:
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- The Brevard 211 Helpline
dial 211-or- (321) 632-6688, www.211brevard.org
- The Crisis Text Line
text “Home” to: 741741, www.crisistextline.org
Campus Security (321) 674-8111 is also available for any safety concerns.