Stay Centered and Sane: How to Manage Stress and Anxiety during this time of Global Health Pandemic COVID-19

During this time of uncertainty, fear and anxiety about what the future holds due to the public health crisis of COVID-19, I write to you from my home office while my kids play in the next room, my 7-year old daughter entertaining 4-year old little brother, both home on a super-extended spring break.  We are all trying to stay sane, figure out the next right thing to do and how to respond to this without overreacting or underreacting.  It is trying to say the least.  Part of me is itching for my normal routine and the busy-ness of our usual schedule – when will schools re-open?  When will grocery stores have dry goods and household staples back in plentiful stock?  When will playdates resume again or concerts, events and movies?  When will some of my clients feel comfortable coming into the office again for therapy?  It is normal to feel anxious and unsure at a time like this. But there is this other part of me, the quiet, steady, calm inner self inside me reminds me that this is happening to everyone and we have to accept that this crisis is happening right now and do the next right thing for ourselves, families and world, not knowing yet how it will all play out and when things will get back to “normal.” This part of me also reminds me to slow down and enjoy this time with my kids, husband and my close loved ones even while we are practicing a level of social distancing.  It nudges me to cultivate our garden, plant seeds in Mother Earth and get our hands dirty, and spend time waiting for them to sprout and grow over the next few weeks.  Even with great concerns around us, there is life, newness, hope. This part of me is reminds me of the lesson of gratitude.  That there is much to be grateful for right now – that my family and I are healthy and well, we have food and water, a home and yard to work and play in, beautiful Arizona spring weather that we can get out and walk, run and bike in, time to read a book and play since we don’t have homework, soccer or baseball practice to run to in the evenings or weekends. This part of me is grateful for my community that is banding together, and knows that is the only way.  Grateful we have scientist and researchers working on vaccines and treatments and strategizing how to slow down the spread of this and avoid major healthcare issues, healthcare workers and businesses there to help people through this, and for friends and family willing offering food and help with childcare and emotional support and lighthearted conversations. Gratitude combats scarcity, which is running rampant right now with this pandemic.  Entire shelves and aisles of food and household goods are empty at the grocery store, people are stockpiling and getting in line at the store to get their one pack of toilet paper and paper towels, making sure to get all the junk food and dry goods they need in case everything is shut down for an extended period of time.   Scarcity makes us look inward, gratitude helps us look outward.  I love hearing how the local school districts are offering curbside meals to children who need breakfast and lunch while schools are out and count on that during this time.  I love hearing about different resources and creative ways to keep kids entertained while at home and schools are closed.  The everyday people continuing to do their jobs during this time so we have energy, water, trash service, delivery, internet, banking and healthcare. While I believe practicing social distancing and handwashing, I am reminded even more than usual that on a grand scale, we are not in isolation, but instead all connected.  When we can see this as a global issue and pandemic, it brings us out of our often individualized, egocentric mindset of ourselves (and what we need, what we are going to do next, what we don’t have and wish we had) and makes us realize we are all in this together, as humans, as people, with way more common threads that tie us together, than differences that separate us. Brene` Brown’s quote “We don’t have to do all of it alone.  We were never meant to” is so relevant right now.  The solution and the way we get through this is all about relationships and banding together as a community and staying connected to the ones we hold most dear.  During this time it is important to practice self-care, gratitude, deep breathing and meditation, staying active through exercise and movement, and continuing routines and schedules that are healthy and important for you and your loved ones.  You may be spending more time with your partner or family members than usual, and that can accentuate both positive feelings and negative annoyances.  Try to create a safe space in your relationship to talk about fears and needs, and also focus on “the good” of your partner and family members.   Practice A.R.E., accessibility, responsiveness and engagement when you have conversations as a couple and family – these cornerstones of connected communication are so essential right now!  And remember to practice loving compassion to yourself and others.  This is hard, but we can do hard things.  Love is always at the core of the solution and enables us to feel connected to something bigger, something more – spiritual. Be well, be safe and stay centered and grateful as you move forward into the upcoming weeks. As of today, I am continuing to see clients in person in my office, however I am also offering telehealth video sessions for clients whom that makes the most sense based on comfort level, health factors and family/loved ones.  Feel free to reach out to me for support and resources – I would love to help.   “Love has an immense ability to help heal the devastating wounds that life sometimes deals us. Love also enhances our sense of connection to the larger world. Loving responsiveness is the foundation of a truly compassionate, civilized society.” ― Sue Johnson, Hold Me Tight