Life recently dealt all of us a big challenge that calls for some serious coping strategies. We were all just rolling along, minding our own business, and wham we got hit by this unexpected event. Isn’t that the kind of stuff that only happens somewhere else far away, or better yet, only in movies? But here we are staying at home as if our lives depended on it. Wait a minute…
For most of us spending our waking hours in our own abode may not be all that unusual. But having to hang out with all the other people who live with us all the time – now that’s a whole other story! We were not used to disinfecting groceries and wearing masks in public. Then there are the thoughts of not knowing if we or a loved one will fall ill and how things will turn out once it happens.
A few years ago, our family life was turned upside down in a similar fashion. From one moment to the next everything we had taken for granted changed with my husband’s throat cancer diagnosis. Suddenly, I was more than his wife, for a time I became his caregiver. The threat of cancer dominated every waking thought and crept into whatever restless sleep I could muster.
Now I realize that with all of the bad we went through, there were lessons learned that brought us to the light at the end of the tunnel. And no, it was not an oncoming train! So today I feel compelled to share some insights and helpful strategies to help get you through challenging periods – no matter how dark they may seem at the time.
Even if you feel powerless, I want to assure you that you really aren’t. There is plenty of actionable steps you can take to get through any period of uncertainty.
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MAKE A SCHEDULE AND STICK TO IT
You may recall the story of the Chilean miners from a few years back. In 2010 a collapse in the San José mine trapped 33 miners 2,300 ft (700m) underground for a total of 69 days. For the first 17 of those days, the miners had absolutely no contact with the outside world.
With only enough food for two days and all of them limited to a space the size of a one-bedroom apartment, things were looking more than bleak for them.
But somehow they found the strength and determination to not give up hope until they would be rescued by a miracle. It is a story of human perseverance that fascinates me. What was the most important key to keeping them all from losing their minds and killing each other?
Their leader took the initiative and established a set schedule early on. He divided the group of 33 into three groups and assigned them 8-hour shifts that were spent alternately playing games, working, and sleeping. By organizing their time and activities he kept his men in relatively good spirits and shape to enable them all to be rescued after 69 grueling days underground.
How does this translate to your life?
Maintain a sense of normalcy by continuing to make your bed, getting fully dressed, and planning meals. Set at least one specific goal for each day. Get your family involved by setting up a cleaning schedule and assign chores.
Resist the temptation to stay up much later at night and sleep in longer in the morning to avoid insomnia. If you have children at home, it’s important for them to know that life can and will continue at a relatively normal pace.
GET REGULAR EXERCISE
One of the things the leader of the miners insisted upon was that his men exercise daily. True, they needed to remain thin to fit into the slim tube that was to rescue them eventually. But he also recognized that the benefits of staying physically active are much deeper than maintaining or losing weight or staying fit.
While none of us will have to fit into a tube to be rescued, exercise does play a big part in staving off those extra pounds acquired by grazing our way through the house all day. More importantly, exercise is an excellent way to keep depression at bay.
Ideally, you should spend time walking outside each day, but there are plenty of ways to stay active indoors as well. Youtube is a terrific resource for free exercise videos, and you are sure to find something that fits in with your lifestyle.
And why not try something new? For more useful information about the positive impact of exercise on mental health, check out this article.
LIMIT EXPOSURE TO BAD NEWS
There is no denying that it is vital to stay informed and up to date on the latest news. But there is absolutely no need to listen to this type of messaging all day long. One strategy that has served me well for a number of years is to not even turn on any newscast in the morning until I have had sufficient time to gather my senses.
Bad news right out of bed has a way of setting the wrong tone for the rest of the day. To stay abreast of the latest developments, choose a specific news source and time, like your favorite evening news program, and leave it at that.
Why not replace the steady stream of unsettling news with an oldfashioned book? My friend Becky from abookloversadventures.com offers lots of suggestions that will keep you busy and entertained for a long time!
LEARN SOMETHING NEW
Fill some of your time by finally learning that new skill you always wanted to explore. The good news is that there are more amazing classes available online than ever before. This is the perfect time to explore a number of different crafts on craftsy.com, learn skills from masters in their field at udemy.com, or just make something fun with the help of Youtube videos like the ones created by craft blogger Jennifer Marx on her popular JenniferMaker channel.
She is not only one of my blogging heroes and mentors, but also a crafting idol. All of her classes are free!
Now is the perfect time to finally figure out how to use your camera, learn how to knit a scarf, even make your own skincare products. You can find several different recipes here on the blog and printable recipes in my FREE Resource Library!
And even if you can’t leave your home, many craft supplies are in stock and just a mouse click away.
DO SOMETHING CREATIVE
Even if you are not up to taking a whole new craft or buying a bunch of supplies on a limited budget, there are still plenty of things you can do to harness your inner artist.
And no, you don’t need to be artistically inclined in any way! Take it from me, someone who can barely draw stick people. There is something uniquely calming in adult coloring books. I am a huge fan of mandalas and could get lost in them easily.
I want you to be able to give them a try and created a multi-page FREE printable for you in the FREE Resource Library. Don’t have the password yet? No problem. Signup is easy.
Nothing emphasizes the feeling of isolation more than not being able to get together with friends and family in person. Even twenty years ago this would have been much more difficult to deal with. Thanks to the internet, staying connected is much easier and cheaper than it used to be.
But it still takes effort. Make it a point to try and reach out to someone in your circle every day. We are all in this together and by connecting you will make a difference not only in your own life but you let those around you know that you love them and that you care about their well-being.
You could make someone’s day with a homemade card. During a time when staying away from each other is potentially life-saving, giving a loved one a creation of yours to hold and admire can make a big impact. Even if you are not Hallmark material, free sites like Canva make creating cards a snap.
Few tools are as powerful in calming the anxiety of uncertainty as meditation. Over the years it has become one of my most trusted coping strategies. I would even go so far as to call it truly life-changing. And that is a term I don’t use lightly. If you are new to meditation, start out with something short and easy. A personal favorite of mine are meditations that employ progressive relaxation techniques. This 20 minute Youtube Yoga Nidra meditation is one that has allowed me to return to sleep many a restless night.
Don’t worry if your mind has a tendency to wander. That is completely normal. Over time you will notice how your ability to stay in the moment increases. Meditation takes practice, but it is time well spent.
Now you know all of my “secret” coping strategies. They have served me well and I am confident they will do the same for you. Uncertainty and the resulting feeling of powerlessness in the face of an invisible enemy like the coronavirus or cancer can be overcome.
You may not have control over what is happening to you. But remember you do have a choice of how you react to your circumstances. While the current situation has the world in its grip, it too shall pass. We can all do our part to make sure it happens by following CDC guidelines and taking care of ourselves and our loved ones the best we can.