Calm during Crisis: Managing fear and uncertainty

The Coronavirus pandemic has induced panic and fear in our society. While I understand the gravity of this crisis (and am following the guidelines of governing agencies), I am more concerned about what happens if we continue operating in fear—hysteria and chaos.

Although there is still so much uncertainty, it’s important to consider what is working and under control. For example, measures have been and are continuing to be put into place to manage the spread of the virus. Not everyone with the virus has died and some who have had it have already recovered.

Here are seven tips to help you remain Calm during Crisis:

  1. Shift Your Perspective: One of the main things to consider is your perspective on handling uncertainty and fear. When we’re faced with the fact that we do not have complete control over our circumstances, anxiety increases. Our way of life is no longer predictable and we worry about the future. However, we must rely on what we do know. Try shifting your thoughts to the silver lining: Enjoy the slower pace of life—do things you’ve been wanting to do at home. Think about the times in which you have overcome past adversities and crises and harness that strength. Post positive thought reminders around your house, phone, computer. I have a wooden box in my office that says: Make your faith bigger than your fear.
  2. Assess Your Coping Strategies: How do you cope during crisis? How does your partner or child(ren) cope during crisis? Some unhealthy strategies may be to externalize our fears by lashing out at others or internalize it by shutting others out. Others may be inclined to excessively use alcohol or drugs. Whatever the case may be, it’s important to recognize how our fear and anxiety impacts each other. Be patient with yourself and those around you. Communicate openly the matters of your heart and listen empathetically (and without judgement or blame) to those closest to you.
  3. Practice Self-Care: Worry and stress defeats our best attempts to stay healthy. If there was ever a time we should adhere to managing stress, it’s now. Try meditation/prayer, listen to relaxing music, exercise, get more sleep, eat a healthy diet.
  4. Limit Media Consumption: Excessive consumption of media (particularly news about the current state of affairs) can negatively affect mood, thoughts, and behaviors. Many people experience increased anxiety, agitation, fear, and worry as a result of listening to the continuous stream of same or similar information presented in the media. During a recent talk I gave on inner peace, I was asked how do I maintain a sense of peace. I realized that one of my strategies is limiting the amount of media I consume. It protects my emotional and cognitive health and frees my mind and time for the numerous, more important things that I have to tend to daily. (And in case you’re wondering, no I’m not in the dark, nor feel out of touch ).
  5. Connect Socially using Technology: A sense of love and belonging is one of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Basic Needs. Once we’ve met the most basic needs of water/food, shelter, and safety; we long for connection. During times of crisis, connecting with those in our homes can be strained by the stress and anxiety of the circumstances at hand. Practicing the steps above can help ease the strain and make spending time together more enjoyable. Also keep in mind the balance of togetherness and alone time. It’s important to use audio and video conferencing tools (like FaceTime, Zoom, and Skype) to connect with others. Limit how much time you spend talking about negative news (e.g., coronavirus), and focus on more positive aspects.
  6. Evaluate and Restructure Home Life: Now that children are “homeschooling” and parents are working from home, home life may seem chaotic. The structure we had in place no longer works, and requires us to re-evaluate how we did things so that we can restructure and re-establish a more balanced home life. It will require involvement from parents, children, and others who live in the household. If both parents are working from home, a discussion about priorities and division of labor is essential. Determining your strengths (and weaknesses) and communicating with your partner about them will help each of you figure out the best way to manage life under new circumstances. Lack of structure and order can cause us to feel overwhelmed and out of control. Now is the time to use your best problem solving and conflict management skills (the ones you use at work, :-).
  7. Get Affairs in Order: Experiencing a pandemic is making us keenly aware of the possibility of becoming ill, and potentially dying.  The feeling of having little control over what’s happening increases anxiety and invokes underlying fear. Under these circumstances, some people will ignore talking about their thoughts and feelings and others will excessively talk about them–which can lead to arguments and confusion. It is important to have sensible discussions about what life and death means to you and allow others close to you to express the same. Too often avoiding end of life preparation wreaks havoc on families, particularly when sudden death occurs. Now is the time to complete advance directives, discuss financial affairs, share “dying wishes” regarding burial and funeral arrangements, and lastly and more importantly, resolve emotional grievances.

Lastly, if you find that you are experiencing overwhelming stress, strain, or difficulty during this time, please don’t hesitate to seek help. Many therapists are equipped and available via tele-therapy.

Here are a few links that you may find helpful in coping during CoVID-19:

Free Advance Directive Forms:  https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/financial-legal/free-printable-advance-directives/

For Couples: https://blog.aamft.org/2020/03/couples-and-covid19.html

Managing Stress and Anxiety: https://blog.aamft.org/2020/03/tips-to-support-mental-health-amid-concerns-about-the-covid-19-pandemic.html

For Parents: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/talking-with-children.html

http://pepparent.org/

 

 

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