We are weary of COVID-19 and leery of another significant wave of illness, particularly as months of cold weather and dark nights loom.
How can we do this again? Will we be able to take more isolation and continued restrictions on our daily lives?
“Remind yourself that you have been through this before,” said Adam Miller, a behavioral health expert and licensed therapist with WellSpan Philhaven. “It’s normal to feel weary but COVID also has taught us to be resilient. We all learned lessons from the first wave of the pandemic in the spring.
“One thing that I learned was not to fixate on the unknown future and ‘what ifs.’ I was happier when I could stay focused on the present and do the things that were within my control on that particular day. Make dinner. Call a friend. Hug my kids.”
Take care of your mental health, Miller urges. It’s as important to your well-being as wearing a mask, social distancing and washing your hands.
Mental health tips for the weary and leery
- Accept the reality that COVID is not going away quickly. If we can learn to accept that, while also accepting that our fears and stress are normal reactions to that, it is a healthier mindset.
- Routine, routine, routine. Set a time to wake up, shower and get dressed every day. Plan breaks and mealtimes, or even screen time. Make time for proper sleep.
- Improve your work-from-home/learn-from-home space. Clean your desk regularly. Get a good chair and set up adequate lighting.
- Invest in other small or moderate things that will make you happy: new towels, a nice pair of slippers, warm socks, cooking spices, good coffee, a string of fun lights for your workspace, a small plant to put by the window.
- Incorporate easy movements into your day. Stretch before and after you sit down. Walk or bike to the store if possible. Take a stroll around the block at lunchtime. Have a dance party on Friday afternoons with your family, to signal the end of the week.
- Find specific things you can do to cope with high-stress situations, such as doing breathing exercises, taking a walk, engaging in meditation or listening to music. Everyone responds differently. Identify two or three coping skills that work for you and use them regularly.
Getting through this second wave
- Remember what you did well to get through the stress of isolation during the first wave of the pandemic last spring. Was it playing games or doing puzzles with family, baking or a regular call with family or friends? Dust off those practices and use them again.
- Make sure you have the proper supplies to get through a possible second wave. Stock up now on puzzles, new games, cooking and baking supplies, as well as any school supplies your children may need.
- Choose and prepare for a small home project or a craft project to do over the winter months. If you live with others, think about ways you can work on it together. This could range from a fresh coat of paint for a room to putting together a scrapbook to making holiday decorations.
- Set regular times for virtual get-togethers. These can take different forms:
- They can be casual and “activity-free.” Set a time when people can just get together online and chat, coming and going when they want.
- Or get creative with activities. Take turns teaching others, or learning a new thing, such as an origami project or a card trick.
Don’t stop now
- Make up a “date night” jar for your family or roommates for Saturday nights. Fill it with slips of paper with activities. Create a group dance. Make ice cream sundaes. Go into your closet and design a costume with what you can find there.
- Look out for one another. Shovel an elderly neighbor’s driveway. Leave a neighbor a note on their doorstep that says “hello.” Get your kids to draw a picture and mail it to a friend.
- Monitor your screen time. Too much mindless scrolling of social media or channel surfing can make you feel exhausted and drained. Set an alarm and walk away when it goes off.
- Practice gratitude. Start and end your day by thinking of one thing to be grateful for on that day.
- Understand that everyone has a different tolerance for risk. If you have a high tolerance – and have been going out to restaurants, shopping or otherwise putting yourself in more regular circulation – take responsibility for informing others before you get together with them. If you have a lower tolerance for risk, don’t feel bad about declining invitations from others.
- Practice grace with yourself and others. This is a tough time for everyone. Give yourself and others a break.