Being confined to the house isn’t all that bad, but I could do without being stuck inside my head. Especially between the hours of 10 pm – 2 am when my body wants to rest, but my brain isn’t having it. I’m naturally a worrier and a ruminator, especially in times of stress and uncertainty, and these days are a strange brew of both.
I’m sure I’m not the only one staring at my ceiling into the wee hours of the morning. Whether you’re worried about health, loved ones, paying bills, keeping a business afloat, or the overwhelm of being an essential employee. There’s a chance some sort of pandemic-induced anxiety is keeping you up at night.
And though school, work, and other activities are cancelled for the foreseeable future, we haven’t been granted a moratorium on our pre-existing hardships and anxieties. So, if you were struggling with things like grief, addiction, or psychological disorder before the pandemic, you’re still struggling with these things. Except now, you’re stuck at home, and many of your go-to coping outlets may be inaccessible. Stress has increased while access to coping has decreased. This poses an obvious problem.
There will always be times in life when you can’t utilise the coping outlets you want or find most useful. Perhaps due to illness or injury, travel, changes in routine, transportation or weather concerns, or other circumstances out of your control. At these times, in the absence of constructive coping, a person may be more likely to reach for negative coping outlets like substances, withdraw, lashing out, indulging, denial, or giving up. Which is why it’s always good to have a coping back-up plan.
When you can’t go to therapy:
Try Tele therapy: Ask your therapist about tele therapy options if you haven’t already. Even if you decide to do less frequent check-ins, knowing that you will have the chance to connect can be helpful.
Give Journaling a Try: The drawback is that your journal can’t give you feedback, but writing can help you to sort out your thoughts and express your emotions. Sometimes it’s helpful to be able to externalise your internal struggles.
Read: Ask your therapist if he or she recommends any books related to the work you’re doing in therapy.
When you can’t go to AA, NA, Al-Anon, or Nar-Anon:
You can access information, handbooks, and online meeting listings on each of your local groups websites.
When you can’t go to a support group or grief center:
Look for Online Programs: In the short-term, the next best thing may be online programs offered by varying grief support agencies. Some hospices and grief centers are offering options like online groups and webinar series. If you are familiar with a local hospice or grief center, call and ask what services you can access online. If you don’t have luck locally, a benefit of accessing online services is you can expand your search to include any programs regardless of location.
Watch TED Talks on Grief: One of the benefits of a support group or gathering of grief-friends is that, through the stories of others, you can learn, gain perspective, and find hope. The TED website has a long list of talks relevant to the experience of grief.
When you can’t see your friends and family in-person:
We’ve all become better acquainted with the various ways to reach out and connect with loved ones over technology. How you connect with your loved ones will depend on everyone’s access to technology. It will also depend on their comfort with different platforms – for example, do they know how to use it? Are the more comfortable with text or video? Sometimes it takes a little trial and error to find the best place to connect.
Though we’ll have to leave the details up to you, we do want to encourage you to give technology a try. For those who love getting together for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, it’s not the best thing – but it may be the next best thing. Don’t let the learning curves and resistance to new technology get in your way. If less tech-savvy friends and family need a nudge and a little encouragement – help them out!
When you can’t go to the gym:
For many people, exercise feels like a necessary part of their mental health maintenance. If you relied on a gym or some kind of group fitness, you may be feeling especially out of luck. Try not to adopt the mentality that if it’s not ‘X’ kind of exercise for ‘Y’ amount of time, then it isn’t worth doing. Any exercise is beneficial!
If you’re a gym member, contact them or look them up on social media to see what kind of alternative workout options they may offer. Some gyms are doing Facebook live group fitness workouts or are offering temporary memberships to On Demand fitness programs.
If you’re not a member of a gym, then check out the many apps and YouTube videos available. Some are free and some have membership fees. However, many services with fees offer free temporary trial periods. You can either do a Google search for recommended programs or search YouTube.
Beyond that, now more than ever we recommend you get outside and move for a bit and spend your exercise hourly token for the day. Take some time on your own, or play around with your kids or pet. You can always walk, run, bike ride, shoot hoops, play frisbee, or kick a ball around. Whatever feels most comfortable. Also, if you have lawn games like badminton, swingball then get those out too!
When you’re longing for routine:
Right now, you may be feeling overwhelmed by stressors, but also completely unproductive. How frustrating! When schedules and routines get thrown off, it can all of a sudden feel impossible to get anything done. Even people who keep very loose schedules may feel like they’re floundering.
Yes, your days feel a little like Groundhog day right now – but planning can help you get out of this rut. This can mean different things depending on a person’s preferences and personal style. For example, some may want to schedule blocks of time throughout their entire day, while others may simply want to make a list of 3 or 4 things they want to accomplish.
Do what feels right and natural and leave a little space for coping with your grief and distraction.
When you need a distraction:
When you’re spending most of your time in one place, seeing, hearing, and doing the same things over and over, it’s hard to find distractions when you need them. Also, many people, myself included, turn to the wrong places for entertainment during their downtime. For example, logging onto social media may only increase your exposure to the very things you were trying to take a break from (grief triggers, news stories, comparing yourself to others, etc.).
Instead, we recommend choosing outlets that simultaneously help to boost well-being. Whatever you decide to do, pay attention to how it feels at the moment. If you’re still feeling agitated, try switching gears.