New Series: Tips for Managing Our Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Selves

Making adjustments to our daily routines and lives to combat the coronavirus outbreak can be very stressful. Grief expert David Kessler has called this “collective and expecting grief,” meaning a tremendous loss of what was normal, and uncertainty of when we will return to it. While we can’t control what is happening to our entire world, we can take steps to control ourselves, including our behavior, reactions, emotions, and methods of coping.

In this series you will find tips from experts in many fields, as well as tools from the wellness programs developed by the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County, all geared to help you learn how to cope with dignity, strength, and courage.

  1. Make an Action Plan. Self-management begins with a plan. In the FDOH in Hillsborough County, our health education programs, emphasize that one of the best tools for change is an action plan. An action plan is a great way to stay on track while accomplishing something that you really want to do in small, manageable steps. Right now, health is of great importance, so planning something around what you can do to improve and de-stress yourself is key. Examples would be: moving around & getting outside for at least 15 minutes, striving to eat 2 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, choosing ways to relax, occupying yourself in gardening or home projects you may not have had time to do, and finding something to bring you joy. Planning something that we can accomplish makes us feel better. Write down your action plan and post it somewhere that you will see frequently, like on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror, or make it an appointment on your calendar. We’ve included a Sample Action Plan to get you started, courtesy of the UCSF Center for Excellence in Primary Care.
  2. Stick to a routine or schedule. When there’s been a big change in your life and daily schedule, settling back into a routine is very helpful. Getting up and going to sleep at the same (or reasonable) times can give you a sense of control in an uncontrollable time. Try to create a schedule that includes dedicated work or productive time, as well as time for self-care such as exercise, meditation, stretching, or cooking something delicious. Take a shower and get dressed in nice but comfortable clothes as per your usual routine—leave the pajamas for your sleep time! Brightly colored or favorites outfits can also help to lift your mood.
  3. Keep informed but take a break from the news and social media. The news about the coronavirus changes daily, sometimes hourly, and that can be very overwhelming. While it’s important to stay informed by consulting trustworthy sources, it’s also important to find a balance to lift our spirits with something positive like stories of kindness, generosity, courage, and heroes. Stay connected with friends, family and loved ones via all this technology we have available.
  4. Exercise your mind, find your superpower! Author Rick Hanson refers to learning as the “superpower of superpowers.” Learning helps us adapt, grow our brains, gather more experiences, and refine our beliefs. Inner strength and confidence are very positive results from learning that can help you find the courage to take on this challenge that the coronavirus has presented. Learning tai chi, meditation, deep breathing, new technology, better habits, or a new language are all things that can enable you to become calmer, wiser, stronger, and happier.

What’s helping you cope during this time? Share your experience in the comments below!

The next article in this series will take a closer look at ways to exercise our minds, so stay tuned!

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