Coping Skills for Reintegration Post Covid-19
What can we expect post Covid-19? The Corona Virus has created substantial distress within our society, communities, and family dynamics. Many individuals feel the struggle of losing employment, experiencing financial strain, assisting their children with e-learning, decreased social interactions, increased conflict within the home, adult children returning home, military movements being delayed, and the death of loved ones, etc. Additionally, some have notated a positive impact, such as an improvement in climate change, extended time with family, decreased commute times, the opportunity to become acquainted with neighbors, complete projects, and spend time with nature.
When communicating with members of the community and from other countries, many have vocalized concerns relating to normalcy. Some have concerns for returning to work, asking if they will be exposed to COVID-19, how will this impact mental health care moving forward, will community members still turn to one another in times of need, and what changes will become permanent (i.e. six foot distance, face masks, 10 people maximum at public locations). No one knows what the future holds from the aftermath of Covid-19, however, we can practice healthy coping skills to help the transition moving forward.
Those healthy coping skills may include
- practicing mindfulness,
- maintaining a routine,
- practicing gratitude,
- resiliency skills,
- and creating a healthy support system.
These are the basis for a strong and healthy foundation for dealing with adversity.
Mindfulness is simply the practice of paying attention in the present moment, without judgement and without attachment to the moment (Linehan, 2015). For example, we are presently living in a time of uncertainty, which can create increased stress and anxiety (Jacobson, 2020). What we can recognize is, worrying about things will not change the result (Jacobson, 2020). It’s easy to let our thoughts spiral with startling possibilities (Jacobson, 2020). Practicing mindfulness allows us to focus on the present moment and decreases the worry (Jacobson, 2020). Examples of mindfulness activities may include meditation, deep breathing exercises, completing chores, connecting with nature, practicing yoga, coloring, and listening to music, etc. Practicing mindfulness using these forms of “paying attention in the present moment” allows us to see the situation as it currently is, without the extra thoughts of distress or unknown outcomes overpowering the truth of the moment.
According to the Mayo Clinic (2020), self-care strategies include eating a well-balanced diet, getting enough sleep, participating in regular exercise, limiting screen time, and participating in activities one enjoys. Practicing healthy self-care can improve an individual’s confidence, provide them with the knowledge their personal needs are important, and assists with the management of stress (Mayo Clinic, 2020). The act of setting aside time to practice self-care gives the person ownership of the activity and something to look forward to on a regular basis.
Maintaining A Routine
A regular routine during and after covid-19 is important to an individual’s mental health. Several methods of maintaining a regular routine include going to bed at the same time, eating at regular times throughout the day, practicing consistent hygiene, and setting aside time for activities you appreciate (Mayo Clinic, 2020).
The practice of gratitude allows us to see the positive within ourselves and others (Advent Health, 2020). Gratitude allows an individual to observe and be grateful for what is appreciated and meaningful to them (Advent Health, 2020). By practicing gratitude an individual may experience improved health, lower their risk of mental health issues, and decrease stress levels (Advent Health, 2020). Even in times of significant distress an individual can find things to be grateful for. I am often asked “how can I be grateful when…” when I lost my job, when I work in an environment where I am exposed to the virus on a daily basis?” Being grateful can be a daunting task when faced with our current situation. Viktor Frankl (1984), a Holocaust survivor, described in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” gratitude of teaching and his hope to one day teach again, all while enduring significant suffering. Even in some of the hardest times in our history, people are able to practice gratitude.
Resiliency is defined as the ability to bounce back from adversity. Resilience is similar to a rubber band, rubber bands come in all different sizes and are subjected to different challenges, similar to people (Morgan, 2020). Rubber bands can be stretched beyond their limits, as can people (Morgan, 2020). When the rubber band is exposed to adversity, such as heat, the rubber will deteriorate, potentially causing the band to break (Morgan, 2020). Fortunately we as people are not rubber bands that are discarded when we crack or break, we can be strengthened and become more flexible after experiencing difficulties (Morgan, 2020). COVID 19 has shown whether we are flexible, durable, and adaptable. As people we are hard wired for connection (Morgan, 2020). At different times of our lives we have depended on others.
Becoming resilient is a process, it is not something we are born with. Using the above skills helps build resiliency. Being resilient allows an individual to work through difficulties, develop new coping skills, and become aware of their individual symptoms of stress. Becoming resilient entails building a healthy support system, learning coping skills, adjusting your thought process, and focusing on physical health.
Creating A Healthy Support System
In times where we are broken or unable to face adversity, we need a support system. At this time of social distancing and being unable to visit friends or even see a medical provider it may seem as though having a support system is impossible. There are a tremendous amount of resources available to help develop or reconnect with your support system. The benefits of building a support system are numerous, to include having individuals or community resources available when experiencing distress, having other individuals identify when you are overwhelmed, a support system can provide you with advice, information, and assistance. Having a supportive relationship has been shown to improve an individual’s emotional wellness.
Using all of the skills listed above can work together to bring calm to our daily lives.
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AdventHealth. (2020, May 13). Why gratitude is important during the coronavirus pandemic. AdventHealth. https://www.adventhealth.com/blog/why-gratitude-important-during-coronavirus-pandemic
Frankl, V. E. (1984). Man’s search for meaning: An introduction to logotherapy. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Jacobson, R. (2020, May 13). How mindfulness can help during Covid-19. Child Mind Institute. https://childmind.org/article/how-mindfulness-can-help-during-covid-19/
Linehan, M., M., (2014). DBT Training Manual. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Mayo Clinic. (2020, May 13). Covid-19 and your mental health. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/mental-health-covid-19/art-20482731
Morgan, P. (2020), How your resilience is like a strong rubber band. Solutions for resilience. Retrieved from: https://www.solutionsforresilience.com/resilience-is/