by Jennifer McClure, PhD, Clinical Psychologist, Senior Investigator and Director of Research, Faculty & Development, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute
I don’t know about you, but this is my first pandemic. First experiences (or to borrow a phrase from author and researcher Dr. Brené Brown, FFT’s—F****ing First Times), are almost always scary, no matter what they are.
Do you recall your first day of school? Your first date? The first time you spoke in public, or the first time you brought your child home from the hospital? Inherently, these are not bad experiences, but they are universally scary because they represent the unknown. They cause us to question: How do I do this? What will happen next? Am I ready for what comes next? So, you can imagine the range of emotions and questions everyone is experiencing right now in response to COVID-19. We’re in unchartered territory and that can be scary, but there are positive and constructive steps we can all take to get through this FFP and come out the better for it.
During the initial phase of any crisis, it’s common for people rise to the occasion and make heroic efforts to adapt and respond (“We got this!”), followed by a brief honeymoon phase during which people rally together (“We’re all in this together!”). I’m pleased to say this has been the response I’ve seen among my friends and colleagues in Washington state over the past 3 weeks, as we’ve all been asked to socially distance and re-engineer our daily lives to deter the spread of COVID-19.
But as a crisis goes on, which this one will continue to do for some time, emotional fatigue can set it and give way to more pervasive negative emotional reactions such as fear, anxiety, frustration, anger, mistrust, depression, guilt, paranoia, and panic. If left unchecked, these can quickly take a toll on individuals, families, and communities.
It’s important to recognize these negative emotions, name them, and own them. Once we do that, we can begin to re-assert control and deal with them. Below are some proven strategies to help you stay emotionally strong during this FFP:
Incorporating these habits into your daily routine will not only aid your FFP survival, it can make you stronger and more emotionally resilient in the long run.
Following the steps above can have positive emotional and physical health benefits. To stay physically healthy, it’s also important to follow the Centers for Disease Control’s advice for how to protect ourselves from infection with COVID-19 and practice healthy lifestyle habits during this time. That means getting plenty of rest (at least 7 hours a night), eating lots of healthy fruits and vegetables, getting daily exercise, and adhering to normal medical regimens.
If you’re looking for additional tips and resources to add to your FFP survival kit, check out the following:
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