A counsellor’s tips for coping well during COVID-19

Things certainly feel strange right now, to say the least. Nothing as we know it is quite the same and from all angles the COVID-19 virus has impacted our lives, our families, our society and the world at large, and may I add, in a very short period of time. This is really happening and it’s stirring up a lot of fear.

In the hope to reassure you, if you are feeling concern, anxiety, overwhelm or even emotional shut down, this is the body’s natural reaction to coping in uncharted territory.  The nervous system is trying to deal with the level of feeling that is being triggered by such changeable circumstances. It is A LOT to process…so how do we even begin?

Here are some suggestions that you can apply immediately to help yourself and to share with your loved ones and communities:

STAYING PRESENT, meaning ‘be here now’ can help us get ourselves back in touch with our reality in this present moment rather than spiraling into what our mind wants to distract us with. I am not saying we shouldn’t watch the news. It’s important to be well informed but it’s more important to not allow ourselves to be consumed by negativity. Giving ourselves breaks and getting back into the moment can help lighten our inner load and create a calmer state for our well-being.

BREATHE – Sounds so simple (and of course it’s free!) and yet it can be easily forgotten how powerful the natural gift of breath really is. As we are navigating this new terrain, we can find ourselves breathing shallowly yet when we consciously take some slow & deep breaths it can immediately calm our body and mind and help to remind us of what is actually happening in THIS MOMENT. In this moment we can ask: Am I under any present threat? Am I safe? Am I ultimately OK? And then breathe.

MEDITATING – There are many meditation methods available online. A simple technique is finding a comfortable seated position with your back straight and follow your breath with your attention, staying with your own experience (any sensations, feelings, awareness of temperature, sounds etc.). This can again bring calm and presence. And if you find your mind wandering off, guide your attention gently back to your breath and any sensations happening in the body.

CONNECTION – Unfortunately we can’t get physically close to many people right now. There are however many ways to connect, via phone, text or face to face online. Reaching out to relatives, friends and loved ones can help us to remember that we are not alone. Together we can find ways to connect and support each other. Even sending a wave across the road to a neighbour can improve two people’s day!

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY – Anything physical is great to get the blood flowing and our energy moving. Activities such as walking, cycling, gardening, yoga or even dancing (with your headphones on if necessary!). There are also many online classes you can join…even Zumba!

NUTRITION – We all know how the food we eat impacts not only how we feel physically but how we feel emotionally. It can be an added stress to go and shop due to the anxiety around distancing, shortages and line-ups. Pre-planning for what’s needed and staying present can help during these stressful times.

The good news or rather the silver lining of all this is that having such change forced on us on so many levels is allowing us to look at and experience our lives and communities with fresh eyes. Ultimately, becoming present in the moment is an opportunity to trust ourselves and our body’s own intelligence to lead the way.

Connection and support are vital– we’re in this together.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi