What Coronavirus Can Teach Us About Slowing Down and Re-Connecting
By: Michael Barr, Director of Outpatient Services at Sonora Behavioral Health

As the coronavirus spreads, executive orders to “stay-in-place,” the closure of schools, daycare centers, workplaces, restaurants, and gyms; self-isolation has become the primary defensive strategy for “flattening the curve.” Being the social animals we are, self-isolation does go against the grain and creates a huge disruption in our everyday lives.

Perhaps this ‘new normal,’ can force us to establish a new rhythm by slowing down and shifting the way we manage our day.

To embrace that mindset is easier said than done for most. Research on the psychological toll of social distancing during epidemics is limited, however a recent study detailed by Psychology Today, provides insight by examining extreme forms of social distancing during outbreaks of SARS, H1N1 flu, Ebola and other infectious diseases since the early 2000s. Most of the individuals that were quarantined experienced long- and short-term mental health issues including stress, insomnia, emotional exhaustion, substance abuse and even PTSD.

It’s important to remember that while this seems overwhelming and like there is no end in sight, it will pass. Try and reflect on other stressful situations you’ve been through before and process the ways you were able to overcome and get to the other side.

Here are some reminders:

  • be kind to yourself and allow for grace
  • it’s ok to feel anxious about safety for yourself, your family, friends and even strangers
  • focus on the positive things around you and the situations that you do have control over
  • sadness, grief, anger and confusion are normal reactions

Trying to find the balance of embracing the “new normal” and yet keeping things as consistent and familiar as possible can be tricky – but it’s important.

Whether we like it, or not, we are being forced to re-connect with the basics. Back to simpler times when there wasn’t as much on our plate and we had more time. We can embrace this opportunity by appreciating these days and seeking small wins. Further, we also may discover we are more capable than we thought – necessity is the mother of invention . . . right?

This begs the question; how do we make the most of this situation and what can we learn?

Even though it may appear the only option is to isolate in our homes, there remain options. First, and foremost of these choices, is how you elect to cope with the isolation. Attitude is everything.

The following can make a world of difference in how you manage the solitude:

  • limit the time you spend watching media coverage about COVID-19
  • establish a daily schedule of activities to include meetings, meals, school and/or work activities and alone time
  • talk often about your feelings and what’s on your mind
  • utilize the time to reconnect and strengthen as a family unit
  • seek help from a counselor who can help you process your feelings
  • maintain a healthy diet, get enough rest, stay active, meditate
  • stay in close contact with family and friends
  • identify opportunities for accomplishment that you have been putting off or avoiding

The key to successfully navigating the current crisis is to stay alert and remember the human spirit is resilient and resourceful. Be vigilant of your surroundings, your feelings and those of others. View this isolation is an opportunity to slow down and check-in with our loved ones, both in the home and through social media. Let’s turn this around and use COVID-19 to make us stronger as individuals, families and communities.