One message that we are all hearing over and over again is that the current state of affairs is going to last for a while. It’s clear that, from an emotional endurance point of view, we are looking at a situation that is more of a marathon than a sprint. With that in mind, here are some tips for managing your emotional and mental health while living and working with the pandemic.
- Make room for grief – Last week, the Harvard Business Review published an excellent article entitled, “That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief.” (https://bit.ly/2wI6uhC) It explained that due to the range of losses resulting from the pandemic (income, routine, sense of safety, human connection, life) we are in a collective state of grief. Grief has different stages. There’s denial, anger/blame, bargaining, sadness/depression, and acceptance/renewal. We are all cycling through these feelings on an hourly, daily or weekly basis. Making room for grief means that when you feel enraged by a co-worker who arrives late for a conference call, you realize that your reaction may not just be about his tardiness. It may also be your experience of grief.
- Take time to rest – One of the best ways to address feelings of grief and to protect your immune system is through rest. Rest is accomplished whenever we turn down the volume on our digital lives, and engage in something restorative. Rest can involve a good night’s sleep, a daytime nap, a walk outside, an exercise or yoga routine, 10 minutes of meditation, cooking, or a chat with a friend. You may feel rested when you listen to music, play an instrument, take a bath, read a book, or watch your favorite movie or video. Whatever restores your energy and relaxes your brain, schedule time to do it.
- Practice compassionate self-discipline – Given the degree of upheaval that you are probably experiencing, it may be challenging to be as self-disciplined as you were pre-Corona. Compassionate self-discipline encourages you to maintain as many healthy practices as you can — wake up at the same hour, dress for work, eat well (if you can), exercise, meditate, plan your day. At the same time, compassionate self-discipline understands that there may be days and circumstances when all of those practices get kicked to the curb. Compassionate self-discipline aims to keep you healthy without beating you up.
- Forgive yourself and others for slips – We are all living under extremely stressful times, and each person’s stressors are slightly different. It’s important to understand that you and the people in your life (coworkers, bosses, family members, friends) are probably having emotional slips from time to time. Feelings of fear, anger, anxiety and sadness may morph into harsh remarks, obsessive behavior, forgotten promises, shut down emotions, and heated arguments. This is a time to take a deep breath and let go of things said in the heat (or cold) of the moment. Chances are that you and the people in your life are emotionally exhausted; everyone is doing the best that they can.
Katherine Crowley – Career Therapist and co-owner of K Squared Enterprises
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