6 Ways to Stay Safe, Sane and Resilient in the COVID-19 Crisis
At Adaptiv, we apply the science of resilience to just about anything that keeps our clients up at night. In this longer than usual post, we’re taking a close look at how to use skills of resilience to navigate the new Coronavirus outbreak. I sincerely hope that this helps a bit as you adjust to the rapidly evolving new normal. Here’s the post:
The three greatest threats to resilience are lack of certainty, lack of information, and lack of control. We may have to navigate one of these factors at a time in our typical day-to-day lives, but with COVID-19 we’ve hit the trifecta.
COVID-19 is now officially a pandemic. And the accelerating pace of closings and cancellations, combined with endless local and national news coverage, is creating massive levels of stress and anxiety. Here are 6 ways to stay safe, sane and resilient as the situation unfolds:
- Banish worst case thinking
We’re wired for the negative, and this crisis is pushing a lot of our buttons. If you Google the ten biggest human fears, Coronavirus activates a bunch of them - like fear of germs, fear of confinement, and fear of death. When we experience a threat of this apparent magnitude, most of us start spinning a web of “future threat” thoughts that aren’t based on reality and that cause us to overestimate the probability of the worst things happening. This kind of thinking ends up makes us feel more nervous and waste energy avoiding low-odds outcomes. The best way to stop this “what if” thinking is to first calm your mind. Try a couple of slow, deep breaths; or some muscle tensing/relaxing; or saying “Stop!” – whatever works for you. Better yet, write your biggest future threat fears down. Seeing your worst case thoughts on paper can take the sting out of them. Then as your head clears, ask yourself a simple question: “What’s most likely to happen, and what’s one thing I can do right now to address it?” Taking action on a probable event reduces worst case thinking and provides a reasonable path back to resilience.
- Replace fear with facts
The fact is that we have been dealing with coronaviruses for years. They are a large family of bugs that cause respiratory infections like the common cold. COVID-19 is a new strain that in most people causes mild symptoms that don’t need special treatment. Although a large percentage of the population will be infected, and too many will die, the vast majority will be sick for a time and fully recover.
The fact is that measures being taken at the local, state and federal levels to slow the progression of the disease are critical to the management of the pandemic. And they're temporary. The disruptions to our professional and personal lives are finite. As the situation unfolds, their depth and breadth should come into focus. Even if this lasts for months, this isn't permanent - even though we might feel like it is!
Staying resilient amidst this extended period of uncertainty demands the discipline to stay informed, follow the facts, and resist the urge to speculate about what we just can't know right now.
- Control what you can
Although it might feel like there’s nothing you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones, this feeling isn't accurate. To stay resilient, you need to focus on what you can control:
As tired as you might be of hearing it, washing your hands often and thoroughly and not touching your face are the most effective ways to keep the virus from entering your body! Keep your distance from anyone who’s coughing or sneezing. Cover your own coughs and sneezes. Stay home if you feel sick.
Keep up – or kick up – your physical exercise, watch your diet and get enough sleep. Not only will you feel better, but you’ll strengthen your immune system was well.
Control the amount of time you spend watching, listening to or reading the news. The 24 hour news cycle is designed to suck us in and keep us in. Try limiting the number of information sources you track – perhaps two or three reliable news feeds. Avoid spending too much time on social media or on the questionable websites where Google searches will often lead you.
- Reach out
Empathy and connection to others are proven ways to build your resilience reserves. Think about a friend or loved one who would benefit from your attention and get in touch with them. Check in on someone who’s older or infirm and see if there’s anything you can do to help. Just one small act of kindness a day is guaranteed to make another - and you - feel better.
- Practice positivity
Resilience isn’t just about feeling less badly. Positive emotion is one of the most effective antidotes to fear, uncertainty and doubt. But if you’re feeling down, worried, frustrated or angry, emotions like happiness or contentment can seem hard to reach. Negative emotion usually stems from thinking about something that happened in the past or worrying about what might happen in the future. To break the negativity cycle, try bringing your thinking into the present. (If you know a mindfulness exercise, this can help you get there.) Next, focus on something positive. It doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, the more general the better. For instance, looking out the window at a beautiful blue sky can be enough to get you on the path to positivity.
At the end of every day, get in the habit of writing down three good things that happened. These don’t have to be big things; something as simple as enjoying a fresh cup of coffee qualifies. If you're having trouble coming up with three good things, make something up! There’s some really good science behind this practice, so trust the process.
- Have a little fun
This might be easier said than done given current events. Start by giving yourself permission to take a break from whatever is wearing you down. Find a little something that relaxes you, loosens you up, makes you smile. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. A crossword puzzle, a You Tube video, a catch with your kids or a walk with your dog, might be enough to top up your resilience tank.
If these tips are helpful to you, please let us know. And please feel free to share anything that works for you. We'll pass in on to our readers.