The Virus Scare: Self Care in Stressful Times
THE BIG QUESTION….How do I take care of myself, my family, friends, colleagues –in such a frightening, stressful time? There, unfortunately is no simple straightforward answer to that question, but there are lots of guidelines and they are important…essential!
Pay attention to what qualified and experienced physicians and long time government executives are providing as guidelines. Our national political sources appear to have a “natural tendency” to be self protective and cautious about digging in and getting things done, so the people in your own community, your governor, mayor, and representatives for city and state wide information; your physician or perhaps an area urgent care center; and your own inner circle of informed individuals are the most reliable.
- STAY in if you can; practice physical distancing (social distancing feels to many that it limits talking and staying emotionally connected) but the PHYSICAL DISTANCE of 6 feet is important to be practiced. I acknowledge that gets challenging as you encounter people in the aisle of the grocery or drug store…none the less it’s extremely important. I say “when/where you can” because many of you are still going to work. If so, keep the physical distancing in the foreground of your consciousness. It’s urgent!
- WASH your hands as often as you can and practice the most intentional form of healthy physical hygiene as you can
- Keep all surfaces in bathrooms and kitchens (both at home and at work) wiped down regularly and often. Don’t forget your phone and any other items you touch regularly!
- If you experience symptoms, take your temperature. If you have even a slight temperature isolate yourself even more than you are already doing.
- Call a doctor vs going into an office or emergency room unless your symptoms are severe. And talk to a physician or health care worker for advice on the best course of action.
On the emotional level, while self isolating and/or practicing physical distancing, consider these ideas.
People who are EXTROVERTS:
— outgoing and social, love interaction with others, including all levels of social events –are going to struggle far more with the demands of self distancing and/or self isolating. Because? Extroverts derive energy through interaction with others. They recharge in everything from conversations to parties and meetings and activities that engage them verbally and intellectually and emotionally. NOT BEING ABLE TO DO THESE THINGS becomes draining. It’s like pulling the plug out of the wall socket. There’s no electricity flowing and charging the individual. AND because approximately 75% of the population is made up of Extroverts, lots and lots of people are struggling with the request for social distancing and self isolating.
This is important primarily to keep you from thinking there’s something seriously wrong with you…For Extroverts, anxiety, agitation, frustration, and anger would not be uncommon after long periods of time.
People who are INTROVERTS:
–are almost exactly the opposite, in that they thrive and build energy with alone time — time quite separate from other people — or with just one or two or three others. Consequently they will feel more able to adapt to the requirements we are facing and some will find the enforced alone time much more manageable.
People who are AMBIVERTS:
–fall somewhere in the middle of these two descriptions …consequently they may experience themselves as frustrated but managing. They might prefer being with a group of friends but will more easily adapt to needing to stay in than an extrovert.
TWO basic points:
First, don’t think of your reactions to what’s happening as “crazy” or ask “What’s wrong with me?” We are all different and respecting these differences, especially in your own family (also with colleagues) becomes truly important. ASK your partner/spouse and your kids this question. What makes you feel more energized? Having some quiet time alone or interacting with people/friends? Then talk about the differences that emerge. And make decisions about how to manage differing needs.
Finally, focus ON YOUR THOUGHTS. IN OTHER WORDS, what is swirling around in your head? We all engage in “thought distortions”….these are sentences that are running through the foreground of your mind that you may not “hear” clearly but are nonetheless impacting feelings and behavior. A thought distortion just means you have sentences in your head that make an already challenging situation feel like a disaster.
For example, basic thought: I don’t like needing to self-isolate or practice social/physical distancing. The DISTORTION: It’s AWFUL, and HORRIBLE and I CAN’T STAND IT! The distortion is what is likely going to make you feel extremely stressed, and even a “little crazy.” The task is to catch the distorted thinking, stop it, and imagine you can delete the distortion because it’s NOT THE TRUTH. The truth is real enough: “I don’t like this!” Most thoughts that go beyond that basic statement are likely to be distortions and will make your anxious and depressed feelings far more difficult. The bottom line is to take your situation seriously and avoid making it worse with distorted thinking.
In addition to paying attention to your thoughts try these things: Get regular exercise, follow some form of relaxation or meditation (there are numerous apps for this); eat as much healthy food as you can; try to get good solid sleep. Write about two things: First, list the things you are grateful for; second identify the specific stresses you feel. Create a schedule you can stick with during the day, and reach out to others if you are balancing the needs of several children who are home from school. Ask family and friends and neighbors for some assistance when you need it. And check out on line resources. My website has a wealth of blogs which address all of the above. DrLindaLMoore.com
Finally if you need to talk to someone please give yourself permission to reach out to a professional. I’m working with clients via phone vs in my office, so I’m more available to answer calls. If you want to ask a basic question, need help identifying psychological services in your community, check my website and email me. Or leave a message on my answering service. 816-444-2242. And hang in there …you can do this!
Linda Moore, EdD, is a licensed psychologist practicing in Kansas City, Missouri. She is President of Linda L. Moore and Associates, which offers individual and group therapy, executive coaching, management consulting, and presentations for organizations and associations around the country.