Coping With COVID’s Emotional Challenges

Times of crisis – and this pandemic is a global crisis – bring up many difficult practical, as well as emotional, challenges. Beyond shock, they bring us sadness, anger, fear and often a sense of helplessness.

The antidote to helplessness is taking action. Any positive steps empower us regardless of the results of any specific strategy employed. While we cannot control the virus itself, nor many other outside influences, we can control our responses – and that is where our power always lies. Do something right now to make a difference in your mood, your thoughts or your physical reality. (Quantum physics reminds us that any change we make will have great power to shape reality.) All of the subsequent tips presented below will help with the feelings of helplessness, as well as with the targeted difficult emotions and each and every tactic is also mutually reinforcing.

Often, helping others is an effective way to combat feeling impotent, vulnerable and weak. It also distracts us from our own pain and can amp up the “feel good hormones” in the brain when we act altruistically. Make a phone call or FaceTime an isolated or ill person; sign up to make calls for a political campaign/candidate you endorse; volunteer with a crisis or suicide-prevention hotline; write something for a blog (This American Quarantine is currently offering publication of insightful essays); or, donate to a worthy charitable cause, if you are financially able. These are all possible from the privacy and safety of your place of quarantine. Many other opportunities to take positive action for others – and yourself – are in the Help Others section of the Resource Directory on our site.

Many of us feel sadness, grief and anger.

The first thing is to recognize what you’re feeling. It helps to just breathe in and say (aloud or “in your head”) what emotion is coming up for you. For example, breathing in deeply, one might notice and state, “I feel angry,” or, “I notice I’m really sad right now.” Many times just noticing and declaring can help us. (And the breath always does; it can immediately produce changes in brain chemistry that alleviate anxiety and can help us deal with any challenging emotions.) Then, when you’re ready, if often helps to share what we’re feeling with trusted others, whether that’s in person, on the phone or even social media. If, however, the feelings are overwhelming, it’s often beneficial to also speak with a professional. Many therapists are offering online sessions to help people, as described in this linked article from The Chicago Tribune.

Two other great methods for dealing with painful emotions are distraction and physical activity. Just 10 minutes of any movement that can get your heart rate up a bit will entice your brain to produce seratonin and dopamine, two neurotransmitters that help with depression, anxiety and more. More rigorous aerobic activity equals more benefits. And, interestingly, strength training (even with just 1lb, like a can of peas) itself causes the brain to produce an insulin-like hormone that helps all brain functioning, including protecting against memory loss. Try to incorporate a daily walk outside and consider the ways you enjoy being physical. Suggestions, links and more – as always – on the Resource page.

Distraction is appropriate, healthy and even necessary. It is completely okay to “get away” for a while, mentally and physically. In fact, it often helps us to take a break from thinking, worrying, etc. so that when we return to our thoughts (hopefully in a constructive manner) we often find we feel less anxious and worried about them. Many times, a solution suddenly presents itself after taking a break. So, whatever activity you enjoy, we encourage you to just do it, as Nike’s famous slogan says. It could be a long television binge or something more active and creative, such as your favorite hobby. A terrific brainstorm list can be found on the page of the Resource Directory. (Caution: take notice of any tendencies to avoid your feelings or your responsibilities and your life, in general. This can lead to increased feelings of depression, helplessness and wreak havoc in your life.)

Fear is another challenging, yet perfectly normal response. Arm yourself against it with facts and contrary information.

Anxiety is often described as fear of the unknown. With CoronaVirus, there are also very real fears – of illness, loss, financial struggles and more. Unfortunately, there are also many sources of misinformation in the media which can compound our understandable fears. One of the best ways to combat that is to become well-versed in the verifiable facts of the situation (while not obsessing about any of the harsh realities). Much of the news concerning COVID-19 is actually quite positive, and sadly under-reported. People do get better every day, even as some do lose their lives. Healthcare workers and ordinary citizens alike are rising up and demonstrating the power of human ingenuity and compassion every minute of every day. Thankfully, these positive stories are circulating and you can find them shared frequently on most social media platforms, including many local and national news outlets. Boost your mood and resilience with these good news stories. And, remember to share your own feel good posts, whether they’re about cute animals, jokes or stories of recovery, generosity and activism. Negative emotions are contagious, just like a virus; so spread goodness – it works.

This American Quarantine is accepting contributions, too. Consider sharing your sources of good news, healthy distractions and recovery tales with us. We may feature them on the blog, in the directory and/or on the podcast.

You can submit via Twitter, Facebook and e-mail:

~by, Staff.

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