Surviving a pandemic

Linda MacIsaac
Rockport, Texas

My Coastal World welcomes Linda MacIssac as a guest author. As a professional counselor with her office in Rockport, she experienced the fury of hurricane Harvey and the stress of living and rebuilding homes and businesses in our communities.

Now Linda offers advice as we live through the changes brought about by COVID-19. As we look forward to moving toward what was normal before, some may feel relief while others may experience anxiety or fear.
Proactively managing our mental health can help us in stressful times and increases our resilience. Here are a few tips you may find helpful.

– If you find yourself with extra time on your hands, make a list of the projects and activities for which you never seem to have enough time. Prioritize the list and don’t forget to include plenty of rest and play. Choose to enjoy having extra time for a change!

– Challenge “what if” thinking loops and the story your brain is creating. You cannot predict the future, regardless of the brain’s desire to do so. Don’t pretend you can. Catastrophizing is making the situation worse than it really is. That only hurts, it never helps. These unhealthy ways of thinking are exhausting to the brain and body and solve nothing. Instead, keep bringing your thoughts back to the present moment. Be where your feet are. Are you okay right now? Remind yourself that many of these things are out of your control. The brain dislikes uncertainty, we must accept the discomfort that goes with that.

– Acknowledge when you feel fear, sadness or anger. These are normal emotions in difficult and stressful times. This is scary and frustrating! Avoid numbing emotions with substances. They’ll just come back even stronger. We are feeling beings. It’s a part of being human. Tolerate the discomfort, it will eventually pass. Talk, write and/or pray about it. Processing them in a healthy way reduces the intensity.

– Learn and practice slow “diaphragmatic breathing” to quickly calm your brain and body. It helps to regulate the nervous system when fight/flight/freeze responses are activated. Practice several times daily and use it when you feel difficult emotions rising. Tell your friends and family about it. Practice this with your kids. There’s even a free app for that – Breathe2Relax.

– Give yourself permission to limit news updates, don’t drown yourself in it. Get what you need, get out and avoid negative Nellies  who are stuck there.

– Check in with elderly or disabled neighbors, friends, and family. Helping others helps us.

– Create simple but powerful statements you can repeat. They are a great way to focus the mind and change the narrative as we cope with stressful situations.

It is what it is.
Even though it’s out of my control, I choose peace.
This too shall pass.
With each breath, I choose to relax.
I give myself permission to
Just for today I will practice
Nothing lasts forever.
One day at a time.
We can do hard things.
We are together, we are strong and we are resilient.

– Remember to practice gratitude often!

Let’s try to make the best of this difficult situation.
Linda M.