April 25, 2020

Living Your Best Life During COVID-19

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​I know everyone is getting a lot of information about the coronavirus. As a therapist, I get information from other therapists around the globe on resources and approaches for dealing with  life stress caused by this pandemic.  This is especially important as the conformed number of deaths doubles over 7 days worldwide; and doubled in the United States in 3 days (as of March 21st, 2020).  There have been 7,616 deaths in the US as of April 5th, 2020. Many people are experiencing anxiety about COVID-19, and many are also experiencing anxiety about all the life changes that are taking place with businesses closing. So what can we do to have the best life we can during this time?  Here are some best take away’s for managing your life and relationships during COVID-19. 

What you can do?

My favorite approach to facing the corona virus has been the eBook produced by Russ Harris, which is based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. You can find the link to the eBook under section titled “Free Resources” below. The following is based on the acronym FACE COVID:

  1. Focus on what you can do
    1. This is such a stressful time. Instead of focusing on all the things you can’t control, try to remind yourself what you can control. You can control how you spend your day today and what important relationships you invest in.
    2. ​​You can also control how you care for yourself and others. Here are the World Health Organization’s Recommendations:
      1.  Only share information from trusted sources.
      2. If you feel unwell, stay at home and call your healthcare provider. 
      3. Disinfect surfaces you regularly use. 
      4. Cover your cough with the bend of your elbow.
      5.  Avoid contact with people who are vulnerable. And if you can’t, wear a mask
      6.  Avoid touching your face, eyes, mouth, and nose. 
      7.  Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
  2. Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings
    1. Denial doesn’t help. Research says that acknowledging and naming thoughts and emotions can help calm the emotional whirlwind. Knowing what you are thinking and feeling can help you determine how to respond effectively. 
  3. Come back into your body
    1. When you are feeling more emotional, notice the physical sensations in your body. What is the texture of this emotion? What are you physically touching? What do you see around you? Try to notice your surroundings with each of your five sense (sight, sound, taste, touch, smell). 
  4. Engage in what you are doing
    1. This one is all about mindfulness! When you have distracting thoughts, acknowledge them, and then return back to focusing on what you are doing. Make sure to engage in activities that you find pleasant and that are personally meaningful to you.
  5. Committed action
    1. Commit to using this time for activities that are meaningful to you. Maybe that is investing in quality family or relationship time. Maybe that is physical fitness or learning something new. Being more isolated due to social distancing is hard; how can you make the time useful and effective based on what is important to you?
  6. Opening up
    1. There will likely be a mixture of difficult, uncomfortable, or painful emotions during this time. For many, this has already been the case. Opening yourself up to the emotions and practicing kindness in response to the emotions will help. We all will need a little more kindness–especially when our inner critic pops up. 
  7. Values
    1. Committed action should be based on your personal values. Maybe it is important for you to be caring, patient, honest, kind, or humorous–or maybe it is important to act in another way. Some questions to determine you values in this situation might include: What type of person do you want to be as you go through this crisis? How do you want to treat yourself and others? The answers can guide you through this time. 
  8. Identify resources
    1. Find resources for assistance and help. This could include you family and friends to government assistance and local resources from social service agencies. Try including a list of emergency numbers, etc.
  9. Disinfect and physically distance
    1. Lastly, it may seem obvious, but wash your hands regularly and distance as much as reasonably possible. Keep in mind that physical distance is not the same as emotional distance. It will be important to stay emotionally connected during this time. 

​How COVID-19 May Impact Relationships:

What you can do?

My favorite approach to facing the corona virus has been the eBook produced by Russ Harris, which is based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. You can find the link to the eBook under section titled “Free Resources” below. The following is based on the acronym FACE COVID:

  1. Focus on what you can do
    1. This is such a stressful time. Instead of focusing on all the things you can’t control, try to remind yourself what you can control. You can control how you spend your day today and what important relationships you invest in.
    2. ​​You can also control how you care for yourself and others. Here are the World Health Organization’s Recommendations:
      1.  Only share information from trusted sources.
      2. If you feel unwell, stay at home and call your healthcare provider. 
      3. Disinfect surfaces you regularly use. 
      4. Cover your cough with the bend of your elbow.
      5.  Avoid contact with people who are vulnerable. And if you can’t, wear a mask
      6.  Avoid touching your face, eyes, mouth, and nose. 
      7.  Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
  2. Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings
    1. Denial doesn’t help. Research says that acknowledging and naming thoughts and emotions can help calm the emotional whirlwind. Knowing what you are thinking and feeling can help you determine how to respond effectively. 
  3. Come back into your body
    1. When you are feeling more emotional, notice the physical sensations in your body. What is the texture of this emotion? What are you physically touching? What do you see around you? Try to notice your surroundings with each of your five sense (sight, sound, taste, touch, smell). 
  4. Engage in what you are doing
    1. This one is all about mindfulness! When you have distracting thoughts, acknowledge them, and then return back to focusing on what you are doing. Make sure to engage in activities that you find pleasant and that are personally meaningful to you.
  5. Committed action
    1. Commit to using this time for activities that are meaningful to you. Maybe that is investing in quality family or relationship time. Maybe that is physical fitness or learning something new. Being more isolated due to social distancing is hard; how can you make the time useful and effective based on what is important to you?
  6. Opening up
    1. There will likely be a mixture of difficult, uncomfortable, or painful emotions during this time. For many, this has already been the case. Opening yourself up to the emotions and practicing kindness in response to the emotions will help. We all will need a little more kindness–especially when our inner critic pops up. 
  7. Values
    1. Committed action should be based on your personal values. Maybe it is important for you to be caring, patient, honest, kind, or humorous–or maybe it is important to act in another way. Some questions to determine you values in this situation might include: What type of person do you want to be as you go through this crisis? How do you want to treat yourself and others? The answers can guide you through this time. 
  8. Identify resources
    1. Find resources for assistance and help. This could include you family and friends to government assistance and local resources from social service agencies. Try including a list of emergency numbers, etc.
  9. Disinfect and physically distance
    1. Lastly, it may seem obvious, but wash your hands regularly and distance as much as reasonably possible. Keep in mind that physical distance is not the same as emotional distance. It will be important to stay emotionally connected during this time. 

​How COVID-19 May Impact Relationships:

The isolation from social distancing and the worries about finances can have a large impact on your relationship with yourself as well. You might find yourself feeling more sad or anxious. You might notice more hopeless thoughts or self critical thoughts. The acronym FACE COVID can be applied here too. Acknowledging and opening up to thoughts and emotions; coming back into your body and the present moment; engaging in what you are doing; and committing to treat yourself with acceptance and kindness (or other values related to your self care that you find important)–these will help you be thoughtful about the relationship you want with yourself during this time. Maybe ask yourself, how do I want my future self to look back and think about how I treated myself, or took care of myself, during COVID?

How COVID-19 Relates to Military Life:

Each military individual, couple, and family will have a different experience through all of this. Some military members are working longer hours, others are home, some working from home, and some having very unpredictable schedules. For those whose spouses are deployed, there is extra anxiety about managing family life while a partner is gone, and also the extra worries related to fears of someone contracting coronavirus. This is where the F of FACE COVID will be very important. So much of military life can’t be controlled; focusing on what can be controlled will help. 

Free Resources:

     

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    About Author

    Elizabeth Polinsky is a Certified Emotionally Focused Couple Therapist (EFT) providing EFT marriage counseling in the states of Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Nevada. She also provides EFT training and supervision to therapists looking to become certified in EFT Couple Therapy. As a military spouse, she has a special passion for working with military and veteran couples, and is also the host of The Communicate & Connect Podcast for Military Relationships.

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