Guest Author: Annabelle Harris - Strategies to Cope Better With Long-Term COVID-19 Life Changes
COVID-19 has caused major life changes for every human on the planet. No one has been sheltered from the large-scale shifts that have been necessary to combat the spread of the illness. In addition to these safety measures, the consequences of the pandemic (e.g., job loss, loss of loved ones from COVID-19, loneliness) have proved damaging for the mental health of hundreds of millions across the globe.
Although progress is being made toward ending the pandemic, there are still long-term life changes that many of us are still working through. This is often especially true for people in managerial positions, who are seen as some of the most stressed people on the planet. If you’ve been working to overcome symptoms of anxiety and depression that have been aggravated due to the pandemic, here are a few helpful coping strategies to consider.
Reframe ongoing limitations
While some restrictions have eased, others are likely to be in place at least until the end of the year. This includes working from home, wearing a mask, virtual schooling, and the like. No matter how much you might dislike these ongoing limitations, resisting them will only contribute to additional stress.
In counselling, one of the best tools to use in a situation like this is cognitive reframing. A concise definition of this technique is one that “help[s] create a different way of looking at a situation, person, or relationship by changing its meaning.” When you shift the way you look at ongoing pandemic-related limitations, you can feel better and improve your mental health.
What does reframing look like in practice? If you are disappointed that a favourite store, restaurant, or destination remains closed, you might think about how the closure negatively impacts your life. However, you can reframe the situation by thinking of how this helps protect the employees, or consider how many people the closure could be saving. Additionally, if your kids are still going to school online, you might be counting down the days until in-person instruction resumes. Instead of worrying, reframe the situation to be thankful for how much extra time you’ve been able to have with your children
Strive for “normalcy” where possible
With pandemic-related restrictions beginning to lift throughout the country, and tens of millions already having received the COVID-19 vaccine, it is getting somewhat easier to take care of important tasks. Particularly tasks that have become a must to move forward in your life. If you have been waiting to make another major life change — such as purchasing a car or a home or starting a business — following through as planned can provide a feeling of normalcy.
Striving for normalcy where possible can do wonders for your mental health. For example, if your family has become stretched to the brink because of a smaller home, you don’t have to put off buying a new house until the pandemic is over. If you’re financially prepared, jump into the home buying process. Check out market insights and get an idea of trends you can expect to see before deciding where to move, and take in-person tours (when permitted and safe to do so). Safely taking advantage of shifts toward a more normal day-to-day routine can foster hope and excitement for the future.
Write a daily gratitude list
Actively being grateful for the good things in your life can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. In fact, scientific studies have shown that writing out gratitude lists can improve your physical and psychological health, enhance relationships, improve sleep quality, and foster a greater sense of compassion.
If you catch yourself ruminating on the negative more often than not, it is definitely time to create the daily habit of writing a gratitude list. Each morning or evening, create a list of (at least) 10 things you are grateful for. Set a reminder for yourself to do this each day so that you can experience the fullness of a robust gratitude practice.
If starting a business is in the cards for you, jump in and start putting down tangible plans on paper with a business plan. Starting researching on the many ways you can hit the ground running, such as creating a solid budget plan or choosing a business structure like an LLC that limits your personal liability without complicated paperwork and taxation.
Indeed, making plans for the future is the best way to keep going. From planning a family vacation to deciding where you’ll enjoy your first meal out to starting a business can lift your spirits, improve your mood, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and give you something to look forward to. And we can all use plenty of that right now.
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