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Coping with Coronavirus

As we find ourselves in vulnerable and uncertain times emotions are running high, many people have lost their jobs, are getting sick, overwhelmed with anxiety, and relapsing. Worse yet, news commentary is frightening and misinformation pervasive. Like many other mental health professionals, I have noticed an increase in substance abuse, and even relapse in clients. But the reality is it’s not all negative. There have also been an overwhelming number of clients reporting respite in their newfound coping mechanisms. I have made it a point to identify what these people are doing to gather tips that can help others during this time.

Since there is no guidebook to reference for how to deal with this, as a NYC based psychotherapist I’d like to offer some of my observations.

  1. Nourishment. A stable waking up, eating, and sleeping routine is very important and the most common trait among my clients who are coping better with the current situation. Moreover, they are eating healthy and moving around. For some of us in NYC apartments this can mean just doing jumping jacks and burpees for ten minutes.

  2. Gratitude. These clients are expressing consistent gratitude and making a point to say it out loud. Whether it is still having a job, not being sick, having a healthy child, or access to food, these individuals are focusing on all they do have in life in a time of crisis.

  3. Compassion. They are also caring for their neighbors and thinking about how they can help others in need right now. A nearly 95% cut of hotel workers last week, has left many of my clients feeling afraid and confused about next steps, especially their benefits. “Will I have access to my medical benefits after this?” is the most common question I’m getting currently. If you are familiar with how to navigate city and state agencies and resources for people, this can be the biggest help you can offer. If this is not your area of expertise, offer to help your elderly neighbors, buy something online to support your local gym or small business, or donate any personal protective equipment like masks or gloves you may not need to local hospitals. Helping others feels so good and does so much for our mental health- pass on kindness.

  4. Smart information consumption. Clients who are focused on being resilient right now have also determined to keep on a “need to know basis” as far as the news media is concerned. They sign up for alerts in case there is anything they need to know and tune into the bigger announcements. Beyond that, they don’t stick around and watch hours of commentary from television pundits or get wrapped up into social media. They maintain their perspective by sticking to the facts.

  5. Perspective. Comfort in the universality of this pandemic. They have developed a “we are in this together” and “this is bigger than me” attitude. This is the real catalyst for behaviors like helping others and doing so by being the best version of yourself. They are also seeing this time as an opportunity to feel more connected with others and spend time everyday catching up with people on videoconferencing tools such as Zoom, Facetime, or Skype. Some have talked about going back to school or changing careers all together. These people understand that this is a temporary situation, they're focused on doing what is within their control, and also recognize that by staying at home they are doing the most.

Lastly, folks who seem to be the most challenged during this time are feeling that their current situation, e.g. job loss, is a reflection of them. Instead of focusing on things that are in their control—for example staying home, social distancing, and being healthy—the focus seems to be on everything that is not in their control and what they cannot do right now. This mindset needs to change. I don’t want to minimize the mental health impact the virus and quarantines are having now and will have on society in the future, but I also want to highlight the remarkable amount of resilience I am seeing. That's the spirit we need right now. Be vigilant of more vulnerable people around you. Lend a hand where you can. Be kind. Practice self-care.

As we continue to move through this pandemic together I will continue to support my clients and share my observations for tips that can be helpful to get us through this time. Please share any tips you have come across in your personal experience to or send me a tweet with #CopingwithCorona.


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