By Nanci Nilles Psy. D.
As we approach the pandemic’s year milestone, it is important to note many of us are experiencing emotional and physical fatigue, irritability, and overwhelm. Months of vigilance for our health and safety, disruption of daily routines, and social isolation have stressed our nervous systems and depleted our emotional and physical resources (Turmaud 2020).
Thankfully, there is a lot of literature available about navigating challenging times. A consistent message is to keep socially connected; get your sleep; maintain good nutrition; regulate social media; take a news break (Turmaud 2020). Excellent recommendations.
I want to add to this wisdom with the following tools, which may be a valuable addition to your self-care skill set.
One such tool is staying in the present moment. No small task as internal and external distractions bombard us daily, causing our minds to race to the future or the past. A good question to ask oneself is, “What is most important now?” This question directs the attention to the present moment, creating a focal point. And having a focal point often helps to tune out noisy thoughts or a stressful news cycle (Athey 2021.)
The challenge of staying attuned to the present is redirecting attention when it wanders. Rather than criticizing yourself for an inability to sustain attention, it is more effective to accept that you will need to bring it back to the present moment.
Mindfulness and meditation develop this refocusing muscle. Another method is to adopt this daily practice: acknowledge a distraction by thinking “hello” to it. And then letting the distraction go by bidding it “good-bye.”
We often hear how isolation is one of the main struggles of the pandemic. Keeping regular contact with our support system is the best way to break this isolation. As an adjunct to personal connection, it can be helpful to “find your heroes.” This tool involves regularly reading, viewing, interacting with people or ideas who inspire or uplift you.
In challenging times, when there are multiple ways for the media to influence our outlook, we must choose the messages which will energize us rather than bring us down (Firestone, L 2021.)
In these challenging times, we can actively choose to break out of living in crisis mode by practicing self-care regularly. And in doing so, may we find more moments of resilience and calm.
Athey, A (2021, January 14) “How to Weather Psychologically Toxic Conditions” Psychology Today.
Firestone, L (2021, February 1) “Nourishing Your Resilience in Hard times” Psychology Today.
Turnaud, D.(2020, June 21) “Why Survival Mode Isn’t the Best Way to Live.” Psychology Today.