Last week our article gave several ideas for how to handle the economic stimulus check millions of Americans are set to receive. While an economic stimulus definitely provides relief for many of us, we are still dealing with the fear and anxiety that has come with the existence of the coronavirus.
So, this week we want to focus on something just as important as your finances during this difficult time: your mental health.
In times like these, a mental stimulus check is just as important as an economic stimulus for your well-being.
First, we want to provide you with some facts about the status of things as we currently understand them. Of course, these will change as time goes on.
Next, we want to offer you some hope, as well as some tools to build resilience and help you cope with the overwhelming emotions we’re all experiencing.
Consider this your mental stimulus check.
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Current Coronavirus Facts
There are a host of articles about the coronavirus in the mainstream media. People are struggling to make sense out this information and most are feeling overwhelmed.
First and foremost, we’d like to share some of the facts.
The World Health Organization named the coronavirus as a pandemic since the spread of the virus has been fast and global.
Experts state that Covid-19 is a SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus. The first SARS virus outbreak was in 2002 in Asia, and the second SARS outbreak was in Saudi Arabia (called MERS).
Covid-19 originated in China in late December and has been spreading around the globe since. Unfortunately, most countries did not take timely precautions to tackle this threat.
Unlike most disasters with clear visible and quantifiable damage, this pandemic quietly continues to infiltrate communities around the globe. Its invisibility makes it difficult to develop a plan of recovery at this stage.
At present, the U.S. is the epicenter. The numbers are staggering, and the predictions are concerning to all of us. The higher the number of tests we conduct, the higher the number of cases detected (you can see current cases in the U.S. and around the world here).
As a response to try and help contain the virus, the majority of the nation has been shut down. Currently, 14 states have shut down schools for the remainder of the year, and all states have closed schools until at least the end of April.
Furthermore, 42 states have implemented statewide stay-at-home orders.
This is an unprecedented event and has impacted the nation and the world to an extent that most of us have never experienced. We are bombarded with information wherever we turn. We know exactly what’s going on around us, and yet, we can’t see the virus and we don’t really know how close it is. All of these factors converge to form severe anxiety within us.
But the truth is anxiety and fear will not help us find a solution. These emotions will only make us sick both physically and mentally.
Coping with our emotions during this time is easier said than done, but there is hope and there are ways we can build resilience.
There Is Hope
Yes, there is hope.
First of all, the whole world is working relentlessly to control this virus by reconfiguring social life as well as finding remedies, both short-term and long-term.
Among the known cases more than eighty percent do not require hospitalization. Out of the remaining twenty percent, most cases are treatable.
At present, most of the countries around the globe have taken measures to curtail the spread of the virus. As a result, the spread is slowing down. We are flattening the curve in many areas, which helps avoid overwhelming our healthcare systems.
Today we are living in a world with advanced technology and science compared to a hundred years ago. We can remain connected to our friends and loved ones, albeit through a computer screen. Many services have been discounted or offered for free.
Until we find a cure for this virus, we must practice what the health professionals are recommending, social distancing and good hygiene.
In truth, many of us can comfortably ride this pandemic out. It’s also true many are struggling for a variety of reasons. Even if we’re relatively comfortable and safe, we are all struggling in some capacity and have had our own crises to deal with.
No matter how fortunate we are, each of us is impacted and living through a traumatic event. As a result, we really need to focus on coping with our emotions and strengthening our minds in order to deal with our fear and anxiety.
A healthy mind can heal many of our emotional troubles and actions associated with it.
Mental Stimulus Check: How Do We Build Resilience and Emotional Regulation Skills?
One of the best things we can do during times of crisis is to strive to build resilience and positive ways to cope with our emotions.
The information we’ll present next is from a training that Tawnya is completing to help in her work as a teacher. More detailed information can be found in the book Onward by Elena Aguilar or at Onward the Book.
Building Resilience Through Optimism
Resilience is how we deal with the challenges in our lives, as well as how we bounce back after adversity.
The goal is to thrive, not just survive.
The good news is that resilience isn’t something you either have or don’t have. It’s something you can build.
While there are a host of habits and attitudes that resilient people practice (12 according to Elena Aguilar’s research), the one we want to focus on is optimism.
Attempting to be optimistic is especially vital in dealing with our current reality and will help provide you a mental stimulus check.
Being optimistic does not mean you blind yourself to the realities we face, but rather, you look to see the opportunities or bright spots. Being optimistic also means you understand and accept that things can be unfair or difficult, but also that things such as the pandemic are outside your control and temporary.
Furthermore, being optimistic during these times means looking for solutions, appreciating things, letting go of things beyond your control, and avoiding negative people.
Coping With Strong Emotions
Trying to look on the bright side is one thing but dealing with strong negative emotions is another.
The reason it’s so difficult to deal with these strong emotions is because we can’t access the parts of our brain that help us think rationally when we’re overwhelmed.
To do so, we must get ourselves back to a place where we can regulate our emotions. Only then can we deal with things logically and practice optimism.
So, how do we regulate our strong emotions?
The following are two simple strategies presented in the training. The goal of each is to calm our bodies and brains so that we can rationally deal with whatever we’re facing.
Research has shown that as little as 5 slow deep breaths can reset your system. There are a plethora of deep breathing strategies out there, but no matter what method you choose the key is to make the exhale longer than the inhale.
This strategy helps you focus on the things around you in order to let the emotion subside. First, take a couple deep breaths, then name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
Practice one of these emotion regulation strategies any time you begin to feel yourself becoming overwhelmed to help bring yourself to a calm, rational state.
Once you’re there, explore the root of your emotions, try to find solutions, and be as optimistic as you can.
Other Mental Stimulus Check Tips
Aside from building resilience and emotion regulation skills, there are many other measures that we can take every day to help strengthen our mind and better prepare us to deal with adversity.
- Use positive self-talk. Believe in yourself and say, “I am capable of doing the right things to confront this situation.”
- Consume food with nutrients that boost your brain. Don’t forget dark chocolate also nourishes your brain cells!
- Watch inspirational videos and listen to empowering presentations. It can enhance your mental power.
- Take breaks from consuming news media or seek out only small chunks of information. The news is naturally skewed toward the negative and consuming too much can quickly lead to overwhelming negative emotions.
- Choose one or two things you can do today to help the situation. This will help you avoid overwhelm.
- Exercise every day! You can still go out for a walk. At home you can do yoga, floor exercises, and aerobics and dance using YouTube or other streaming videos.
- Learn something new while you are at home. When you are yearning for knowledge you become more open-minded. It improves your ability to empower yourself and deal with unfamiliar situations.
- Continue your social life through social media and other communication platforms. Unlike even 20 years ago, today we have the technology to socialize and entertain ourselves. Use it.
- Time to quit bad habits. For many, this situation naturally encourages people to continue their bad habits. So, take a deep breath and ask yourself, “Am I doing better or worse by not doing some of my usual stuff?”
- Take advantage of this lock out time and refresh your thought process and rearrange your priorities. It will help you focus on the most important things first. You will have a fresh and strong start after this pandemic is over.
- Continue to engage in your passions as much as you can. Find things that are fun and make you happy.
- Take time to meditate. Find your alone time every day and cherish it.
- Prepare a working budget. It is essential during times like this. Prioritize your expenses if you have reduced income and with the new normal.
Moral of the Story
Try not to get overwhelmed by every day statistical data.
Many states have shown great progress in the last two weeks due to just instituting social distancing.
The entire world is working together to find effective medicines to minimize the impact of the coronavirus both short-term and long-term.
There is hope, and there are things you can do to give yourself a mental stimulus check and help yourself through this difficult time.
Two impactful things you can start today are to build resilience through optimism and to practice emotion regulation skills to help you cope with the strong emotions we’re all experiencing.
Do things that boost your mental health to nourish your thought process and decision making.
Continue social distancing and take expert advice seriously.
Remember, this is an unprecedented traumatic event that the entire world is experiencing. All your emotions are okay and normal but try not to let them rule your everyday existence.
Make sure you provide yourself a mental stimulus check as often as needed.
We will get through this.
Talk about Resilience Earned.