Our current local and world situation is certainly unique, and over the past week we have been inundated with information associated with COVID-19 and with warnings to change our social habits to a significant degree.  Of course, this makes us anxious….and it seems reasonable to attend not only to potential health hazards from the virus but also the very immediate and palpable mental health hazards from our response to it.  So here are some tips to address our metal health needs.

1.     An important contribution to our emotional centeredness are anchors; concrete connections to the rhythms and routines that govern our day-to-day lives. For most all of us, many of these anchors are lost; be it the dedication to begin each Sunday at Church, or be part of that retirement group breakfast you go to each Wednesday, or the movie theater you go to every Saturday…..you get the idea; and you can probably provide a long list of your own personal anchors.  To suddenly have all this removed is clearly stressful.  Here’s what you can do:

    Create a new series of anchors.  It will be more helpful if these anchors are scheduled and routinized.  For example, if you can’t go to the gym because it is closed then develop some kind of exercise program at home but try to do it at the same time and the same day(s) of the week.  Monitor what you do by recording the exercises/activities you engage in and develop goals to strive for.

     Perhaps you enjoy music and often attend concerts. If you do, you probably have several CD’s or other mediums for music.  Create your own concerts….and again play these at a designated time and day of the week.  Spend some time organizing and developing a full concert schedule for the next month or so.

     If you now miss dining out and you like to cook, then resolve to cook two special meals each week (again doing so on a fixed schedule).

     Do you like photography?  Make it a point to go outside….say every Thursday at 8:00 A.M….no matter what the weather, and take five pictures.  Then start comparing and cataloging what you have.

     

     The idea in all of this is to develop a weekly schedule that is relatively full, but the secret is to have a good part of this schedule fixed and unyielding, therefore giving you these “anchors” that have been temporarily lost.  It’s calming to have a routine, something to look forward to, and your capacity to follow it gives you a sense of control and autonomy.  In a couple of days I’ll offer another idea.

 

                              Ralph Hesse

                              Retired former New York State Civil Servant Psychologist

                              Current psychology instructor at State University of New York