Moods, Emotions, and Social Distancing
Dr. Valerie Allen
It’s difficult to manage your moods and emotions while adhering to social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Coping with any unusual situation tends to increase stress which leads to anxiety and, in some cases, depressive symptoms.
Families are out of their routines and typical social interactions. Additionally, in this situation, the external world looks the way it always has and this creates a disconnect between what we see, hear, and experience. Most disasters create a strong visual sense of things gone wrong. Our feeling of worry and distress are validated by the obvious destruction— floods, winds, fires, injuries and damaged property—but not so with a virus. Those stricken with the virus are in care or quarantined—hidden from view.
Still, cognitively and emotionally, we are aware of the danger we all face. We listen to reports and see videos of overworked hospital workers and first responders. We hear the names and details of those stricken with this virus. Children are especially unprepared for this level of change in their daily routines. Here is some information to consider during this time of social isolation.
You Should Know
The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly caused major disruptions in your life. If you normally relieve stress by going to the gym, shopping at the mall, or getting together with friends, you might feel isolated and lonely while adhering to social distancing.
Without access to your usual coping tools, it might be more difficult to manage stress and control your mood while experiencing high levels of distress. Social distancing is counter intuitive to your basic need for connection with other people. This connection not only soothes your nervous system, but also strengthens your body’s defenses to stress.
The forced separation due to the COVID-19 pandemic might increase your distress and anxiety as you become more focused on yourself and perceived ‘threats’ around you. Here are suggestions to track your moods and cope with them in positive ways during social distancing. You may need to contact your therapist or physician if your distress is interfering with daily functioning.
What to Do
There are number of things you can do to cope with stress and manage your moods and emotions in healthy ways – while observing social distancing. It will be helpful to organize your day into time blocks of work, virtual/electronic social connecting, and fun or relaxtion activities.
- Connect with friends and family by phone, email, or text.
- Share your concerns and feelings with people you trust.
- Use Face Time to have a video chat with a group of friends or family.
- Play board games with your children.
- Play with your pet..
- Commit to at least one phone call, email, or text per day.
- Many gyms are offering free virtual fitness coaching and exercise videos.
- Stream a fitness video on YouTube.
- Go for a walk, a jog, or a bike ride.
- Lift hand weights or soup cans.
- Practice deep breathing or meditation, using an app or online video.
Express Your Creativity
- Journal, write poetry, your memoir, or the Great American Novel.
- Express yourself through arts or crafts.
- Cook a healthy meal or a special treat.
- Take an online class or watch an instructional video.
- Learn a new language.
- Attend free online virtual museum tours, live streams of concerts (including the Metropolitan Opera), and other entertainment venues.
- Catch up on all those magazines and books you’ve been waiting to read.
Do a Project
- Start a project.
- Complete something you’ve been putting off.
- Reorganize the basement, attic, garage, or storage area.
- Paint a room, clean out the closets, rearrange the kitchen cabinets, wash the curtains, clean the windows.
- Finish a do-it-yourself home repair project.
Observe Your Spirituality
- Attend services at houses of worship via television, streaming services, and online videos.
- View free classes on mindfulness and meditation through Kripalu, Shambhala Mountain Center, and other retreat centers’ websites.
- Practice Yoga.
Adapted from Between Sessions Resources
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Dr. Valerie Allen is a child psychologist in private practice. She has published two children’s chapter books, ‘Summer School for Smarties‘ and ‘Bad Hair, Good Hat, New Friends‘ and a picture book for beginning readers, ‘The Sun and The Moon.’ Her books can be found at Amazon.com/author/valerieallen. Oh yes, she has also raised six children!