Are Your Pandemic Coping Skills Working For You?

Beverly Pang
5 min readJan 29, 2021

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Photo by Shuttergames on Unsplash

There Are Always New Ways to be Discovered

Let’s not kid ourselves — it is not easy to find happiness in a global pandemic. Not a single individual on earth has been spared — everyone is affected by COVID-19 in one way or another, only the degree is different. In the past, self-help books were our ticket to salvation. They still offer some guidance, but I have yet to find one that deals with stay-at-home orders.

Stay-at-home literally means we are bounded by our four walls. We feel unmotivated and at times, broken. The choices previously available to cope with stress have fizzled into nothingness. Our usual self is diminishing. We remain a product of what we had achieved, but now grinding our way in life without meaning.

Almost a year into our new normal, we are now characterized by fatigue of all sorts — compliance, news, and lack of livelihood. Our minds are not designed to be in an “ALERT” mode for such a long period of time. With the exception of World Wars I and II, tragic events such as weather catastrophes, terrorism threats only lasted a short period. This pandemic is a real conundrum testing our tolerance and sanity, stretching our unprepared bodies beyond our limits.

Telling ourselves the need to adapt requires willpower and effort. The question now becomes how do we trick ourselves into believing it takes less effort than we think. This is when mind over matter comes into play. People use this phrase loosely but what does it really mean during a pandemic? We need to rely on our mental strength to pull us through, at a time when it is depleting at an exponential rate.

Our minds do have “a mind of its own”. We have to learn how to silence it and not let it take control. Otherwise, negative energy will surround you and impact those around you.

Our society has taught us to mask our emotions, which makes it difficult to be true to ourselves. I am not a therapist but I hope the coping mechanisms listed below can be useful during these difficult times. The first thing to remember is, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. How you are feeling right now there are many others feeling the same pain.

Reset Your Mind

What we feed into our brain can have a spiral effect. Negative thoughts in the form of worry, fear and guilt all come into play more often than we would like to admit. Instead of asking why we feel this way, we have to numb our thoughts and take control of our mind. For example, you feel “trapped”. You can’t breathe, you can’t get out, you feel hopeless. If you let these thoughts continue, you will go down the rabbit hole. You must do a “reset of your mind”. The critical point here is to be conscious of your negative thought, break the cycle, toss it into “trash”, which will enable you to BREATHE. Just like restarting your computer, you are now free to connect to the next screen, leaving the toxic thought behind. When you feel free and can breathe again, you have moved forward. It is all in the mind.

Focus Less on Hurtful Words, More on Minimizing Problem

During these difficult times, people are irrational and can say a lot of things they don’t mean. In most cases they regret it right away even though they may never admit it. Hurtful words will linger longer in your mind even if you know it was said out of anger and frustration.

Don’t add fuel to the fire. Instead, distract yourself and don’t be dragged into the conversation. Talking about something totally different will force the other party to discontinue with the topic, eventually putting the fire out.

Writing

This is my go-to therapy, evidenced by this article! Writing takes me to another world; my mind is free to wander wherever it wants to go. With constant disruption and uncontrollable factors revolving around us, it is an escape plan available at my fingertips. The process doesn’t need to be formal; it can be as simple as starting a journal. Jotting down your frustration is equivalent to reducing its significance, especially during situations where expressing yourself verbally may produce more harm than good. Give it a try and you may be surprised at how effective it can be.

Howie Mandel’s Belief

It was heartwarming to see Howie Mandel, the famous television personality, sharing his thoughts on mental health during a webinar this week. He spoke about his own struggles and encouraged people to reach out even if you believe they may not truly understand you. Getting it out of your system is a very important first step. Howie’s belief is that mental health should be treated with the same level of importance as dental health. After all, if we need to get our teeth checked, we should also get our minds checked. What is working for Howie during the pandemic? He is keeping busy, exercising, and reminds us that fear is inside our own head. Protect your energy from it.

If All Else Fails, Don’t Force It

If you don’t have the time to rationalize the situation at the moment, don’t force yourself — it will just create more anxiety. Transfer the thought as an open file to your mental database for later retrieval. There is a purpose to directing this thought process similar to a file you are working on — ‘transfer’, ‘database’, ‘retrieval’. It puts an impersonal touch to the issue when you are not in the right frame of mind to make a rational decision. When the issue is labelled as impersonal, it creates an invisible barrier in your mind and will allow you to BREATHE, have more control over how you want to handle the matter later when things have calmed.

“These are unprecedented times”. By now, this sounds like a broken record. Humans are creatures of habit and we can’t be expected to change overnight. We all have our own problems, no one is immune. The road in front of us is not forgiving, it will contain many rough patches and each with its own set of surprises.

We all yearn to be back in our comfort zone, revisiting life before 2020. As wonderful as it was, it may no longer be within our grasp and may take on a different form. If we give ourselves the chance to experiment, there will be something more remarkable just around the corner. By spelling “STRESSED” backwards, you will see that hidden treasure is always there in front of your eyes, waiting to be discovered.

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