Written by SMH Oncology Clinical Counselor Elizabeth Bornstein
As communities across the world wrangle with a “new normal” amid the coronavirus pandemic, millions are feeling the emotional and mental weight of this unprecedented time.
A year ago, most of us had never heard of “social distancing” or “shelter at home.” Now, these are the foundation of our everyday reality. Each of us is redefining what daily living looks like — in ways we could have never imagined — wearing masks to shop for essentials, virtual connection instead of human connection, weighing health risks in every decision, and of course, handwashing, handwashing, handwashing.
No matter whether we’re hunkered down at home, serving in a high-risk healthcare role or working another essential job, each of our lives has been impacted.
This sudden global shift comes at a heavy cost: Feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, grief and isolation are widespread.
It’s OK to grieve. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed.
But we also need to make a conscious choice to work through our grief. Tap into our own resilience and the support available to us.
Though we don’t have control in many ways, we can control how we respond to our new reality and take care of ourselves each day. Self-care is essential now more than ever; as we strengthen our emotional selves, we also fortify our immune systems.
What Can We Do?
Focusing on self-care is critical to weathering the upheaval. Make it the foundation of your “new normal,” and remember to put on your own “oxygen mask” first.
“Self-care is never a selfish act. … Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.” — Parker Palmer, author and teacher
Here are some self-care tips and strategies we can all use to successfully persevere through these difficult times.
Check in with Yourself
Take a moment to pause, breathe deeply, be present and stop doing. Clear your mind and become mindfully aware of the here and now. Then ask yourself these questions:
- How am I doing?
- What is going well?
- What is challenging?
- What do I need?
Use your answers to create a daily routine around your own basic needs and create opportunities to boost your own well-being.
Practice a Daily Self-care Routine
A healthy, immune-boosting routine includes focusing on good nutrition and hydration, adequate sleep, exercise, relaxation and stress reduction. This can be done at your own pace and even with existing health challenges. Click below for DIY tips to:
Stay Focused on Boosting Energy + Minimizing Stress & Anxiety
Limit the time you spend watching the news, scrolling social media and talking about the pandemic. Make time to explore helpful coping tools; use them often and interchangeably. Try breathing exercises, meditation or prayer, music, creative practices with writing and art making, spending time in nature, reading, watching light-hearted television or movies, playing games and moving your body.
You can easily find exercise and stretching videos on YouTube that can work for a range of abilities and mobilities. We really like this “Self Quarantine Yoga” video.
And remember: Laughter is good medicine! Find things that make you laugh.
Stay Connected with Others
Make time for joy and to share your feelings and needs with family, friends, coworkers and spiritual advisors. Schedule phone or video conferencing time regularly each week. Connection with others and seeking support are especially important in an isolation situation.
Ask for Help
Find a licensed therapist who is knowledgeable about crisis, trauma issues and the mind-body connection — someone you can trust to help you navigate these trying times. Most providers are continuing to “see” patients using telehealth with video or phone conferencing options.
Ask your primary care physician or therapist whether medications to ease anxiety and depression might be right for you, if you feel you need it.
The more you practice daily self-care, the more you will feel grounded in yourself and breathe easier each day.
Local Help & Resources
Counseling Support: If you or a loved one would like counseling support or help connecting with resources during the coronavirus pandemic, reach out to the Sarasota Memorial Outpatient Behavior Health team at 941-917-2660.
Cancer Patients & Caregivers Support: As Sarasota Memorial’s oncology clinical counselor, I’m available via telehealth to offer support for those coping with the challenges of cancer, as well as their caregivers. The Thrive Oncology Weekly Support Groups for patients and caregivers are now being offered online as well. For more information, reach out to me at 941-917-7293.
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A licensed, oncology and advanced palliative- and hospice-certified clinical social worker, Elizabeth Bornstein, MSSA, LCSW, OSW-C, APHSW-C, oversees and provides oncology counseling at Sarasota Memorial’s Cancer Institute. She has advanced training in mind-body medicine and expressive arts, and has facilitated oncology counseling for nearly two decades.