Getting Through This
Earlier this week, Director of Human Resources John Tiebout sent a thoughtful memo on how to deal with some of the lesser talked about yet more difficult moments of the situation we find ourselves in. An edited version appears below.
There has been a lot in the media about practical steps to take in order to diminish our chances of contacting the coronavirus. Frequent hand washing, using hand sanitizer when soap and hot water aren’t available, staying in, physical distancing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, etc. But there hasn’t been a lot out there about handling the inevitable emotional effects of all of this—the fear of our loved ones and ourselves getting sick, the fear for our financial well-being, anger at how our lives have been disrupted, and deep sadness for those who are already affected and suffering.
Here are some thoughts about steps you can take to help yourself get through the emotional side of all of this:
Acknowledge to yourself and those around you that this is going to be pretty tough, and may be pretty tough for a while.
Think back on inner resources and skills you’ve used to get through tough times in the past. You know how to do this. You really do. It's in your DNA.
You know how when we’re flying the flight attendants remind us to put our own oxygen masks on first, before helping others with theirs? The reason for this is that if we don’t have a supply of oxygen, we’re not going to be able to help those around us. The same thing is true with the coronavirus. Know that a big part of being able to help family and friends is taking care of your own basic needs.
- Drink plenty of water
- Don’t drink plenty of alcohol. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which means it impairs and slows the activity of the nervous system. Who needs that?
- Try to get at least as much rest as you normally do.
- Eat well.
- Get exercise. Safely, of course. Six feet away from everyone else getting exercise.
Avoid overconsumption of coronavirus coverage. It’s easy to become glued to CNN or Fox or whatever your preferred source is and become overwhelmed. As with all things, moderation. You want to stay informed and know what you need to know and once you've done that, watch a Yankees rerun (they only show the games they won).
Cut yourself some slack
This is hard, no question.
- Try not to beat up on yourself for being confused, or sad, or frightened. Those feelings are all essential parts of feeling lousy when bad things are going on in your life and around you.
- The trick is to allow those emotions to come and go. Notice what you’re feeling, notice how your body is feeling what you’re feeling, and then let it go. Try to be on the sidewalk observing your emotional traffic—it’s a safer place than being in the middle of the street.
- Suffering comes from beating up on yourself for feeling lousy. So what we’re saying is feel lousy when you feel lousy, but try not to make it worse by feeling lousy about feeling lousy.
- Practice gratitude. There’s been some interesting research over the last few years showing that simply acknowledging what you’re grateful for is helpful in combatting anxiety and depression. They say writing it down helps.
Cut your friends and loved ones and colleagues some slack
During times of crisis, we sometimes have to shift to a new gear in order to get through it. Some of us may become short-tempered, some of us may get bossy, some of us may withdraw. Taking a deep breath or two or three instead of going off on our family members and friends for acting weird or different or obnoxiously can help us all stay in each other’s corners.