By: Greg Harrell-Edge
Host, UpBeat Podcast
Executive Director, CoachArt
5 Tips For Coping In A Pandemic
From a psychologist who specializes in families dealing with illness
Dr. Theopia Jackson, chair of the clinical psychology degree program at Saybrook University in Pasadena, CA, has a long history of providing therapy services to families dealing with chronic illness and complex trauma.
In our recent interview for The UpBeat Podcast, I was surprised when she told me that many of the coping mechanisms those families use for navigating the stresses of complicated health situations would also benefit all of us during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
So I wanted to share them here with everyone.
#1. Grieve what you’ve lost
Dr. Jackson said that parents often need to “grieve who they thought their child was going to be, so they can be ready to accept who their child is now.” During this pandemic, we can all use a similar process to let go of our “old normal” to embrace the “new normal.” Though we may mourn the loss of a treasured ritual such as school graduation, by letting go of it we make space for embracing a creative alternative. “It’s not about replacing the old, it’s about letting go. ‘What can I be open to and how can I make it meet my needs at this time?’”
#2. Create a soothing space
“Whether it’s a corner in one room or a space in the backyard, you can decide what makes you feel good and brings you peace.” Dr. Jackson told us it can include cool lighting, living plants, a cherished item, or even an image — anything that lowers your heart rate and stress level and makes your body and mind feel good. For her, it’s a room that features pictures of her ancestors.
#3. Throw a 20-minute pity party
“It’s OK to say ‘I’ve just got to lay my burdens down and cry this out,’” Dr. Jackson told us. “It creates more space to shore myself back up and be ready to do what I need to do that’s in front of me.” Getting out those emotions can be helpful for moving forward.
#4. Get “lost” or “centered” in something
“The times that we’re able to silence the voices in our mind, it calms everything down,” Dr. Jackson said. “A beautiful walk or painting can do it. When our youth turn on music very loud, that’s their age-appropriate way of getting lost in something. For me, looking out my window to see all the greenery calms me. I’m reminded that life is still happening in the midst of this pandemic. Reach for anything you can use to allow yourself the beauty of peace.”
#5. Find the silver lining
Dr. Jackson refers to this as “positioning this pandemic in a strength-based space.” One of the most obvious ways is to think about how we finally have more time! “Our lives are such a hustle and bustle that you couldn’t count how many times people said ‘I wish I had time,’” she said. “Or had the intention of reaching out and connecting with someone or spending more time with their children or a family member, but literally didn’t have time.” She was careful to say this isn’t about minimizing the reality of this pandemic, but rather choosing which elements of it to focus on.
As we were ending the conversation, Dr. Jackson made one last point: when we come out of this pandemic, she hopes that our lives will be “collectively and intentionally different now” because it has made us all slow down and reconnect with who we are. Using these five tips can definitely help make that happen. I’m going to put them into practice. I hope you find them beneficial too!