As we continue to adapt to stay-at-home orders and social distancing, you may be feeling more anxious, stressed, and lonelier than before the these orders were put in place. If you're missing in-person contact and physical touch, like a really good hug from your best friend, you're not alone. We may not be able to change the current state of the coronavirus pandemic, but if you are feeling lonely, there are ways to cope with and manage your emotions.
Tip #1: Try and Accept What Is Right Now
Instead of trying to solve the problem (the coronavirus pandemic), Jor-El Caraballo, LMHC, cofounder of Viva Wellness in Brooklyn, New York, said to focus your attention on how to best manage the emotions you're experiencing since the problem can't be solved. There isn't a one-size-fits-all method to manage your emotions, and he explained that it will take trial and error to find what works best for you.
"Sometimes one of the things that happens first is that we cause a lot of extra tension because we're rejecting something so much, and that actually keeps us from problem solving and managing," Caraballo explained. By fighting the present circumstances, you may end up feeling worse because you're focused on what you don't have and what you can't do, "then you never get to the place of looking at your actual options to make it better," he continued.
To help manage any negative emotions you may be experiencing at the present moment, Caraballo said your goal should be to get to a place of acceptance and to try and do the best that you can for the time being. Without this approach, you won't be willing to try other things that will help you manage your feelings, according to Caraballo.
Tip #2: Think About What Makes You Feel the Most Connected to People
When it comes to managing emotions like loneliness and feeling disconnected from your friends and family, Caraballo recommends thinking about the modes of communication that make you feel more connected to people such as FaceTime or texting. The most important thing is to choose a mode of communication that you enjoy, that you're comfortable with, and that you're adept at "and then leaning into that a little bit more," Caraballo suggests.
Doing so will more than likely make you feel better both during and after the conversation. According to Caraballo, people are missing rituals and routines that go along with socializing with people in person, and because of this, he recommends scheduling your calls, adding themes, and even virtually playing games to make these moments feel more special.
Tip #3: How to Enjoy Time Alone With Yourself
There's nothing wrong with binge-watching popular shows like Tiger King and random YouTube videos when you aren't catching up with friends and family or working, but Caraballo recommends also spending time doing things that stimulate your brain. "If you devote your time to something — not necessarily to be productive but to just occupy your time — that requires real mental energy, it actually creates the opportunity for your brain not to worry and not to think about how lonely you are," he said.
For example, you can use this time to complete a puzzle, learn a new skill like knitting, play Sudoku, or sign up for a free online class. Work on a business plan if you have the energy, and if you don't, play a fun game instead. "If you feel like you can be productive, great, if not, that's OK," Caraballo reassured.
It's more important to have something you can focus on that requires "real presence" to help manage your emotions, he explained. Additionally, you can manage emotions like anxiety and stress with these expert tips, by journaling, exercising, and by working with a licensed therapist. As we all continue to adapt to social distancing, remember that it's OK to feel whatever you're feeling and to be kind to yourself. These tips are not meant to replace anything you're doing to manage your mental health, so be sure to speak with a licensed professional if you have any concerns or questions.