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Staying Healthy (Emotionally): Coping Tips

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Turn off the news and focus on a puzzle for a few hours.

It’s spring break. My children are bored, my eye has started that nervous-twitch thing, and, funny as it might be, none of us really wants to watch another episode of The Office. This is what the coronavirus has done to our season of wildflowers and drinks on the terrace.

I’ll stop myself here. Because I can’t, in good conscience, complain about these silly inconveniences, knowing that there is way more than just inconvenience happening to all of us. I will be the first to admit it: I’m scared to death of this virus and its effects on life as we know it. But I have to think my parenting motto applies here: Humor is key.

Maybe you still want to complain with me? I’m here. Let’s do it.

In the meantime, we’d better figure out this new normal. Besides trying to laugh at it, is there anything we can do to deep-down make ourselves and our people feel a little bit calmer and less anxious in this extraordinary time of uncertainty? Yes, as a matter of fact. Read on.

Keep a Schedule
Even if you’re not going out, get up early. Take a walk. Get dressed like it’s Monday morning, down to the shoes. Make time for lunch or dinner in the backyard. Walk the dog. Do whatever it takes to make sure you don’t wind up on the sofa watching the news all day long.

Tune into Podcasts
Dan Harris released a wonderful one last week via his Ten Percent Happier podcast: “How to Handle Coronavirus Anxiety, Special Edition.” He visits with an anxiety specialist from Harvard and a meditation teacher and offers some really helpful – and some unexpected – tips on how to handle uncertainty. Anxiety specialist Dr. Luana Marques says, “We are all surfing a big, Hawaiian wave right now, and we are not surfers.”

She also suggests an ice cube experiment that she calls a “control-alt-delete for the brain:” Grab two ice cubes and hold them in your hands. She says it cools you and calms you. 

See Dan’s “Coronavirus Sanity Guide,” which has many resources – podcasts to listen to, meditations to try, relaxation techniques to explore.

Put Together a Puzzle
Spread a bunch of puzzle pieces on your dining room table, and I promise at least a few corners will get put together, by someone. Puzzles take focus, which means your brain will be too busy to spin (in theory). They’re also super-satisfying to finish.

Listen to an Anti-Anxiety Lecture Online
The Jung Center offers a long list of lectures to listen to and classes to take online, like “The Wisdom of Uncertainty,” a free, one-hour talk on how to find calm in a chaotic world. Other classes include “Happiness in the Pursuit of Meaning,” and an upcoming livestreamed “Claiming Your Power with Positive Speaking.” See a full list here.

Stress Bake
This is a real thing. Somehow focusing on ingredients, and making something, and perfuming your home with buttery, sugary aromas brings calm. Search your cookbooks and look online for a recipe that looks good, and that you might not fit into a “normal” schedule. You might start with these cookies featured on “Back Porch Table” this week.

Send a Gift in the Mail
Go to your favorite local store’s website and order a gift to be delivered to someone. Some ideas: a puzzle, games, a bottle of sweet-smelling hand soap. A lot of local stores are offering free shipping. Let’s support them!

Play Cards
Bring out an old favorite or try a new game. Search Bicycle Cards’ “How to Play: The Rules of Our Favorite Games” or try “12 Classic Card Games to Teach the Kids” to find ideas. Find more game-night inspiration here

Meditate (the easy way)
You can either go all out, or you can experiment with something like this two-minute “Handwashing Can Be Good for Your Soul, Too” guided meditation from The Jung Center. In the spirit of meditating where you are, try noticing the flower petals and tree leaves when you’re walking around the block, or just do a reset by closing your eyes and taking three deep breaths.

Do Something for Someone Else
The Emergency Aid Coalition put out a call for bread and fruit so that they can continue serving lunches to people in need (call Marian Bryant at 832-859-1065 or Lydia Smith at 713-240-9992 if you can help). Theirs is just one of the many needs in our community right now. Compassion mitigates anxiety; when you do something for someone else, you feel calmer and happier. See more ideas of how to help our neighbors here

Ellen Vora, a holistic psychiatrist, told Goop, “Sleep is the best – and least expensive – anxiety medicine.” 

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