Has anyone else been thinking lately about the endless ways that life can challenge us? Because I sure have. Whatever negative events you may have imagined happening in your future, the coronavirus pandemic was probably not one of them.
It seems that the current state of our world, replete as it is with quarantines, stay-at-home orders, closed businesses, lost projects, and social distancing leaves probably about 90% or more people feeling alone, uncertain and lost.
As a psychologist who specializes in the effects of Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN on adults, I can tell you that scores of people have brought a big dose of those 3 feelings forward from their childhoods and have been coping with them for years. And now, in this current situation, we are now handed an extra dose of them plus a whole lot more.
Whether you grew up in a family that ignored the emotions of its members (CEN) or not: If you are stuck at home, feeling stressed, lost, confused, terrified, alone, helpless or hopeless, sad, worried, or angry, I want you to know that there is a way to turn this around for yourself.
The Importance of Control in an Uncontrollable Time
Much of this situation is truly out of your control, but not all of it. It is possible to reframe your current situation into an opportunity. An opportunity to do things you were never able to do because of time, stress, and all the life demands that you’ve always been juggling.
I believe you can survive the challenges of this pandemic. But I want you to do better than survive. I want you to keep on growing in surprising ways. I want you to thrive.
Not all of the ideas I’m going to offer below seem psychological, but believe me, they are. Each has the potential to greatly impact your emotional health now, and also continue once this pandemic eases up. They will all return you to your regular life as an improved version of your current self.
20 Ideas to Help You Survive & Thrive Through the Epidemic
- Declutter your house. Is your clutter getting out of control because of your busy life? Use this time to get organized. Go through the papers and unnecessary objects in your house and sort it and get rid of some detritus. It will feel so good. It’s you taking control in an uncontrollable situation.
- Learn a new language. It has so many benefits. It not only improves your brain, but it also connects you to a different culture and that is a good thing in today’s world.
- Write. Writing, no matter what kind you do taps into an expressive, thoughtful part of your inner self. Have you had an idea for a novel or a memoir? Is there a part of your life that you would like to remember? Some unprocessed painful memory? Write about it.
- Clean the small spaces in your home. You know those little corners behind furniture, under furniture, window sills or the tops of windows and doors? Now is a great chance to attack those. You’ll feel so good about it.
- Improve your cooking. Cooking is a form of creativity and it’s also a way to practice self-care.
- Explore new music. It’s easy to fall into a rut of listening to the same artists or styles over and over. Get yourself out of it and try something new.
- Sharpen a music interest or talent. Always wanted to learn the guitar or how to sing in tune? Now’s your time.
- Improve your relationship with an important person. This might be anyone who you’ve always wanted to have a better relationship with. Amazing progress can be made when you have the time and energy to focus on it.
- Become more familiar with your emotions. This would benefit almost every human alive today. Why? Because your feelings are amazing tools that you could be harnessing better than you probably are to assist you in self-knowledge, self-expression, and decision-making. This is also one of the steps of healing Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN.
- Practice and learn meditation and mindfulness. This will help you find your center better and control your own brain, both of which are helpful when dealing with stressful situations.
- Make a list of the strengths that got you through previous life setbacks. I know you have some. Being aware of them allows you to consciously call upon them when you need them.
- Be grateful every morning when you wake up healthy and alive. Be grateful for the lives and health of your loved ones. Gratitude has been found to be a major contributor to life happiness. No matter what is going on around you, there are, without a doubt, some genuine things you should still be thankful for.
- Think of a goal that’s achievable now that could not have occurred to you in the pre-Covid world. This might be anything positive and healthy.
- Reach out to someone you cared about before but lost track of due to hectic life. An old childhood friend, a cousin, aunt or uncle, or a college buddy. Reconnection is enriching and enlivening.
- Practice or learn a new skill that applies to your career. Take an online course or read a book. Or simply practice what you already know to get better at it.
- Choose an intimidating exercise you can do at home and do it every day. For example, 10 push-ups or pull-ups/day. Tailor it to your own body and abilities.
- Give. Find a way to help in person or online and offer to help them. Like gratitude, research shows that helping others makes a person happier.
- Let your mind wander. There is a great shortage of this simple pleasure in today’s world. Just sit. Ponder. Let your mind go. It’s good for you, I promise.
- Read a challenging book. This could be any book you’ve wanted to read but haven’t had the time or energy for.
- Reach out to someone you wronged in the past and apologize. Virtually everyone has a nagging sense of guilt about having behaved in some negative or harmful way in the past, even if unintentional. This is your opportunity to wipe your guilt away by offering an explanation or apology. Or, if you cannot reach out to the person, think it through, learn a lesson from it, and put it behind you.
The way you are feeling now as an adult mimics, in many ways, the feelings of an emotionally neglected child. Lost, alone and uncertain, you wonder what comes next.
But now you know that the answer to that is in large part up to you. You can use this painful time to improve yourself and become stronger for whatever your future holds.
What feeds your self-respect, self-like and self-love more than watching yourself take the lemons the world is handing you and turn them into lemonade?
There is no stronger sign of emotional health than resilience. And growing yourself in any one of these impactful ways during a global crisis rife with setbacks is definitely a sign of just that.
Stay healthy and safe.
For Mental Well-Being, Live in Moment But Plan For Future
People who manage to balance living in the moment with planning for the future are best able to weather daily stress without succumbing to negative moods, according to a new study by researchers from North Carolina (NC) State University.
“It’s well established that daily stressors can make us more likely to have negative affect, or bad moods,” said Dr. Shevaun Neupert, a professor of psychology at NC State and corresponding author of a paper on the recent work. “Our work here sheds additional light on which variables influence how we respond to daily stress.”
In particular, the research team looked at two factors that are believed to influence how we handle stress: mindfulness and proactive coping.
Mindfulness is defined as a mental state in which a person is centered and living in the moment, rather than dwelling in the past or stressing about the future. Proactive coping is when people engage in planning ahead to lower the risk of future stress.
To better understand how these factors influence responses to stress, the research team looked at data from 223 study participants. The study included 116 individuals between the ages of 60 and 90, and 107 people between the ages of 18 and 36. All of the study participants were in the United States.
All of the study participants were asked to complete an initial survey in order to determine their tendency to engage in proactive coping. They were then asked to fill out questionnaires for eight consecutive days that assessed fluctuations in mindfulness. On those eight days, participants were also asked to report daily stressors and the extent to which they had experienced negative moods.
The research team found that engaging in proactive coping was beneficial at limiting the effect of daily stressors, but that this advantage essentially disappeared on days when a participant reported low mindfulness.
“Our results show that a combination of proactive coping and high mindfulness result in study participants of all ages being more resilient against daily stressors,” Neupert said. “Basically, we found that proactive planning and mindfulness account for about a quarter of the variance in how stressors influenced negative affect.
“Interventions targeting daily fluctuations in mindfulness may be especially helpful for those who are high in proactive coping and may be more inclined to think ahead to the future at the expense of remaining in the present.”
Several studies have shown the benefits of mindfulness in daily stress reduction, as well as in reducing cognitive impairment in older adults, helping people in high-risk jobs and those struggling with drug addiction.
The new findings underscore the importance of daily mindfulness coupled with adequately planning ahead for the future, as these may help a person stay in a positive mindset and not succumb to high stress levels or negative moods.
The new paper is published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. First author of the paper is Melody Polk, an undergraduate at NC State. The paper was co-authored by Emily Smith and Ling-Rui Zhang, graduate students at NC State. The work was done with support from North Carolina State’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences.