Coronavirus, aka COVID-19, is causing a global concern. As a marriage and family therapist, I focus on your concerns at the personal and interpersonal level.
Whether or not you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, your anxiety levels may increase during this outbreak. Fear and anxiety are expected responses in a situation like this. Every behavior has a function and your fear is helping you to wash your hands more frequently, stay hydrated and eat healthier. While you continue reading the rest of this blog, my advice to you is to allow yourself to feel whatever comes up for you. If you are afraid, you are afraid. There is no expectation that you shouldn’t feel scared, similarly there is no expectation that you should feel scared. If you are calm, you are calm. None of these feelings are superior to the other, all emotions are valid.
Everyone has a unique relationship with health and wellbeing. Your medical history, family medical history, your cultural upbringings, and your current stress and anxiety level can be completely different than your partner’s. You may feel calm and think, “My wife is overreacting”, while your partner is feeling afraid or anxious, or vice versa. The reason behind this difference is that we all have different response to sickness. What getting sick or being healthy means to you, may not have the same meaning for your partner.
An illness or a possibility of getting sick can bring families together or set them apart. The same rule applies to your romantic relationship. Below, I provide you some mental health tips in order to help you to prioritize your relationships and your mental health during this COVID-19 outbreak.
Changes in Your Daily Routine
There are some changes that you may feel you don’t have control over because you didn’t plan or ask for these changes. For example, if your child’s school is closed, they will be at home. Maybe you, your partner, or both of you have just started working from home or plan to work from home. Your personal daily routines, such as the time that you wake up or meet with your friends, may change. Your family routines, such as picking up your child from their school may be temporarily disrupted. Your relationship routines, such as going out for a Sunday breakfast may be an activity that you no longer feel comfortable doing. But the good news is, old routines can change and be replaced with new ones. This change may be scary because it is uncomfortable to replace functioning routines and activities. My recommendation is to remind yourself that the situation is temporary, and you and your partner are doing your best to accommodate these changes in your relationship.
There are also some changes that you have absolute control over. You can create your new personal daily routines. For example, waking up at 7 am and exercising before breakfast. You can come up with new social activities to spend more time with your family and friends, such as having an online family game night. You and your partner may want to come to an agreement regarding who is going to use the common area to work from home, how to share at-home office space or managing the chores.
I recommend you unfollow social media accounts that make you feel anxious or uncomfortable. Similarly, avoid watching the news if it makes you feel too distressed. I recommend you focus on the facts rather than rumors. To stay up informed, the most two reliable resources that you can follow are CDC and WHO websites. I’ll be sharing their links at the end of this blog. Also pay attention to what your local government is recommending as different geographical areas across the country currently have different restrictions.
If you prefer to stay home, it is completely okay to let your partner know that you don’t feel comfortable having a date outside. Your friends may plan a fun activity and everyone else may be attending; still you can say no if you do not feel comfortable being in crowded places. Saying no, is a part of assertive communication skill. Saying no means, “I know myself and I know what I need for myself at this moment”. Most of the time, you do not need to explain your reasons to say no because no means no. For middle schoolers peer pressure, for high schoolers their image, and for college students fitting in and being social are important factors affecting their decision making. Therefore, saying no to others is not only a skill for adults to have, but your young or teenage child also needs to practice and learn to set this boundary.
In your daily life, you may want to limit your daily conversations. Some of you have multiple friends or family group chats that you constantly get messages from throughout the day. While staying connected is very important, it is okay to set boundaries and limit your exposure to the topic of COVID-19. When unfollowing or blocking is not an option, you can mute the conversation or invite others to recognize your boundaries. Similarly, you may suggest to your partner to have quality time to share your thoughts and concerns. For example, suggesting to your partner, “Let’s watch the news together twice a week and talk about it afterwards”, will help you to focus on prioritizing your relationship and mental health.
Getting Online Therapy
You have every right to ask for remote sessions if you feel uncomfortable attending your sessions at the office Those with underlying medical conditions should consider online sessions as it will reduce your exposure to the virus. Online therapy is as effective as traditional therapy. My online therapy service is HIPAA compliant and every rule that applies to our in-person sessions applies to our online sessions. While prioritizing your physical health is crucial, I highly recommend you keep prioritizing your mental health as much as your physical health. One cannot function without the other. Online couples therapy is an option as well. We are in this together!
Call your therapist today and schedule an online therapy session.