Catherine Gildiner, author of GOOD MORNING, MONSTER: A Therapist Shares Five Heroic Stories of Emotional Recovery, shared with us five ways for coping and maybe even finding happiness during a Pandemic. We’ll be sharing one tip every day this week.
So without further ado… welcome, Catherine!
As a psychologist I like to look at things I can quantify. During this pandemic, the divorce rate has skyrocketed, as has depression, and alcohol use. These are indications that we are not as a group coping particularly well. How can we cope better, maybe even find a bit of happiness?
First of all, stay away from the media. If there is any good happening, rest assured it will not be on the news. You can read what has happened in five minutes instead of watching a barrage of clips that is designed to make you nervous and more attached to the staccato blast of terrifying news.
Finally make plans for what you are going to do when this whole pandemic is over. What have you missed most? Drinks after work with colleagues, seeing grandchildren, parties, travel? Now is the time to make plans. One good thing about the pandemic: It has helped us focus on what we enjoyed most. I had no idea how important my morning coffee was in a cafe until it was gone.
Mental health routine
I spent a great deal of time learning meditation. All I ever go out of it was a displaced hip from sitting cross legged for too long. However, on my otherwise unsuccessful yoga retreats, I learned from the Buddhist monks that suffering is a part of life. They teach that you have to expect it and when it arrives say to yourself “well that was right on time.” As The Buddha says “life is suffering.” We who were not raised with this belief, gnash our teeth and are shocked when things don’t go well instead of saying “oh this is my suffering.” This concept has been an enormous help to me.
Go outside everyday alone if you live with others. It may be your only solitary time. Many people report that they have sleep problems during the pandemic. Our bodies are not “set” to stay inside all day and then go back to bed. Remember we were once hunters and gatherers.
Routine and space
When the pandemic struck, we were all a bit dazed and wandered around in our pajamas eating cereal and watching Netflix. Our productivity was down, and our sense of impending doom was up. If you make simple rules that turn into routines, I guarantee you will be happier. Get up at a regular time, shower, get dressed, brush your teeth and make your bed. If you work at home, go to your own work room–or if you don’t have enough room to separate, go to your own corner, don a pair of headphones and listen to “Celestial white noise” on YouTube while you work.” It works wonders. It saved my marriage. You can concentrate and then you can come out from under for lunch!
I’m fairly convinced that people do not know how mentally corrosive loneliness can be. We are social animals. I have an active neighbor, who has taken loneliness and bubble fatigue by the horns. Every Sunday she blocks off the street with pylons she “borrowed” from a road crew and the neighbours (10-12 of us usually) each bring folding chairs, their own drinks and snack and sit six feet apart in a circle on the wide street. To my surprise and delight, we all had a wonderful time. The age is 21-87. Now I never miss a Sunday. Last week it was freezing and we all had to wear long underwear but we all made it. It turns out I have fascinating neighbors. If there is a silver lining to the pandemic, we are forced into nature and we have found new ways to be together.