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Before you start reading this article, think about these questions: 1. What is accountability and why is being accountable a tool to persevere against coronavirus? 2. What do you think your personal responsibility is in the COVID-19 pandemic?
Webster’s dictionary defines accountability as “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.”
Neglecting our personal responsibility can have dire consequences and contribute to the spread of COVID-19. For this reason, it’s more important than ever we listen to medical professionals. Not only because they’re the experts, but they’re our only defence we have against COVID-19.
I’m nervous about how COVID-19 will affect my mental health treatment and school. Like most of us, I am nervous about how everything will pan out.
Not knowing how things will turn out can make us feel powerless. It’s this lack of control that leads us to do things such as hoarding food and supplies.
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Opening Our Hearts and Minds
It’s important to keep in mind that despite our airports and borders being closed, our hearts and minds don’t have to be.
Let’s use some common sense and a few psychology hacks and remember there will be a day we persevere during this trying time. We do this by being a part of the solution and not the problem during this pandemic.
We all have a part to play. Whether our part is big or small, the decisions we make in times like this will define us as human beings.
The best way to react in our current living condition isn’t to allow our fears and cognitive biases to dictate our actions.
It’s important we have faith in medical professionals and ourselves and be mindful of our thoughts, actions, and behaviours. All of these things combined will either make things better or worse.
Rules for Coping During the COVID-19 Pandemic
All the little things you do may not seem important but they’re vital getting through this difficult time.
Remember the following rules when you feel anxious or overwhelmed or find yourself making not so great decisions.
Rule One: Focus on what’s in your control
This way you won’t need a second mortgage to pay for your toilet paper. One of the biggest reasons people hoard in times such as the current COVID-19 pandemic is to gain a sense of control for coping with the lack of control many of us feel.
Times like this make us feel powerless COVID-19 affects jobs, school, medications, and other medical and psychological needs like doctor appointments.
COVID-19 will impact our world for the foreseeable future and that’s not going to change regardless of the outcome.
This doesn’t mean, however, that you are powerless.
No matter your age or where you’re from we all have control over the following when faced by adversity:
- How we react
- How we treat other people
- How we cope with our emotions and physical health
- Where we go to get medical information
- How we spend our time
Rule Two: Take time to look after your mental health
One of the best ways to gain back your sense of control and your bearings is through what psychology calls grounding exercises.
An article on Healthline states:
“These techniques may help distract you from what you’re experiencing and refocus on what’s happening in the present moment. You can use grounding techniques to help create space from distressing feelings in nearly any situation”
Grounding exercises won’t take our problems away, but they help make us feel more centered so we can focus on what matters.
Coronavirus has made a lot of us feel powerless. We need to keep our bearings otherwise conflict will lead to more conflict and panic.
My favourite grounding exercise is simple, free, not very time consuming, and anyone can do it. It’s great for managing our distortions and impulse control as well:
When you notice you’re getting anxious or feeling other uncomfortable emotions, acknowledge how you feel instead of letting those emotions control your actions.
Hold your breath for a few seconds. After you inhale hold it for a few more seconds. Then tell yourself it’s all right to feel anxious and powerless during this time. The unknown is scary and COVID-19 comes with a lot of unknowns. Next, tell yourself that you’re not going to let these unknowns dictate your thoughts or actions.
Exhale slowly while relaxing your body and mind. As you’re exhaling, say to yourself, “I’m not going to let my fears dictate my life.”
Here are some additional things to try. Though they are simple, they are still very effective for dealing with our current crisis:
- Practice self-acceptance
- Don’t ignore your negative thoughts and emotions; instead, acknowledge them and develop healthy coping strategies.
- Practice compassion for others and for yourself
- Don’t belittle others for their mental health struggles.
- Don’t tell yourself it’s okay to put other people at risk because you feel the well-being of others is less important than your minor inconveniences. How would you feel if you caught a terminal illness with no cure because a person took no responsibility for how their actions affect others?
Rule Three: Be Careful What You Tell Yourself
Sometimes the things we tell ourselves can be helpful and other times, not so much.
What are cognitive distortions?
A psych central article defines cognitive distortions as “ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn’t really true. These inaccurate thoughts are usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions — telling ourselves things that sound rational and accurate”
How does this impact our actions in our current living situation?
We use cognitive distortions as a means to moralize our actions and beliefs, such as hoarding or selling overpriced food and medical supplies. Instead, we should ask ourselves, “Am I helping others get through this trying time or only helping myself?”
An example of a cognitive distortion or thought pattern is black and white thinking or polarized thinking.
According to Psych Central, black and white or polarized thinking “places people or situations in ‘either/or’ categories, with no shades of gray or allowing for the complexity of most people and most situations. A person with black-and-white thinking sees things only in extremes.”
These distortions work through things such as our self-talk, which is a defence mechanism that our subconscious mind uses to reinforce our beliefs. This happens when an individual is confronted by a person or idea that conflicts with their own ideals. For example, we may tell ourselves we are within our rights to hoard products from the grocery store or medical supplies.
Try keeping the following in mind:
- When you hear updates regarding COVID-19 from the government or medical professionals, don’t tell yourself that it’s okay to ignore them and not abide by the regulations in place.
- When you’re at the grocery store and notice they restocked the shelves, rather than planning on hoarding or, worse, reselling, ask yourself if a neighbour or loved one could use some.
- Be mindful of how your emotions and beliefs are influenced by what you tell yourself in order to moralize your actions.
- Remember that feeling anxious isn’t a reason to be a bad person. Saying sorry especially during our current situation can go along way.
Rule 4: Appreciate Those on the Frontline
Over the past few years nurses, doctors, therapists, pharmacists, 911 operators, paramedics, and other medical professionals haven’t been treated the best. We need to remember that these heroes are why we and our loved ones are alive.
Instead of questioning their expertise or slandering them, let’s show them gratitude. They have their own health and the health of their loved ones on the line, too.
We should be mindful of the stress our medical professionals and essential service staff, like grocery store employees, are under.
Medical professionals and others working in essential services have an enormous responsibility and deserve to be thanked, especially during these trying times with limited resources.
- Listen to them.
- Show empathy and patience.
- Not hoard medical supplies.
- Follow medical recommendations from sources such as the World Health Organization.
Let’s not let Coronavirus take away our humanity. It’s our humanity and modern science that will help us persevere through this trying time.
If you found this article helpful, please pass it on:
More Articles Related to COVID-19:
- Information on Coronavirus from the World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
- Health Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada.html
- Alberta Health Services: https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/
- Free workouts: https://darebee.com/
- Activities to do at home: https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/14/us/what-to-do-this-weekend-coronavirus-trnd/index.html
- Tips and resources: https://www.hollandbloorview.ca/our-services/family-workshops-resources/covid-19-tip-sheets-and-resources
- Cognitive distortions: https://psychcentral.com/lib/15-common-cognitive-distortions/
- Understanding our emotions: https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/developing-self-awareness
- Grounding exercises: https://www.healthline.com/health/grounding-techniques
- Tips for focusing on the things in your control: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/28/things-you-can-control-coping-with-radical-uncertainty-oliver-burkeman
- Shine is offering free annual Shine Premium memberships to people who are healthcare workers, essential workers, and those who have lost their job as an impact of the coronavirus pandemic: https://shine32.typeform.com/to/OF92ED
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