Ways to Cope with a Pandemic

We know that at this point, you have likely received a message from every cooperation who has ever received your email address, countless cancellations and rescheduling from everything from school and work to the dog groomer, and a rapid adjustment to any travel or spring break plans.  Not to mention the endless reminders to wash your hands (hopefully that has already been happening) – and some fun tunes to wash them to!

We also know that this is a particularly stressful time.  Parents and caregivers are scrambling to provide entertainment and education to children who have Spring Break extended – in some cases, indefinitely.  These same family members are also likely facing a work from home environment – not easy to do when everyone is in one place.  We already know that disruptions to ones’ schedule can impact sleep and anxiety – when we add collective worry and health concerns to the mix, we face a time where understanding, support, and community is necessary!

Not too fast on the community aspect, though!  To prevent the spread of this novel virus, we are also being asked to socially distance ourselves.  This might seem like an introvert’s dream, but for those of us who depend on therapists and providers, school and after school resources, and community outings to reward and reinforce preferred behaviors, things become even more challenging.  For those populations who may already face medical stigma, such as those who are in the LGBTQ+ community, those who have other health concerns, those with communication challenges, those who are overweight, and those who have medical anxiety, among many other populations, this increased attention on health, wellness, and disease is particularly disruptive.

Thankfully, as Mr. Rogers once said, “When….I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.” In this current time of uncertainty and unknown, many resources have risen to the challenge to help us all get through.

Headspace, a mindfulness app to help with sleep, anxiety, and overall wellness has specifically launched meditations and tools to help both the medical and mental health professionals getting us through this pandemic, as well as those who need help with coping.

Carol Gray, who has popularized Social Stories for those who have communication challenges including ASD, wrote a social story specific to this pandemic.

For individuals who are LGBTQ+, some of the universal assumptions about healthcare and community may not be true.  The National Center for Transgender Equality released a fact sheet specific to their population, and helping the vulnerable community get through this time.

Many parents, particularly parents of children with special education needs, are struggling in this time to provide continued education and skills mastery when their child is not able to attend school.  Wonderfully, education resources are stepping up!  Educational resources (many are used by your child’s teacher) are being aggregated and listed online.

The bottom line is, when there is uncertainty, there follows anxiety.  While it is important to continue to receive updates – limit the sources and the amount of time that you are checking for updates.  Find one trusted resource, and choose to visit that site 3-4 time max per day.  In the meantime, try to stick to your routine and schedule as much as you can.  Make time for mindfulness.  Use this time of “social distancing” to catch up on phone calls with loved ones.  Stay polite and reasonable with others you may encounter – even when they take the last pack of toilet paper.  In the end, we are all in this together, and our decision to remain calm and informed can be just as contagious as the panic that we are all seeing.  Remember that we are here if you need us.  And don’t forget to wash your hands!