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  • Writer's pictureMadalyn Otto

Key Strategies to Being Emotionally Well During a Pandemic

Updated: Aug 10, 2020

What a title… Is this really possible? During a time of economic uncertainty, a time where we are co-teaching our children at home while simultaneously learning the new technologies needed to effectively work remotely, and a time of boundless changes to our culture and consumer practices, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed if not totally desperate!

I myself have had to call my health insurance company multiple times in the past 6 weeks, and have been guilty of yelling directly at my phone when the automated answering service accidentally disconnected me from a long-hold, forcing me to start over. The volume of confusion and mix-ups has been frustrating, to say the least.

But despite all of this strife & disorganization, it is possible to orient oneself and one’s family dynamic and thrive. This can be achieved by implementing Emotional Protection strategies as well as Emotional Resilience strategies. Here are a few key tips and guidelines:

Key Emotional Protection Strategy #1: Avoid Information Overload

How often do you listen to/watch the news? This includes TV news, radio, news podcasts and economic updates. Once you have secured your answer, ask yourself this: how often are you learning something truly new and helpful versus redundant or terrifying? Most likely, you are being exposed to more media updates than is necessary to stay informed, and those updates are serving more fear than solutions. What do we do about this? Limit your media intake. Just like desserts and snacks in moderation, news media also needs to be drastically limited if we’re going to get ahead. Consider these specific tactics: A) limit your news exposure to no more than once daily for about 15 minutes, preferably in the morning so that it doesn’t rile you up right before bed. B) Take weekends off entirely from news updates. Trust me, you won’t suffer from a 2-day break. C) Consider avoiding emotional or partisan news voices. Stick with well-established, independent sources and medical updates. These are more relevant, and aren’t charged with emotions and opinions.

Key Emotional Protection Strategy #2: Don’t bite off more than you can chew

In some ways, this strategy is made easier by the abrupt halt in extra-curricular activities and events that previously demanded much of our time and attention. But in their place, new energy-sucking demands are in place. Depending on your family size and health, you may be experiencing higher demand on yourself. I find this to be particularly true of Moms of multiple young children who are having a hard time juggling so many people’s needs and required tasks. This is an important time to say “no” to extra things. Whether it’s FaceTiming a friend, scheduling an extra meeting, or tackling a home project, you need to assess how important that task is, and if it will interfere with your ability to get down-time, much-needed rest, or simply some quiet time alone or with your loved ones. Many of us are having our boundaries pushed already, so we need to advocate for ourselves and protecting our emotional bandwidth.

Key Emotional Resilience Strategy #1: Practice Gratitude

This tip should not be taken for granted. It is so effective! An easy way to practice gratitude each day is to make it a habit to text someone a thank you note who has made your life easier or better in some way. This could be a coworker, your spouse, a close friend, a parent. You can also write these down in a journal. Personally, I like to simply list them out loud while I’m getting ready in the morning in a freestyle or “free association” kind of way. There are always things o be grateful for - even if it’s simply the sun shining on your face, rain making your flower garden grow, your loving pet to snuggle, or the hot cup of tea you drink at the end of the day. Make that effort to acknowledge these things in your life and sit with that brief feeling of gratitude, prolonging the feeling.

Key Emotional Resilience Strategy #2: Get Enough Sleep

Neither your emotional self nor your immune system can function at the level it needs to if you’re not getting enough sleep. Make sleep a priority and ensure you are sleeping at least 8 hours per night (which means you will need to be in bed longer than 8 hours to meet this goal). If you are having trouble sleeping, make sure your “sleep hygiene” is optimal: avoid screens in the hours before bed, institute a bed-time ritual and wind-down routine, go to bed at the same time each night, and be sure to get plenty of sunlight in the morning and early in the day to help re-balance your circadian rhythm. Meditation and relaxation exercises can also be quite helpful using apps like Calm or Headspace. If additional support is needed, contact your functional medicine provider for herbal/nutrient intervention.

While these are not the only ways to reduce stress and improve your adaptability to stress, they are the “heavy-hitters” that we can all utilize in our daily lives. Our emotional state, while tried these days by our environment, is still something that ultimately is changed by ourselves. Adapting your lifestyle to create space for calm allows us to feel calm.

In Health,

Dr. Otto

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