• Brittani Antunes, MC, LPC

A Guide to Mentally Surviving COVID-19 Isolation

Updated: Apr 3



Being a part of this chapter of history, this COVID-19 pandemic, and all that’s involved is a pretty surreal experience. If you’re going through a range of emotions, you are not alone. I have created a guide for you to help get through these unusual times. The guide begins with connection.

Finding Connection

We’re human, we all need connection for survival. Right now, with social distancing, we’re limited on our physical connection options. This can stir up emotions that we didn’t know we had, highlighting things that we didn’t know we needed. That eye contact with the cashier,

the hug when you see a friend, the banter with your co-workers, and the sharing of food and physical space with family are things that may have been ‘filling your cup’ without even realizing it. Without those minor interactions, you may begin to feel some emptiness, some disconnect.


The good news that physical interaction isn’t the only way we can fill the human need of connection. There are all sorts of ways out there to connect with others, most of which will be new to you, requiring open-mindedness and willingness to try something rather than read it and immediately think ‘oh, that’s not for me’. Most of the people trying these newer ideas are feeling just as vulnerable so challenge yourself, truly consider them, take the leap, try something new, grow.


Consider....

Online yoga:

Hear me out…. you will see other people, you will hear other voices for a change, you will

see that others are in the same boat as you trying to improve their lives for a moment and are also stuck at home. You will all be moving together, at the same time, breathing at the same time, somewhat in sync…. sounds a little like connection to me. If you haven't done yoga before or don't think that you could, maybe this is precisely the time to be open to new experiences. There are beginner classes, classes where you essentially just lay there in a stretch for a while, relaxed. You won't be in a physical room where others are looking over and seeing you, perhaps being at home you can feel free from judgement. This is the time to give it a try.

Weekly virtual coffee/happy hour with coworkers:

If you have a group of co-workers that you enjoyed being around, you are likely engaged with them on social media and that’s great but if you push through any awkwardness or any resistance to getting it started, seeing them via video may ‘fill your cup’ in a different way. When you do a Group FaceTime, Group Skype, etc. there’s something additional you get from it. Here’s a link to options and instructions to try these group video chats out ,and here are some more ideas, games, and how to's. There’s instant humor (releasing endorphins and dopamine!), validation of your experience, and a sense of not being alone in this. You may see their homes, their pets, their family members, a different side of them. Same goes for you; you can show them something in your home regarding an inside joke, introduce them to the you that’s not in uniform/dressed up/etc. Feeling seen, heard, slightly more

understood can feel empowering. Bonus points for if you offer some positivity, some helpful things that have been working for you through this to shift the vibe if it turns into a venting and complaining session. It’s good to commiserate with one another and feel validated, however, after you joke about gaining the ‘Quarantine 15’, talk about something healthy. If you started to try out 5-minutes of meditation in the mornings or are only listening/reading to the news for a certain amount of time per day then share that with others. Help make the ‘cool thing to do’ become growing, improving, getting healthy. You can even throw out there the idea of if anyone’s kids want to talk to your kids (at a later time so you don’t bore the rest of the group, of course), kids need some social connection too.

Play games with friends, family, and random people:

You’d be surprised how many games (typically using phone apps) that you can play with others. They can be really fun! I recommend ‘Draw Something’, which is essentially Pictionary on your phone. It's so silly. To play, it doesn't need to be a dedicated time of ‘we’re going to play Draw Something tonight at 7pm’, it can be something that you simply get a notification on your phone that someone sent you an image to guess and whenever you get a moment you take your turn. Scrabble is another one, as is ‘Game Pigeon’ which allows you to play many games via text messages on iPhones, and you can google or look in your app store for more!

Make silly videos for friends:

- Create a lip sync battle

- Use the ‘Talking Animals’ app where you take a photo of a pet or an item and the app moves it’s mouth and eyes to make it look like it's saying whatever you recorded, it’s pretty darn funny

- Jump in the pool and challenge your friends to a silly dare in return

Create a friendly competition around health/working out:

- Have a step count competition with someone

- Track your water intake and encourage your family to meet their daily intake goals as well

- Join a facebook workout group where you motivate each other and keep each other accountable

Watch a movie with others (from afar):

- You can stream movies together (I hear this is possible, but I’m not cool enough to know exactly how but the internet can help with that)

- You can pick a movie and just hit play at the same time. You can stay on speaker phone throughout with a friend or family member or simply text back and forth conversing, engaging about the movie. Maybe even make some popcorn, get cozy, have fun.

Musically talented?:

- Post some videos to share that with others!

- Do a ‘live concert’ for others to hear

- Learn how to do one of those things where you play music while someone else sings and they overlap (again, I can’t claim that I’m in the know on all of the technology out there but I’m sure it’s easy enough to figure out)

- Check out this virtual choir!


How to not feel so... ahhhh

Perhaps you’ve gotten your connection dose for the day and you’re still feeling…something… feeling ‘off’, ‘weird’, ‘ugh’, ‘blah’, or just ‘jfioj3458 fa dfkja;ksjo’, let’s figure that out and help you to not feel that way much longer.

Step 1: Identify the emotion

Step 2: Identify what you’re in need of


Your mind/body is likely in need something that it’s missing. Figuring out what this may be leads you down the path of gaining the ability to meet that need, to soothe that craving, to feel more whole, to feel better. You are improving your self-awareness here.

Here are some common things that you may be in need of. Scan the list when you’re feeling off and see what jumps out at you.

Right now I’m in need of feeling…..

a sense of purpose

approval (from others or from self)

appreciated

empowered

important

free

healthy

alive, an adrenaline rush

safe

protected

special

connected

a sense of belonging

I need…

words of encouragement

to feel cared for/cared about

to be noticed

to feel heard

to feel like I exist in the world

someone to guide me

help solving a problem

tools to deal with a problem

to feel the thrill of something new

excitement, to feel off routine

to feel like I accomplished something

to be alone, in quiet, to just be

to feel cozy

to feel validated, like I’m not crazy, that my feelings are valid

to not feel alone in in my feelings

someone to know the pain I feel right now

physical touch

a hug/ to be embraced

to feel like I’m part of something bigger, a part of a group

to feel acknowledged for things I’ve done

to simply feel acknowledged period

to feel like I’m moving forward, toward something, learning, growing, working toward a purpose

to feel like I’m making difference somehow

to feel more in control

* Post some more that you come up with in the comments for other to see.

Step 3: Tolerate the uncomfortable feelings for a minute


Before trying to do anything about it quite yet, let’s just sit with it for a moment… take a breath and notice that you’ve identified what it is that you need. Validate that feeling (ex. say to yourself “I need to feel a sense of purpose”).


We are living organisms, we change moment to moment, with time, with each breath. However you feel will not last forever, it may come in waves, but it will not last forever. Take a breath (in through the nose, out through the mouth) and just notice. Notice that the moment has changed, you are now in a new moment. Take a few more breaths. No need to change how you feel right now, just noticing that time passes, that you are now in a new moment, and validating your feelings and your self-awareness to have made it this far in the process.

Step 4: Get creative to fill that need (in a healthy way)


This may be another time where you may need to think outside of the box, challenge yourself to be open-minded, and not give up on your search.


Perhaps...


  • wrap a blanket around you for physical touch

  • scream into a pillow for a release

  • sprint to the end of the street and back randomly and unplanned for an adrenaline rush

  • play music that matches your feelings for validation

  • maybe play energizing music that gets you amped up

  • make a list of things that you DO have control over

  • have a conversation with yourself for things that you need to feel acknowledged for and be proud of yourself

  • tell your spouse/family/friend what you appreciate about them right now and request the same in return

  • communicate your need to someone and see if they can validate and help with it somehow

  • Touch some plants, tress, grass, feel connected to nature

  • Take a big breath (I'll teach you how here) before you leave the restroom, before you stand up get something, each time you wash you hands, once an hour, etc.

  • Glance through an entire list I created of things to do while quarantined here

  • maybe you just need to do the Macarena… see what you can come up with

As always, this can be very easily tied to my motto of ‘Feel. Breathe. Do something else. Repeat.’ Which you can learn more about here.

I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts, what you did, and what you’d add to this list so if you have a moment please share in the comments section. You never know, the right person may read it at the right time and you could make a difference in their world.

Best of luck, you've got this.

Questions? 

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If this is an emergency, please call 9-1-1 or the crisis line at (602) 222-9444 (available 24/7)

Next Chapter Counseling, LLC

Brittani Antunes, MC, LPC    Ÿ

 

4802 E. Ray Rd. Suite 23-646

Phoenix, AZ 85044

 

phone: (480) 771-8263

fax: (480) 447-7147

Brittani@NextChapterAZ.com