How are you?
Such a simple question, but one we may not ask enough.
As scary and challenging as the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is, here at Guardian we’ve definitely found ourselves pausing to check in on each other more often. You may have noticed that, too, within your own businesses and families. And that’s ultimately a good thing, because during emergencies we need each other more than ever.
One more question for you: How do you keep calm during emergencies, or when you are just experiencing a lot of stress? Your answer may be different than your neighbor’s, and that’s OK; we all deal with crisis in our own way.
You might not have an answer yet, and that’s OK, too. We’re going to share five strategies anyone can use to keep calm during emergencies.
1. Establish a new routine
We mentioned in our recent post on social distancing that humans are a social species. They are also creatures of habit. One jarring element about emergencies and times of crisis is the interruption of our daily routines. We rely on familiar patterns day after day to help us feel grounded, secure, and in control.
Additionally, emergencies require a great deal of mental energy and wise decision-making. Making a ton of important decisions in one day can lead to what social psychologist Dr. Roy F. Baumeister called “Decision Fatigue.” The gist of it is, the more decisions you’re required to make in a day, the less gas you have in the tank to make good ones. A major benefit to routines? Structure requires you to make fewer decisions.
Whatever your current situation is, try to establish a new routine inside it. If it’s possible to keep doing some of things you normally do, like exercising or waking up and going to bed at specific times, keep it up. If you need to make compromises, as we often do during turbulent times, look for opportunities to establish new, temporary schedules. It can be something as simple as dedicating the same 20 minutes every morning to preparing for the day.
2. Know your emergency plan
Brush up on your family emergency plan, or take advantage of any additional time at home to create one. If you’re starting from scratch, use this free Family Emergency Communication plan template provided by FEMA as a jumping off point.
If you’re a Guardian Protection customer, take a few minutes to log in to your account on our Customer Care site. Make sure all of your information is entered and up to date, and double-check your emergency contacts.
We also recommend testing your home security system to make sure it’s communicating properly with our 24/7 monitoring center. You can find the directions for testing your system online, along with troubleshooting help, right in your Online Account or on our website. Need to change a battery, or not sure why your panel is beeping? We’ve got answers.
3. Find ways to stay connected
During difficult times, our instinct may be to isolate and turn inward, when that’s the opposite of what we need. Stay connected and keep communicating!
When it comes to communication, we have more options now than ever before. Even if you or your loved ones need to stay indoors, don’t stop talking from a distance. Use the phone, use your computer, or even social media. The people who care about you will appreciate you touching base.
If you have access to Skype, FaceTime, or any other form of video chat, take advantage of the opportunity to see a friendly face. Have young ones at home with nothing to do? Research shows that interactive online video chatting can also help small children develop social relationships and learn new words and behaviors.
4. Don’t neglect self-care
Remember the instructions you receive on every flight: Adjust your own breathing mask before helping someone else. This may seem wrong to those of us who are primary caretakers, but it’s a classic tip for a reason. In order to really take care of someone else, you must take good care of yourself first.
Believe us, we know a get-away would be everyone’s first wish, but there are ways you can relax right at home. For example, hit the pause button and just breathe! The American Institute of Stress recommends breathing from your belly (your stomach should rise when you’re doing it right) for 20 to 30 minutes each day. It’s easy, it’s free, you can do it anywhere, and it helps.
Here’s a simple breathing exercise to try:
- Inhale to the count of five
- Hold the breath for five counts
- Exhale slowly to the count of five
- Repeat this up to 10 times in a row
Some people find it easier to relax with a little instruction. There are many apps you can download now to help guide you through breathing techniques and meditation. Some are paid and some are free, but even some good paid services (like Headspace) offer a free trial for beginners. Headspace even has sessions for kids! Here’s some more info if you have little ones at home:
If you have a smart watch or a wearable fitness tracker, you might already have access to guided breathing apps. For example, the Apple Watch has the Breathe app, and Google offers “Fit Breathe.”
5. Set boundaries for news intake
With so many unknowns surrounding the coronavirus, we are feeling the urge to consume as much information as possible. But if you find that it’s disrupting your life, give yourself some limits regarding how much time you will dedicate every day to reading the news.
Restrict reading or watching the news to certain times of the day, and for certain amounts of time. Think of it like “Screen Time,” but for grown-ups. At the least, avoid watching the news and scrolling through headlines right before bed for a better night’s sleep. Setting boundaries like this doesn’t mean you aren’t staying informed. It’s just another strategy for self-care.
You’re not in this alone
While you’re dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, or during any time of extreme stress or chaos, it’s important to be patient with yourself. Give yourself a break, allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling, and know that you aren’t alone.
We spoke with Julia Ott, LPC, a licensed professional counselor currently working in Southern New Jersey. She confirmed that many of her clients are experiencing anxiety related to the coronavirus — even those who may not normally struggle with stress and worry.
“This is an unprecedented experience for all of us,” says Ott, “and it’s completely normal and appropriate to have a full range of emotions. During emergencies, it’s so important to validate yourself and find a place of compassion, acknowledging we’re all just doing the best we can in the moment that we’re in.”
For those of us who are feeling overwhelmed, Ott suggests, “Focus on the things you can control. We can’t control all the unknowns, but we can still try to make good choices to help keep ourselves and our families as safe as possible.”
As always, stay safe! And if you need us, we’re here to help.