Given the current coronavirus situation, it is completely understandable if you and/or your child are feeling anxious or overwhelmed. When we are uncertain about the future, cannot control aspects of our lives, or feel helpless about how to proceed, worry or sadness frequently follow. Here are a few strategies for both adults and children that can often help manage these upsetting feelings:
- Sort your worries – Write down your worry thoughts on cards and sort them into two piles: Worry Now vs. Worry Later. Worry Now thoughts include those thoughts that require immediate attention (e.g., “what should I prepare for dinner right now?”) and are mostly in our control (e.g., “what can I do right now to stay as healthy as possible?”). For these thoughts, you can take small actions to develop logical solutions (e.g., going to the grocery store, washing hands). Worry Later thoughts include those things that we cannot control (e.g., what if something bad happens?”), cannot know for sure (e.g., “will I get sick?”), or are too far in the future to be able to problem-solve (e.g., how can I prevent getting sick for the next month?”). These worries can often spiral out of control, and can cause us to feel stuck, sick, or afraid. By telling ourselves, “I will worry about these later,” it can sometimes free up mental space to control what we can or to start engaging in other ways of coping.
- When a tough situation cannot be changed, we can control how a situation affects us, especially how we feel. There are three things that often help us cope with these types of problems:
- Talk to a friend or family member – A trusted friend or family member often listens to our concerns, validates our feelings, and can help us develop a new way to think about something.
- Search for the silver lining – When bad things happen, there is often at least one thing that can be positive in the situation. Try to find the sliver of good.
- Distract yourself – If you are stuck on a worry thought, do something completely different! Distraction can be a great way to overcome unwanted, repetitive thoughts.
Author: Meghan smith Lawson. PhD