Community & Friendship · covid19 · Fatherhood · peaceoverpanic

10 Tips from a Psychiatrist to Survive in this Pandemic

Post by the Husband

Given the “new normal” we now live in, husbands and wives are spending a lot more time together in the house.

Certainly this can be a great thing, but sometimes it can also put a strain on the relationship.

Any change can bring tension, so if you are feeling like you are feeling more stressed than ever and that you are having more friction than before with your spouse – I can safely say – You are not alone. 

Here are some tips to not only survive, but to thrive during this period.

#1 Know that there is an adjustment period.

Like any big change, there has to be a transition period and within the next few weeks, months or however long, you will find a new “baseline” for your family.

#2 Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Don’t expect your spouse to be able to read your mind. Even for the smallest things – you may think that given that you are now “working from home” – that everyone should just leave you alone during your work hours. That may not be the right expectation as there may be times during the day when you and your spouse may need to take turns caring for the kids or giving each other a much needed break.

Writing things down is a good idea for the two of you as you plan for the days ahead. Don’t just communicate after something goes wrong – which brings me to the next point.

#3 Have a written plan that you both agree with

It’s a good idea to have a schedule for the family – schooling time, writing time, playing time, reading time etc, which allows everyone to know their routine. Then communicate this to the kids so that everyone is on board.

#4 Keep to a routine

Having work from home can mean that your routine has changed. But I’m a big believer in having a regular biorhythm – make sure that you try to eat, sleep, and exercise at similar times each day so that your body and mind knows what to expect.

#5 Change!

I mean change your clothes. Even if working or studying from home – it’s best to change into the clothing you would normally wear for that activity. This is a powerful psychological tool to get you in the “zone”.

#6 Acknowledge your own emotions and the emotions of those around you

This is a very strange time for the world, and the changes have been fast and brutal. There is a lot of uncertainty and this can generate a lot of fear and other negative emotions. Many of us are going to cry (perhaps for the first time in years!) – seemingly for no reason. What you are going through is a process of grief.

Grief is a natural process by which we say “goodbye” to losses. These losses can include things that we were hoping for – like that family holiday you had been planning, or meeting up with loved ones. 

Hopefully you don’t also need to grieve the loss of life, but obviously if you do, this can be complex particularly if you are unable to say goodbye to that person — and even funerals have limitations for numbers of people in many places around the world.

Everyone grieves differently, so some people may want to talk about it, whilst others may need space. Be sensitive to your loved ones and be available when they need you. 

For Christians, remember that sadness is not from the devil. It’s a valid human emotion that God allows. As we live in a fallen world there will be many times when we feel sad just as Jesus did when he was on the earth. You are allowed to feel sad. It is indeed a sad time.

As you allow yourself to feel those negative feelings, pray through them, talk through them, and allow God to heal your heart as you continue your journey onwards.

#7 Don’t stay in bed for hours wide awake.

Most of us are still in shock with the sudden changes in the past few weeks/months.

Many people are going to be struggling to sleep or stay asleep once they have fallen asleep. This can be a normal phenomenon. Obviously if it’s affecting your functioning, then seek medical advice. Otherwise, if you find yourself waking up at 3am every night and then being unable to fall asleep again, exercise good sleep hygiene.

Firstly, don’t look at the clock. Try listening to an audio book to stop yourself from going from one worry to the next. If you are indeed feeling wide awake and don’t think you can fall back asleep in a hurry, get up and read a book, or do something productive that doesn’t involve too much bright light. The main idea is that you do not want your brain to link the bed with worrying and struggling to sleep. 

Dreams can also be unusually disturbing or frightening in times of stress, and again that can be perfectly normal as you are trying to work through things subconsciously.

#8 Limit the News

Given the 24 hour news cycle, it can be tempting to compulsively click on one news article after the next. 
I would suggest that you subscribe to one main source of news to get your news source (eg. ABC news in Australia or the official government app) so that you don’t miss important information, and turn on notifications for Coronavirus updates and then limit reading news time to a certain amount of time at a certain time of day. This is an idea I’m borrowing from the idea of ”worry time” where we encourage people to do all their worrying at a certain time of day.

#9 Pray all your worries

Instead of worrying – use those thoughts eg. “I might lose my job” into a prayer: “Dear Father, please help me to keep my job”. This turns your worry into the action of prayer. 

#10 Action your worries

Apart from prayer, actions such as updating your resume, or researching jobs are more useful than sitting there worried for your future.Write down those worries you have and then try to write some actions that can help with dealing with that problem. 

I pray that you and your family take this opportunity to draw closer to one another and to God during this challenging time

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