March 31, 2020

Coping with Social Distancing and a Change in Routine

writing a letterBy Micah Krempasky, MD

I pride myself on routine. I wake in the wee hours of the mornings. My coffee is set to brew precisely two minutes before my alarm chimes. While I sip my hot brew, I turn on a single lamp, sit in the corner spot on the couch and read my morning emails. A few minutes later, I don my pre-chosen workout clothes and head to the gym, where I am greeted by my always present, somewhat obsessive, 6 am crew. Afterward, it’s back to the house to start the rest of my day.

This is my routine. I do it every day. In this order. I don’t veer from it — and when I do, everything feels off.

Despite my best efforts to avoid it, my life has changed. My routine has been totally disrupted. My beloved coffee creamer is out of stock, my favorite couch is strewn with homeschooling materials and my gym is closed. This list goes on and on…

Routines keep us grounded and disruption in routines can cause significant stress. On top of that, the current pandemic has our minds riddled with fear: Am I going to get sick? Can I pay the bills? What if I lose my house? When will I see my friends? How will this affect my parents? My children? My neighbors? Additionally, we don’t have access to many of the things we use for coping. Parks are closed. Theaters are closed. Social gatherings are cancelled.

So, what do we do?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, nor is there a well-defined algorithm for how to behave in this ever-changing situation. However, gratitude is something we can easily incorporate into our lives, and it is a very effective coping strategy. Despite all the interruptions, threats and fears, we still need to find reasons to be thankful.

So, take a moment.

Take a moment to appreciate the sounds of laughter outside as kids enjoy their days in less-structured ways. Enjoy the smell of the freshly cut grass that you finally had time to mow. Savor the pleasure of a previously elusive afternoon nap.

Take a moment to organize your junk drawer. Write a letter to a friend. Make a soufflé.

Take a moment to watch these videos. We hope they will inspire you to practice good self-care and to focus your energy in a positive away. And, if you recognize that you or someone you know is really struggling, the videos include resources to help you access needed care.

In the end, uncertainty remains. However, taking care of our emotional health — in addition to our physical health — will allow us to be far more effective in navigating this uncertainty.

Micah Krempasky, MD, is a Psychiatrist with Mission Hospital Behavioral Health. To contact Mission Hospital Behavioral Health, call 828-213-4696.

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