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As Americans follow stay-at-home advisements, many are wondering about summer vacation plans that were booked before the pandemic.


This is a scary time.

For most of us, the pandemic has upended our entire lives: Important projects have halted, we’ve lost jobs, canceled momentous trips, gone weeks (and counting) without hugging our family and friends. Nothing seems “normal.”

It’s natural to feel like your life is spiraling out of control, and it’s OK to feel anxious about the future (just don’t spend too much time in that space). 

If you’ve lost track of what day of the week it is or can’t remember the last time you changed out of your sweats, fret not. There are things you can do to help you feel like you have some kind of control over your life.

Struggling?: Staying Apart, Together is our newsletter about things to do, tips to cope with what’s happen

Here are ways you can cope

The first step is accepting we’re not in control

Unless there’s something someone’s not telling us, we have no control over when we’ll be able to move freely again without worrying about COVID-19.

“Accept that we have no control, or very limited control,” says Janine Urbaniak Reid, author of “The Opposite of Certainty: Fear, Faith and Life in Between.” “It takes usually a lot of resistance, but a lot of my suffering comes from trying to control what’s not mine to control – my resistance to what is.”

Reid, who has spent years in and out of hospitals with her son for multiple brain surgeries, advises focusing on things you can control within your own little world. Maybe you can’t go out to your favorite restaurant or see your friends, but what can you do?

When things start to feel overwhelming, remind yourself that you can keep going.

“I called one of my closest friends, and I just melted on the phone. … I can’t do another night of not sleeping, I can’t do another day of not knowing,” Reid remembers confiding during another long hospital stay with her son.

Her friend’s response: “But you’re doing it.”

Try to pretend like everything is fine

Remember pre-coronavirus when you had somewhat of a routine to your day? You’d wake up at a certain time to go to your job, have your meals around the same time, exercise or go to happy hour after work. 

Whatever your daily schedule looked like before, try to stick to it, says Nedra Glover Tawwab, licensed therapist and founder of Kaleidoscope Counseling, who helps people create healthy relationships, It will be easier on you when you do go back to your regular routine.

“Sticking to the pattern of what was as much as possible could be helpful,” Tawwab says. “If you’re the sort of person who worked out however many times a week, it’s still important for you to do that.”

Having some structure to your day is helpful, whether it’s planning when you’re going to mop the floor or setting aside time to binge-watch “Tiger King,” so you’re not waking up every day without a focus and feeling lost.

“Even making a to-do list for the day. Perhaps your list is doing a load of laundry, cleaning behind your refrigerator, watching five episodes of ‘SVU’ – whatever those things are, it doesn’t have to be anything super-productive, but it does give your day some focus and something for you to look forward to and actually achieve,” Tawwab says.

Be present in the moment and stop worrying about the future

Yes, it may be tempting to let your mind wander into “What if?” worst-case scenarios, but what if you set time limits on being in that space of anxiety?

Psychotherapist Ashley Peterson, owner of Ashley Peterson Counseling, says she’s noticed people saying things such as “summer is canceled.”

“It is very much April,” Peterson says. “Allow yourself to be aware and speak to and acknowledge that you do have these fears of the future. However, pull yourself back into the facts of what is right now? Today is today, and this is what we can focus on because this is what we know.”

Reid says whenever she felt overwhelmed, especially in the hospital with her son, she would be where her feet are.

“What that means is I would literally stop … be right here, right now,” Reid says. “I’m sitting at my desk, I know the sun is shining, I’ve got a cup of tea, I’m talking to some nice people. I’m OK, my fears aren’t happening right now.”

Coronavirus coping: 100 little things that bring us joy during the pandemic

Maintain relationships with friends and family

Being in quarantine makes it especially easy to feel like we’re alone (especially if you’re living alone and away from family), so make sure you spend quality virtual time with the people you care about.

“Still maintain relationships with your friends and family,” Peterson says. “Have group virtual activities with your friends that allow you to be together while still separate, like that app Houseparty, or even having listening parties to listen to new music together.”

Whether it’s planning a brunch date with your friends or setting aside time to chat with your parents, try to keep up the relationships you had pre-coronavirus.

There’s a pandemic going on, give yourself some grace

Some people may resort to restrictive dieting or excessive working out as a way to have control over something, Peterson says.

“A lot of people are looking at this time to start giving up things that are bad for them, like carbs and sugar and all the things that taste delicious. However, a lot of times we use food as a coping skill,” Peterson says. “So when we’re at a space where we don’t have as many additional coping skills available to us, giving up the ones you have will generally cause us more problems than solutions.”

It’s a pandemic, so be kind to yourself. Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you necessarily have more free time and have to do every home project and fulfill every life goal.

“Set reasonable expectations, and that might be: ‘Can I send an email? Can I empty the dishwasher? Can I spend a few minutes uninterrupted at the computer?’ ” Reid says. 

We all want to know how the coronavirus pandemic ends: How do we cope with uncertainty?


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