If one thing is true of COVID-19, it’s that our resilience has been truly put to the test. If your mind has been consumed by news about COVID, conversations on COVID, and calculations of COVID statistics, then you’re not alone.
With our minds so consumed by what’s going on, it’s no wonder so many people are struggling under the weight of their emotional and cognitive load. It’s certainly one of the most challenging events that we will experience because it has impacted the entire world.
- So, how do you deal with it? How do you reduce that cognitive and emotional load of COVID?
First of all, I want to touch on the idea that this could be your opportunity to write a best-seller or compose the next 1812 Overture. There have been a lot of hot takes on social media about how you can best use this downtime.
But if you haven’t ‘accomplished’ anything, that’s fine. Ultimately, we’re all just trying to get by, and even though you may have more time on your hands than usual, your brain isn’t necessarily firing on all cylinders in a way that facilitates creativity.
You shouldn’t feel bad about that. However, if you went into this thinking you could be super-productive and feel disappointed… don’t. This is where expectation management comes into play. There’s a lot going on, and this type of stress is distracting. It results in low motivation and disrupts concentration.
The pandemic has brought on a series of new cognitive and emotional loads to deal with, which will impact your productivity. So, go easy on yourself as you find a new rhythm and routine in your life. Set realistic goals and manage expectations.
Manage Stress by Maintaining Your Health
The foundation of good mental health relies heavily on stress management. That includes the need to prioritize sleep, nutrition, exercise, and getting enough water, to keep your health and coping abilities in top condition.
If you’re normally a good sleeper, don’t give in to the impulse to disrupt your routine, although it is entirely reasonable to make some intentional adjustments if other circumstances have caused your schedule and needs to change. If you have always struggled with a sleep routine, now is your time to change that.
Maintain a routine around when you go to bed and when you get up, and avoid alcohol, caffeine, and screens in the hour or two before bed. Exercise will help you reduce stress while boosting your emotions and providing you with sleep routine help.
When under extreme stress, it’s tempting to try to manage it temporarily with food and alcohol choices that provide short-term comfort at the expense of undermining your overall health. It’s an understandable impulse, but it isn’t one you want to give in to. It will be damaging over the long-term.
Rely on Routine
A routine will help you manage your stress and anxiety levels, which is key to adapting to the new reality we are faced with. You should have clear boundaries between working hours and non-working hours. This is something you can do in your headspace as well as in the physical workspace you use. Embrace things that provide you with joy.
Even introverts need social connections, and it’s a particularly challenging time for extroverts. Create a virtual forum for your friends and family, have video chats over coffee, join a book club, do whatever it takes to maintain your social connections.
It’s important that you don’t feel alone, so be proactive. Even if you live with a spouse and children, it’s important to reach out beyond your closest ties to connect with others outside your immediate circle.
The best thing you can do to manage your load is to focus on the here and now by taking every day as it comes. It’s a stressful time for everyone, and it’s going to put your mental health to the test. Take a proactive approach to protect your mental health, and be kind to yourself and others.
Right now, there isn’t a whole lot for you to control. What you can control is how you speak to yourself, how you speak to others, and how you proceed through the rest of this pandemic.