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Being confined to the house isn't all that bad... But I could do without being stuck inside my head. Especially between the hours of 10 PM and 2 AM, when my body wants to rest, but my brain isn't having it (You can read more about nighttime rumination here). I'm naturally a worrier and a ruminator, especially in times of stress and uncertainty, and these days are a strange brew of both.
I'm sure I'm not the only one staring at my ceiling into the wee hours of the morning. Whether you're worried about your health, loved ones, paying bills, keeping a business afloat, or the chaos of being an essential employee, there's a chance some sort of pandemic-induced anxiety is keeping you up at night.
And though school, work, and other activities are canceled for the foreseeable future, we haven't been granted a moratorium on our pre-existing hardships and anxieties. So, if you were struggling with things like grief, addiction, or psychological disorder before the pandemic, you're likely still struggling with these things. Except now, you're stuck at home, and many of your go-to coping outlets may be inaccessible.
In other words: Stress has increased, while access to coping has decreased. This poses an obvious problem. There will always be times in life when you can't utilize the grief coping outlets you want or find most useful—perhaps due to illness or injury, travel, changes in routine, transportation or weather concerns, or other circumstances out of your control.
At these times, in the absence of constructive coping, a person may be more likely to reach for negative coping outlets like substances, withdrawal, lashing out, indulging, denial, or giving up. This is why it's always good to have a grief coping back-up plan.
When You Can't Go To Therapy:
Try Teletherapy. Ask your therapist about teletherapy options if you haven't already. Even if you decide to do less frequent check-ins, knowing that you will have the chance to connect can be helpful.
Give Journaling a Try. Writing can help you to sort out your thoughts and express your emotions (even if your journal can't give you the same feedback your therapist typically does). Sometimes it's helpful to be able to externalize your internal struggles. Check out our 30-Day Grief Journaling Course for some inspiration.
Read. Ask your therapist if they recommend any books related to the work you're doing in therapy. You can also have a look around at our many grief articles.
When You Can't Go To AA, NA, Al-Anon, or Nar-Anon:
You can access information, handbooks, and online meeting listings on each of these groups' websites:
When You Can't Go To A Support Group or Grief Center:
Look for Online Programs. In the short-term, the next best thing may be online programs offered by varying grief support agencies. Some hospices and grief centers are offering options like online groups and webinar series. If you are familiar with a local hospice or grief center, call and ask what services you can access online. If you don't have luck locally, a benefit of accessing online services is you can expand your search to include any programs regardless of location.
Enroll in the WYG Coping With Grief From Home Mini-Course. Keep yourself busy by learning about constructive coping in our free mini-course. This course will provide you with activities to help you try out various coping tools. Some activities are creative, while others are more practical... but all are accessible and easy to do from the comfort of your own home. You can access the course here.
Look Into the National Alliance for Grieving Children Webinar Series. NAGC has been offering frequent webinars since early March, with several more scheduled into May. Future webinars and past webinar recordings are provided free to the public on their website.
Watch TED Talks on Grief. One of the benefits of a support group or gathering of grief-friends is that, through the stories of others, you can learn, gain perspective, and find hope. The TED website has a long list of talks relevant to the experience of grief.
Try An Online Grief Groups: For example, try the support groups offered by OptionB.
When You Can't See Your Friends and Family In-Person:
We've all become better acquainted with the various ways to reach out and connect with loved ones over technology, but how you connect with your loved ones will depend on everyone's access to technology. It will also depend on their comfort with different platforms. For example, do they know how to use it? Are the more comfortable with text or video? Sometimes it takes a little trial and error to find the best way to connect.
Though we'll have to leave the details up to you, we do want to encourage you to give technology a try. For those who love getting together for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, it's not the best thing—but it may be the next best thing. Don't let the learning curves and resistance to new technology get in your way. If less tech-savvy friends and family need a nudge and a little encouragement, help them out!
When You Can't Go To The Gym:
For many people, exercise feels like a necessary part of their grief coping and mental health maintenance. If you relied on a gym or some kind of group fitness, you may be feeling especially out of luck. Try not to adopt the mentality that if it's not 'x' kind of exercise for 'y' amount of time, then it isn't worth doing. Any exercise is beneficial.
If you're a gym member, contact them or look them up on social media to see what kind of alternative workout options they may offer. Some gyms are doing group fitness workouts via Facebook Live or are offering temporary memberships to OnDemand fitness programs.
If you're not a member of a gym, then check out the many apps and YouTube videos available. Some are free, while some have membership fees. However, many services with fees offer free temporary trial periods. You can either do a Google search for recommended programs or search YouTube.
Beyond that, now more than ever, we recommend you get outside and move for a bit. Take some time on your own, or play around with your kids or pet. You can always walk, run, bike ride, shoot hoops, play frisbee, or kick a ball around. Whatever feels most comfortable. Also, if you have lawn games like badminton, bocce ball, or corn hole, get those out too!
When You're Longing For Routine:
Right now, you may be feeling overwhelmed by stressors—but also completely unproductive. How frustrating! When schedules and routines get thrown off, it can all of a sudden feel impossible to get anything done. Even people who keep very loose schedules may feel like they're floundering.
Yes, your days may feel a little like Groundhog day right now... But planning can help you get out of this rut. This can mean different things depending on a person's preferences and personal style. For example, some may want to schedule blocks of time throughout their entire day, while others may simply want to make a list of 3 or 4 things they want to accomplish. Do what feels right and natural and leave a little space for coping with your grief and distraction.
When You Need a Distraction:
When you're spending most of your time in one place, seeing, hearing, and doing the same things over and over, it's hard to find distractions when you need them. Also, many people, myself included, turn to the wrong places for entertainment during their downtime.
For example, logging onto social media may only increase your exposure to the very things you were trying to take a break from (e.g., grief triggers, news stories, comparing yourself to others, etc.). Instead, we recommend choosing outlets that help to boost well-being. Whatever you decide to do, pay attention to how it feels at the moment. If you're still feeling agitated, try switching gears.
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What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss is for people experiencing any type of loss. This book discusses some of the most common grief experiences and breaks down psychological concepts to help you understand your thoughts and emotions. It also shares useful coping tools, and helps the reader reflect on their unique relationship with grief and loss.
You can find What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss wherever you buy books: