For most people, social contacts mean stimulation and appreciation, variety and relaxation. Face-to-face exchanges with friends, colleagues or even the shopkeeper on the high street – all these interactions can help to make for a successful day. If the government blocks physical contacts, there is a very good reason for it – such as the virus COVID-19.
Restrictions on going outside and bans on physical contact are exceptional circumstances that very few of us have ever experienced before. On top of that worldwide, many families are faced with weeks of working from home with or without childcare support. At HDI Group more than 90 percent of all employees are working from home during this period. This is a scenario in which stress can be caused by a whole range of factors. By using proven behavioural measures and mental strategies it is possible to "keep a cool head" and master such an exceptional situation. Prof. Frank Jacobi, Professor of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy at Berlin Psychological University, describes scientific insights that have a positive effect on personal well-being:
1. Daily structure
- Structure helps against chaos, provides security and makes us stronger in dealing with stressful situations. What this means in concrete terms is: getting up and dressed as usual, keeping to the normal times for eating, sleeping, working/studying and ending the working day.
- Plan to include a highlight in the day that you can look forward to.
- Set yourself realistic goals and plan your day as precisely and rigorously as you can! Be sure to create not only "to do" lists but also "done" lists and tell others about the goals that you have achieved.
- Planned actions give us the feeling that we are not helpless at the mercy of a situation, but rather that we are actively shaping it.
2. Make sure that your media consumption is aware and targeted
Based on the experience of people who have lived through disasters and tragedies, psychologists know that an excessive preoccupation with these events in all forms of news media and reporting can have adverse emotional impacts and further exacerbate the negative effects.
- A daily update from a reliable source is enough to stay informed of the latest developments. Limit yourself to 30 minutes.
3. Use your strengths
- Reflect on your resources. They help to get through crisis situations.
- Inner resources are made up of all the positive experiences that you have had in your life. What sort of problems have I overcome and resolved in the past? How did I do it? What helped me to do this? What are my strengths and talents, my goals and values?
- Resources are a source of strength. Activate them and use them.
4. Be mindful of your feelings
We all experience a wide range of feelings in such an unfamiliar situation, including confusion, anxiety or stress.
- Be mindful of your feelings and try to accept them.
- Take the time to notice and express what you are feeling. You might like to keep a diary again for a while, do some painting, dust off an old musical instrument or simply meditate.
5. Set aside some time for brooding
In this stressful situation brooding is a coping strategy. Too much of it, however, can often prove counterproductive and cause additional stress.
- Do something that makes you feel good when you find yourself starting to brood, such as baking or reading.
- Give yourself 10-20 minutes in the day (not in the evening or at night) during which you can brood as much as you want. Set a timer for it.
- If worries start bubbling up outside of these times, say to yourself: "That's something I'll think about in my brooding time – not now."
- Practised on a regular basis, this thinking can become second nature and bring considerable relief.
6. Engage in relaxation and mindfulness exercises
Anxiety and relaxation cannot co-exist. Relaxation exercises ease anxieties and can help us to cope with the unfamiliar situation in a mindful and accepting way.
- You can look online for suitable exercises that promote awareness of one's body and breathing.
- Yoga and meditation also help us to relax.
7. Keep moving
It is important to stay active not only mentally, but also physically. Movement has a positive effect on our psyche – not to mention our physical fitness, of course.
- Get out and about in the fresh air.
- Doing sport at home in the living room is trending right now: online videos can offer tips and training programmes. It's also great for children.
- Give some thought to when is a good time to engage in physical activity.
8. Keep in mind: Things will go back to normal again
- The current pandemic will inevitably pass – to be followed by a fresh perspective and normalization.
- Plan some activities that you would like to do after we have put the present situation behind us.