Posted by Jeremy Lurey, Ph.D. – Practice Lead – People and Change Management Services – SL Business Informatics

The information we are receiving on a daily and in some cases hourly basis is staggering.

What do we do, then, to stay calm and maintain composure during what has been labeled by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a global “pandemic” and even here in the US a “National emergency” by President Trump and his administration?

How do we stay positive and keep our families together as a government‐mandated lockdown begins? The following might just save your relationship with your spouse/partner or keep your children from wanting to disown you over the next several weeks:

· Exercise: During the lockdown, you won’t be able to use a public gym. You might not even be able to walk your dogs at the beach or go for a jog around the school track in some communities. If you have a treadmill or other workout equipment at home, great. Use it! If you don’t, you can still do push‐ups and sit‐ups and stretch for 15 minutes every morning like I do and have done since the beginning of January. Maintaining your physical health is critical for maintaining your mental health, so just do something consistently and not less than every other day.

· Find your “one thing”:  What’s one thing that will make you happy even during this crisis? Is it reading a new spy thriller or romantic love story for 20 minutes every day? Or do you prefer that bowl of ice cream after dinner every night? The former is likely healthier, but in times of acute stress and heightened anxiety like this that ice cream might just be what the doctor ordered. Don’t judge yourself if that’s what you need. Just make sure you’re acting sensibly and prioritize your “one thing” for yourself every day or two to stay positive, energized and focused on what matters most right now ‐ maintaining your composure and peach of mind!

· Prioritize treats with healthier food choices:  Along the lines of your “one thing”, some people truly celebrate eating potato chips and cookies and such. I don’t believe in eliminating all of these treats from someone’s diet. I just feel these less critical snacks should be prioritized within reason and not become the staple food product we eat every day. That’s especially important for our growing children who will now be home from school indefinitely. Instead, try to focus on eating more healthy proteins, fruits and vegetables. Try to drink more water and less coffee, soda and alcohol. Again, you don’t have to eliminate all of this from your diet. Just be reasonable when you do choose to indulge…

· Share information freely:  In our family, we have convened Family Council meetings as needed to share real‐time updates and critical information with our children and other loved ones. Not all of us watch the news as closely as others. Some of us are also privy to unofficial reports we’re hearing through private channels and simply need to keep others informed. If you’re all on the same page with what’s going on day to day, you will make much more effective group decisions and can prioritize actions together. By the way, this includes everything ranging from “What are we having for dinner tonight?” to “How are we going to provide elder care for mom and dad tomorrow?” No topic is too small, and I’d offer that no family member is too young to contribute to the conversation in his/her own way.

· Limit your social media & other news: Yes, you need to know what’s happening right now. Taking a few minutes every few hours is probably enough to do that though. It’s not necessary to be on Facebook 24×7 looking for updates from “your most reliable sources” or sit glued to CNN all day long. Simply reading the updates will be stressful, so limit your screen time and refocus on your other priorities. Use platforms like Facebook and Twitter for staying connected with your friends and sharing good news to lift up your community. Don’t let social media or other news outlets dominate your life and keep you from getting your more critical work done. Check in as needed, but make sure you check back out!

· Create household/family rituals:  Different families will choose different rituals that work for them. My family might prioritize a few minutes every night going around the dinner table and sharing our moments of joy from the day along with any concerns we might have for the following day. Your family might instead choose 30 minutes playing a board game together or doing a puzzle after dinner every night rather than scurrying off to different corners of your home to watch TV or play electronic games. Whatever you do, just do something that brings you all together on a regular basis. This experience of togetherness will help counter the sense of isolation you will likely feel by spending so much more time at home away from friends and colleagues.

· Give yourself & others a timeout!  No, I don’t mean as punishment for doing bad things. I mean that everybody is likely to be stressed and get emotional at some point during unprecedented times like this. At best, things are uncertain right now. More appropriately though, this is scary stuff, so everybody deserves to take a timeout from their emotions and the stress of the moment ‐ and at any time… If you don’t, you’re likely to create animosity between people who are confined to close quarters, and that won’t be good for anyone!

Even though most recognize it’s the right thing to do, “Lockdown 2020” as we’re calling it in our household is not something we would otherwise choose. We are, however, choosing to maintain a sense of silliness and celebration in our household even as we face our own individual stress and natural fears.

To that end, I invite you to do bring some joy and laughter into your household too.

Is your family struggling with the anxiety of the Coronavirus lockdown? Are you concerned about how best to maintain your close connections in such close quarters? Feel free to email our SL team at [email protected] for some additional insights on how best to support yourself and your family during this difficult time. I promise you and your family will get through this if you work together!