The global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, ever-evolving and altering our physical reality (e-learning at home – work from home – eat at home), has a significant impact on our state of mind as well. In recognition of this oft-overlooked residual effect, we reached out to several lung health experts: a clinical psychologist, the manager of our Lung HelpLine and a senior-aged patient who has sarcoidosis (inflammatory lung disease). The following is a collection of their unique perspectives suggesting ways to help manage your mental and emotional well-being during this difficult time.
#1: Re-frame the present situation. The first rule of thumb is referring to the “crisis” in less scary terms to encourage a sense of control and calm. “There’s productive and non-productive anxiety right now. It can be helpful to remember that we’re trying to find a balance—to accept uncertainty and discomfort while staying healthy and kind within our communities.” —Lisa Lombard, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and research assistant professor at Northwestern Medicine (CFAAR) in Chicago, who specializes in stress-mediated health concerns
#2: Lean on your existing “I can do it” skills. “People who deal with chronic medical conditions, both personally and as a caregiver, have developed natural mechanisms to aid them when facing adversarial situations. Now is your chance to show them off.” —Mark C., manager of Lung Association’s Lung HelpLine
#3: Control what you can do and let go of the rest. “I set a schedule to stay motivated. It includes an exercise routine and things to do around the house, like spring cleaning. Through a positive attitude, I’ve turned downtime into quality time with my family. —Debbie D., patient with lung disease
#4: Social distancing doesn’t have to be isolating. “Physically separating ourselves from most family and friends is a short-term step to achieving a noble common goal. Focus on nurturing and guiding the younger generations, in addition to continuing to seek out connections through alternate means, like frequent phone calls and walks around the neighborhood. Acts of kindness and checking in on others are still vital.” —Lisa Lombard, Ph.D.
#5: Be patient with yourself. “The best anybody can do is take it a day at a time. It may feel lonely on occasion, but you’re not alone. We’re in this together and giving back to the greater good. It’s possible to keep a distance while remaining part of a community.” —Mark C.
#6: Get back to the basics… and enjoy it. “Whether crafting or reading, figure out what makes you happy and do it as much as possible. The pace of daily life has temporarily slowed down. No better time to embrace the comforts of home. Start by taking a deep breath.” —Debbie D.
#7: Know it’s not forever. “While we’re unsure precisely how long this time period will last, it certainly will have an end. Keep your eyes on the finish line. You’ll eventually, likely sooner than later, get back to living your best life.” —Lisa Lombard, Ph.D.
#8: Use technology as a lifeline, not a crutch. “It’s important to separate the good information from the not-so-good. Stick to verifiable sources and take advantage of online support groups. It’s nice to communicate with others, especially those in similar circumstances. Also turn off your TV, mobile device or whatever when the news becomes overwhelming.” —Mark C.
We’re here for you! Take Mark’s advice and join our online support communities today. Find a community that fits your needs. Our Lung HelpLine can also be accessed 24/7 by calling 1-800-LUNGUSA or submitting a question online.