Better than Surviving: How to Stay Emotionally Well in the Time of COVID-19

 

Anne O'Connor

For some people, our new world of pandemic-required isolation has meant more time with loved ones, a welcomed slowing down, and maybe a little more sleep. 

And for others, the strain of trying to work from home with the kids around, working on the front-line jobs, the loss of connection, or watching loved ones suffer is taking a toll. 

Maybe it's all true at the same time. Which can lead to feeling happy and grateful one day and weepy and worried the next. If this sounds familiar, you're not alone. 

This week, I start a new video-interview series called "Better than Surviving: How to Stay  Emotionally Well in the Time of COVID-19. I'll gather experts who are steeped in the research and work focused on thriving and what it takes: yes, even in a pandemic. Through these interviews, we'll bring you practical ideas along with emotional support and a big dose of inspiration to get us through this time stronger and ready for whatever comes next. 

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Less Stress, More Love? It’s All In The Touch

by Anne O'Connor

A key strategy to staying healthy during the Coronavirus pandemic—keeping six feet apart from one another—can also have an unintended side effect: limiting the healing properties of touch.

“Touch has significant effects on health and well-being,” said Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute, in an email interview. “Touching, as in hugging and back rubbing, stimulates pressure receptors under the skin that in turn increase vagal activity—the vagus being the largest cranial nerve. This touching slows the nervous system by, for example, decreasing the heart rate and the production of stress hormones.”

Field said she hopes that people who are isolating together get more touch, now that many people are together more. And if someone is alone, she said there’s plenty that person can do to create the benefits in their bodies as well.  

Field is the founder of the Touch Research Institute at the University...

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You are allowed to be happy even when there is a pandemic

Although I am socially isolating, I'm doing my best to stay in touch with people. More than one person has said that they were kind of feeling cozy and enjoying being at home. In such a difficult time, there’s a bit of guilt that goes along with enjoying this time of isolation. Because although isolating can be challenging—even harrowing—the truth is that for some, it's not all bad. 

Let me acknowledge that it is quite bad for many.  Some who isolated folks are working with depression and anxiety and isolation is the wrong recipe for being well.  

And the people who are suffering with the actual virus and their families, times are tough. Also, for people who are not able to socially isolate because we need them. We can all send our gratitude and our support and our care to the sick and the people on the front lines, especially in health care. But all over, people are working in jobs because we need them, and they cannot...

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This is why you can't sleep: How to build all-day energy

by Anne O'Connor


Sleep solves so many problems. And the more irregular and infrequent your sleep, the more problems you have.  

I'm not just talking about sniping at the people you love and being unpleasant to be around—although I am talking about that. Don't sleep and your relationships are going to stink. That's the real deal. If you find yourself regularly cranky, irritable and short-tempered, you may want to consider more sleep. Your people certainly want you to.  

It's more than our relationships that are affected though. Not getting enough sleep can contribute to all kinds of other problems—everything from being overweight, to lower libido, a host of illnesses and car crashes. Plus, people being sleep-deprived has been linked to some of the most serious accidents in memory—Chernobyl, the Exxon Valdez crash, and the space shuttle Challenger accident. Some research shows that people who sleep less die earlier. With...

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Say "Hell no!" to overwhelm and focus on what matters most

There’s been a bit of a dust-up in my small town since town leaders decided that all plantings on the boulevards have to go: no flowers, no shrubs, no bushes, no rocks—everything has to be pulled out. A group of residents is working to get a more reasonable stance negotiated with the city.

And I started thinking. I could help with that.  I could help draft language and help meet with the city leaders and help formulate a workable plan with these other good folks willing to step forward. I care about this; my neighbors and my mom have great boulevards and they’re worth preserving. Besides, my philosophy is that more plants are better.
All of which is completely true. But I have this problem: I try to do too much. I care about everything. And I want to be useful! I want to help! 
You already know what happens when I try to take it all on: I am not useful to anyone. 
Recently, I’ve been trying something new when I’m about to plunge...
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Gratitude 2012

For firm mattresses and soft down comforters. And mango with sticky rice. Voicemail messages cheering me on. Unwavering love. The sound of small feet making their way down the stairs in the morning.
For the salty water of the sea. And fresh water lakes. Expansive, fast flowing rivers, especially the Mississippi. For tiny rivulets, and creeks running through the woods; for cold, clear springs; for the pond in Sheila and John’s backyard.  Clean water for drinking; hot water for renewal.
For exercise balls in meeting rooms. And camaraderie of colleagues. For my office painted to match the sky. For chair massages and yoga and tai chi offered by my workplace. For children and dogs wandering the office and the resultant delight of my coworkers. For working together to change the way we have food.
For clean food, lovingly tended, and abundantly available. For the comfort and community of our coop. For a piece of hearty bread toasted, covered in avocado, a bit of salt and pepper,...
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