An 11-Step Emotional Health Checklist During the COVID-19 Crisis

Author:
Sharon May, Ph.D. and Alan Hart


How are you and your family handling the COVID-19 crisis? So many changes and so many emotions! We would like to offer a quick checklist to help you and those around you deal with these challenges in the best way possible.

Here are 11 steps to guide you through what you may be feeling and what to do with your emotions:

1. What is your body experiencing? Maybe your neck is tight, your chest feels heavy or your palms are sweating. Or you've lost energy, or are lethargic and tired all the time. Or your fingers nervously tap, or your heart beats faster and your mind races when you try fall asleep.

2. What emotions go along with these bodily sensations? We aren't always aware that our bodies are 'feeling' for us through our physical sensations. We might be 'worked up,' 'nervous' or 'fuzzy brained,' but not sure what emotions we are really feeling. Slow down, maybe the bodily sensations you are experiencing are stress, grief, anger, overwhelmed-ness, anxiety and/or fear.

3. How has your life, work, finances, family and routine been impacted and changed as a result of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders? Like practically everyone, you've likely been sent home from work, the kids are home from school, or maybe you are home alone, you've lost your church or other support community, and perhaps are receiving a reduced paycheck.

4. What feelings have you had during this time? Maybe you've been worried about finances, felt over-whelmed by kids at home, been afraid of getting the virus, been heartbroken that you can't see your grandchildren, or have felt trapped at home.

5. How have you been coping and reacting? These are stressful times and if you are not careful, you can quickly slip into ruminating over worst-case scenarios, getting stuck in your fears, numbing your emotions, staying busy so as to avoid them, or reacting angrily out of them. Sometimes it is easier to get irritated and angry than it is to be vulnerable and share grief, sadness or fear.

6. Name your feelings, your sadness, anxiety, uncertainty, fears and stressors. Life as we knew it has changed. You are going to have lots of feelings about that. Be careful not to ignore your feelings. They are telling you something about yourself, your life and the world around you. They want you to listen. The healthy way to deal with emotions is to understand what they are saying to you. Listening to them can help you move through them.

What does your grief, fear, anxiety or stress want you to do? Grieve the loss of your job, maybe even cry; but move through your grief and reach for acceptance while you find creative ways to stretch your savings. Some anxiety is healthy, as it keeps you alert. Face your fears, name them, sift out free floating fears from real fears, and find ways to address them.

It takes courage to live with uncertainty, and sometimes the only way to do it is with the encouragement of caring people around you. Like a runner finishing a race with a sprained ankle and crossing the finish line with the cheers from caring supporters—urging him to keep going and not give up.

7. You might feel depressed. After the initial shock of learning about the deadly COVID-19 virus, many people rushed to buy food, stock their pantries and take measures to deal with the oncoming crisis. Then the 'stay-at-home' orders came, and everyone found their lives turned inside out. Shock shifted to grief.

Depression is a way our souls slow us down so we can process loss and change. If you are overcome with sadness, you can often slip into busyness, anger, or try to numb it all with alcohol. But it is okay to grieve losses. Actually, it is necessary for us to grieve our losses, so we can move to finding new ways of living. And this is best done with a close, trusted friend.

8. Find hope and courage, and then share it. Write down Bible verses that promise God's presence and His faithfulness to get you through these difficult circumstances. Believe in them and hold onto them. Share statements of hope and encouragement with your family members, neighbors and friends. You need a trusted community to support you (and you them) during this time.

9. Be wise and productive. Find the wisdom in your emotions. Take fear, for example. If you are afraid to go to the grocery store because you might get infected, then listen to your fears and take extra steps to protect yourself if you need to go out. If you've lost your income, cut your expenses, apply for social services, and talk with wise people who can help you be creative in making it through to the other side. Write a list of changes you can make and begin to take action now.

10. Get up and live! I am heartbroken that I can't hang out with my grandchildren. I allow myself to cry. But then, I get up and find creative ways to connect with them. I carry the sadness of not being able to play with them in one hand, and in the other I productively find new ways to keep in touch with them.

11. Comfort yourself. After you have listened to your fear, made wise choices, grieved your losses and taken constructive steps, you can know you have done the best you can. Then give the rest to God. Your times are in His hands. Comfort your worried heart with hope. Things will get better; you will get through this.

We are deeply sorry for all the changes and struggles you are experiencing. We will be praying for you, even though we don't know you by name. It is a difficult season! If you are struggling to get centered in this time, reach out to a friend. You are not expected to make it through this alone. We need each other for wisdom, support, encouragement and help. We may be sequestered at home, but we are not meant to be isolated and alone.

From our home today, Alan and I are shouting across the race track to you, "Don't give up, keep going, you can do this, one step at a time! God is with you. He will never leave you or forsake you, and we will get through this to the other side!!!" Know that we will be cheering you on all the way to the finish line.

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