It’s difficult enough to cope with a chronic illness as well as coping with the stressors of a pandemic, however it can be even more challenging to manage both concurrently. During the pandemic we are faced with many unknowns: Who has the virus? Do I have the virus? When will this all be over? What’s next after this? These questions can cause anxiety, fear, confusion which can further exacerbate a chronic condition especially if the condition is particularly susceptible to the more severe symptoms of the virus. If this describes you, what can you do? As a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, I have found some of these strategies to be helpful in alleviating some distressing feelings and thoughts in my clients through the focus of mind, body, and spirit.
Thoughts, emotions, and the things we do are all interconnected and can impact our bodies. For example, if one has asthma and is experiencing tightness in their chest because they are fearful of catching the virus further intensifying their asthmatic symptoms and ultimately arriving to the decision to not engage in any activities, even in activities that are considered low risk. They can then feel frozen by their fear, leading to more feelings of anxiety and even depression in a vicious cycle.
In order to impact the cycle, one must examine their thoughts through different forms. Some of my clients find it helpful to journal their thoughts to allow a space to keep their thoughts rather than in their head. Others find it therapeutic to mediate and place themselves in a calm space to examine those thoughts.
The body and mind are connected. As previously mentioned, in our mind we may have thoughts and emotions that affect our bodies. Whether it’s an individual with asthma who experiences anxiety in their chest and lungs or an individual with gastric issues experiencing that same anxiety in their gut, their emotions and thoughts impact their body.
This is another cycle that can be affected with physical activity. It can be difficult to get out of the house to go to the gym or maybe it’s impossible to socially distance yourself at the beach. However, clients have found the therapeutic impact of getting some fresh air by going for hikes in the forest where they can maintain social distance while also wearing a mask, if possible. Other clients found a sense of serenity in doing yoga on their balcony in their high rise.
Each person may define their spirituality differently and may find different ways to incorporate their spirituality through rituals, gatherings, or any other way. Spirituality often involves the connection with someone or something outside ourselves. Engaging spiritual activities can be difficult during the pandemic, especially if you have a condition that makes you vulnerable to the virus.
We live in the age of spectacular technology with devices that allow us to connect with people all around the world in many different forums right at our finger tips! Utilizing such devices to connect with loved ones or to a community of like-minded individuals can be an effective way to connect with other people and embolden the spirit.
If you are introvert, perhaps the idea of connecting with people is not as appealing. However, taking notice of your connection with the earth beneath your feet, the air you breathe, and the beauty all around you and the universe can give you a sense of serenity in your heart.
The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.Carl Sagan describes our connection with the universe.
You may also find other helpful strategies in our previous blog posts, check it out!
Some of the strategies that were discussed here can be difficult to engage without some guidance. These skills can be utilized as training activities in the gym where you are training to be your optimal self. If you find yourself needing assistance or interested in developing more skills, please reach out to us through the Contact Us page or give us a call.
This article was written by Aarti S. Felder, MA, LCPC, to learn more about her you can find her bio here.