Woman in Hat in Forest

If the recent pandemic has made you feel like you have no control, or has spiked your anxiety, you’re not alone. When we face uncertainty, feeling out of control is normal, even expected.  

In¬†our current crisis, fear and anxiety are completely¬†normal¬†responses¬†‚ÄĒ we‚Äôre¬†dealing¬†with¬†real¬†concerns¬†about¬†our¬†health¬†and the¬†health of those we love.¬†The good news is, if you are feeling a bit unraveled right now,¬†there are steps¬†you¬†can take to¬†ground¬†yourself¬†and¬†regain that sense of control that¬†you¬†were¬†accustomed to¬†preCOVID.¬†¬†

Dr. Russ Harris, author of The Happiness Trap, and internationally- acclaimed ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) trainer, has created a set of practical steps for regaining control specific to the COVID-19 crisis, called FACE COVID. Let’s break it down, letter by letter, below. If it’s helpful, we recommend taking a screenshot of the steps and saving the photo to your favorites, so you can reference the steps whenever you need them. 

F = Focus on what’s in your control 
A = Acknowledge your thoughts & feelings 
C = Come back into your body 
E = Engage in what you’re doing   

C = Committed action 
O = Opening up 
V = Values 
I = Identify resources 
D = Disinfect & distance   

FACE 

Focus on what‚Äôs in your control.¬†This means¬†understanding¬†what is¬†not¬†in your control. You can‚Äôt control the virus,¬†your¬†state‚Äôs¬†response,¬†the economy,¬†school closures,¬†you can‚Äôt even control your neighbor‚Äôs response‚ÄĒthe list goes on and on. It‚Äôs¬†easy to get caught up in these scary thoughts¬†and ruminate¬†about¬†all these scenarios that are¬†simply¬†out of our control. You are spending a lot of energy¬†worrying and this is neither useful nor productive.¬†You can¬†however¬†control what¬†YOU¬†are doing right now.¬†Let‚Äôs focus on what IS in your control.¬†The actions that you take for yourself¬†and your family matter and can have¬†far reaching¬†positive¬†implications.¬†¬†

If you‚Äôre wondering, ‚ÄúOK, that sounds great, but how am I supposed to do that?‚ÄĚ that‚Äôs where the next step comes in.¬†

Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings.¬†Letting go of what‚Äôs out of your control does not mean ignoring your feelings about it. In order to create distance between¬†your¬†thoughts and feelings and reactions,¬†you¬†need to acknowledge¬†these¬†feelings¬†with curiosity and kindness. If a friend told you they were nervous right now, you would comfort them. Do the same with yourself. It‚Äôs OK to say to yourself, ‚ÄúI‚Äôm nervous because this is out of my control,‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúthe news is making me scared.‚ÄĚ Naming it¬†can help assuage it.¬†¬†

Come¬†back into your body.¬†When¬†your¬†thoughts are spinning, the fastest way to ground¬†yourself¬†is¬†through¬†your¬†own physicality. Try pushing your feet¬†hard¬†into the¬†floor or¬†pushing your fingertips together. Try a¬†few stretches, maybe even¬†doing¬†yoga¬†cat-cows¬†on the floor.¬†Keep your feelings and thoughts in mind while you do this ‚ÄĒ these movements are not meant to distract you, but to remind you of what you¬†can¬†control while¬†experiencing¬†difficult feelings.¬†¬†

Engage in what you’re doing. This means to engage in your surroundings or a task in a fully focused manner. One easy way to do this is by using the 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique: list 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. You can also do tasks like going through the objects in your room and noting how long you’ve had the object, where it came from, and your best memory of it. This step is about refocusing your attention, so use whatever technique works for you.  

You can repeat these steps until you‚Äôve started to gain a sense of control.¬†We¬†also¬†recommend visiting the meditations in your¬†Sanvello¬†Toolkit.¬†Try ‚ÄúYour Five Senses,‚Ä̬†“Present in this Moment,” or ‚ÄúObserve Your Surroundings.”¬†¬†

 

COVID 

Committed action.¬†This means taking an action to gain control in the face of your anxiety. In the case of the pandemic,¬†this includes¬†doing¬†your¬†part¬†by¬†taking protective measures¬†against the virus ‚Äď handwashing, physical¬†distancing, etc.¬†¬†

Don‚Äôt forget to include¬†self-care¬†actions¬†that promote mental well-being¬†for yourself and those you love.¬†Taking into consideration¬†that most of us are under ‚Äústay¬†at home‚ÄĚ orders, we¬†may have to get¬†creative.¬†This can mean¬†setting up¬†virtual hangouts with friends,¬†setting time for a relaxing¬†bath,¬†finding workouts to do at home, or¬†finally getting around to¬†that hobby¬†you‚Äôve¬†been meaning to for years.¬†Don‚Äôt be afraid to ask yourself throughout the day, ‚Äúwhat can I do right now to be more compassionate to myself or to others?‚Ä̬†Be intentional, commit and¬†take action.¬†

Opening up. Be vulnerable with yourself. Remember vulnerability is a sign of strength not weakness. Allow yourself the space to recognize the tsunami of emotions you may be experiencing like fear, grief, anger, sadness, frustration and helplessness, just to name a few. Practice self-compassion, this can include incorporating meditations or starting a gratitude journal. In your Sanvello Toolkit, you can use the Hope board to keep track of the things you’re grateful for, and revisit them when you’re feeling low. 

Values. Who do you want to be during this crisis? How do you want to treat yourself and others? Be mindful of your core values which may include love, kindness and honesty, and find ways to incorporate these into your days. Even in this crisis, find ways to let your personal core values motivate your actions.   

Identify resources. Knowing who and what to turn to in a difficult time can be all the support you need. Research and decide who you will turn to for advice, comfort, information, and health services. This can include a combination of your friends, family, your medical doctor or therapist. Have a list of emergency phone numbers handy, even in a Note on your phone. If you feel comfortable being a resource to a friend or neighbor, let them know. Decide in advance which websites you will trust and check, like the WHO or the CDC websites.  

Disinfect and distance physically. These are obvious, but the best ways to protect yourself and feel in control are to disinfect surfaces and keep physical distance. You not only protect yourself that way, you protect many, many others.  

We are living in strange times and dealing with heightened anxiety in the face of this uncertainty. Let’s be gentle with ourselves and kind with each other. Taking the steps outlined above and strengthening our coping skills can help us regain control and build resiliency. In fact, perhaps a silver lighting at the end of this mess is that we will come out of this stronger and more resilient as individuals, families and communities. 

 

 

By Rosimar Suddeth, LCSW-S
Sanvello Teletherapist

I’ve been a social worker for fifteen years and a licensed clinical therapist for eleven. Like you, I am a card-carrying human and have experienced the joyous ups and painful downs of life. I have learned that we are resilient and so much stronger than we often realize. As a Sanvello teletherapist, my goal is to help others tap into their inner strength and develop treatment goals tailored to their specific needs. Originally from South America, I’ve lived most of my life in the great state of Texas and enjoy spending time with my husband of 11 years and beautiful twin daughters.