Coping activities that increase the sense of control, coherence and connectedness are key to dealing with COVID-19 stress, new research concludes.
Typical coping activities include checking in with friends and loved ones, filtering news intake and planning daily activities.
All of these are ways of regaining control.
Planning daily activities, for example, helps reduce the sensation of drifting along without structure or purpose.
Other techniques that help regain control include making post-pandemic plans and journaling.
Feeling in control is one important way of coping, along with increasing coherence and connectedness, the researchers explain.
Increasing the sense of coherence means trying to make more sense of the world.
One way of doing this is to practice ‘acceptance-based coping’.
This involves using mindfulness to observe fears, anxieties and other emotional responses as they pass through the brain.
Finally, connectedness can be difficult to achieve given social distancing regulations.
However videoconferencing, telephone calls and social media can all help to keep in touch with others.
Even meditating by oneself, directing loving kindness towards the self can help increase the sense of connection to others.
Part of being compassionate towards the self is accepting that our own struggles are connected to others as we are going through the same thing together.
All these strategies have been found to help people deal with stress and bounce back.
These recommendations were inspired by research into how people dealt with other mass traumas, such as the 9/11 terror attacks.
Mr Craig Polizzi, the study’s first author, said:
“We also drew inspiration from our previous work with clients who have experienced traumas and how they have coped with traumatic events.”
People cope with traumas in different ways, so the strategies they use should be personalised, Mr Polizzi said:
“People are unique and the way they cope should be consistent with their needs and values.”
In the future, the research team hope to look at what psychological strategies people used to deal with the pandemic, along with their effectiveness.
Mr Polizzi said:
“It is also important to test the coping strategies we proposed in our article to see if people did use them to reduce distress during the pandemic, as well identify additional techniques individuals used to cope with stress to enhance recommendations for coping during future mass traumas.”
The study was published in the journal Clinical Neuropsychiatry (Polizzi et al., 2020).