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coping with covid

Coping with Covid in 2021: Running a Marathon we Never Trained for

Written by: Retha Roelvert

As I started this article, I found such resistance to writing about Covid-19 once again and the way it has affected us for more than a year now. It was the same feeling I got on the first of January 2021, when I could not get myself to feel that ‘new year, new possibilities feeling.’

Over the past year, there has been a lot of emphasis on self-care, resilience, and mental wellness, but even the most resilient among us can admit to feeling some form of fatigue setting in after dealing with this altered reality for so many days.

In many ways, this pandemic is a marathon that we were all forced to start running without ever preparing. As if that is not hard enough, many of us have had to do it while facing the biggest losses, traumas, and financial challenges of our lives. This means we will need to work extra hard to manage our emotional well-being.

We know that we will get through this based on the past. Humanity has survived previous pandemics, but is it possible to feel and cope a little better in the interim?
Here are some tips from various research sources to help us cope as we try to make our way through this difficult time:

1. Stay physically safe from the virus

Yes, this comes first. An important part of managing anxiety levels during this time is to make sure to practice the safety measures that are in place to prevent us from contracting and spreading the virus. Remember to practice physical distancing, wash your hands, and wear a mask.

2. Pause. Breathe. Reflect

Even though we’d like to, we simply cannot function at the level we did before the pandemic. We are going through a collective trauma and that means we need to slow down and get in touch with ourselves many times per day to help us cope. One of the ways to slow down is to practice mindful breathing techniques. By breathing deeply and mindfully we help our nervous system to regulate, and we calm our minds and our hearts. You can find many mindful breathing techniques on YouTube.

3. Connect with others

Taking time to share your feelings and to listen and support others is critical in these times. Talking with others who have our best interests at heart makes us feel safe. You can get and provide warm, comforting, social support by using various apps such as WhatsApp video calling, Zoom, Microsoft Teams etc. Loneliness is another big challenge for many of us during this time of isolation. If you have trouble reaching out or trusting others, why not call our counselling line to speak to an understanding counsellor. Or meet others by attending some of our courses. We are ready to connect with you.

4. Limit media to reduce anxiety

Doom scrolling or doom surfing are new terms referring to the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing. It is vital to monitor what we let into our feeling space. Just like we cannot just eat any junk because it’s not good for our health, we also need to be more mindful of what we take in via news sites and social media. Challenge yourself to put your devices down and trade in screen time for a few minutes outside in the sun or doing something you enjoy.

5. Keep to a healthy routine

Our activities, thoughts, and mood are intricately linked. If you want to change your mood, try changing your activities. Routines and rituals are restorative to us as humans. Predictable activity allows our vigilant nervous system to relax. Try to connect with your body’s natural rhythms and feel in which ways your body wants to move. Some people’s bodies enjoy fast exercises like running while others are drawn to gentler practices such as yoga or swimming. Find what works for you. Do the same to find your eating and sleeping rhythms.

6. Be kind to yourself and others

Make a quality decision to be extra kind to yourself in this time. Humans across the world are sharing this experience with you. We are all in this together. We might as well go through this with kindness.

7. Reach out for help if you need it

Grief and trauma change us. In the Lifeline Pretoria Personal Growth Course, we use the Wheel of Growth to indicate how it can change us in a good and meaningful way. If you feel you have been dealing with a lot of grief and trauma, I encourage you to do this course. It has made one of the biggest impacts on my own ability to heal and grow from trauma.

This list is by no means complete and I invite you to construct your own ‘Wellness Kit’ with tips that work for you.

Finally, please know that you are not alone. You might be feeling lonely and that is why Lifeline Pretoria is here. We recognise that we are all human and that we need one another. Especially now!

Key References
Home. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2021, from
Levine, P. (2014). Healing from the bottom up.
Neff, K. (2013). Self compassion. London: Hodder & Stoughton.
Pettiford, R. (2020). The nervous system. Minneapolis, MN: Bellwether Media.
Tull, M. T., & Kimbrel, N. (2020). Emotion in posttraumatic stress disorder: Etiology, assessment, neurobiology, and treatment. London: Academic Press is an imprint of Elsevier.
Van der Kolk, B., & Ogden, P. (2009). Trauma and the body: Implications for treatment.

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