Tools for Coping during these Extraordinary Times

A world-wide pandemic. A time of global reckoning and fear. Humans are incredibly resourceful and resilient but the novel coronavirus has given us challenges we’ve never before seen or had to endure. And yet, there is always hope. Health care workers, frontline workers and others have persevered to feed us and take care of us. Scientists have developed vaccines at an unimaginably fast pace and we have one another —separately, perhaps, but together in spirit. 

We carry on, but maintaining a positive attitude is difficult. Where does one turn?

“We all need to recognize how we’re feeling.” says Alison Mayor Sachs, MSW, LSW, OSW-C, FAOSW, Director, Community Outreach and Cancer Support Services, Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center. “Because what we’re feeling is not just grief, but collective grief. And it’s rare for an entire nation to have this feeling. It really is overwhelming.

“The first thing to do, regardless of whether it’s COVID-19, a diagnosis of severe illness or the loss of a loved one, is to recognize what you’re feeling and to own it,” continues Sachs. “Allow yourself to feel it. Don’t diminish what you’re feeling by telling yourself that others have it worse. Just take a moment. Acknowledge it and then get ready for the next step.”

According to Sachs, the next step is reframing the situation, the recognition — realizing what you have control over and what you don’t have control over. For example, “I can’t control what my neighbor does but I can control what I do.” Control and reframing go together. Figure out what you can control and focus on that.

Ways to minimize stress
To minimize stress, first and foremost, go outside. In the desert, winter is the prime outdoor season with plenty of fresh air, mild temperatures and sunshine. Take a walk (see Exercise for Life on page ?? for more details). Wear a mask, maintain physical distance and enjoy your surroundings. 

“The beauty of walking is that we can’t help but maximize our breathing,” says Sachs. “It’s just a natural phenomenon. The deeper breaths we take, the calmer we feel. We can experience it walking, practicing yoga or meditation, or doing some other form of exercise. Breathing helps to calm us and gives us a feeling of being centered, grounded.”

How to breathe
Breathing seems simple enough but we sometimes forget to practice the deliberate, slow breathing that results in a feeling of calm and rejuvenation. If you’re not sure what to do, try this: slowly breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Place your hand on your stomach area and feel it rise with each breath. Feel your pulse slow down and notice the “high” you get from all that oxygen. Deep cleansing breaths. It’s something you can do, anytime, anywhere — walking, sitting or driving. 

Meditation apps may also be helpful. Some are free, some require a fee and some include programs for children. Most also offer nature sounds and/or music to aid falling asleep. Three of the more popular meditation apps are Headspace®, Calm, and Stop, Breathe & Think — found at, and, respectively.

Get creative
Since March, you may have rearranged your house several times and cooked your way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking. You may have exhausted the games in your game closet and sewed enough masks to last a lifetime. So, try something new. How about a new game or puzzle? Would you like to learn to paint or draw or carve figures out of wood? How about learning a new language or taking an online creative writing class? One thing we can access during this pandemic is the internet, which plays host to videos covering more topics than one could ever imagine. Set a goal and take steps to achieve it.

Manage your information intake
One of the easiest things we can do to minimize stress is to manage incoming information. “We encourage our patients at the Cancer Center to manage their information intake,” explains Sachs. “We have to be mindful of news overload. Take breaks, take a walk or doing something creative. Reframe your day with things that are positive.

If nothing seems to help
If you have tried various strategies to feel better and you are still having trouble getting out of bed in the morning, or you’re unable to eat or sleep, or you’re unable to stop eating, make an appointment with your primary care physician. Whenever possible, stay in touch with family and friends on a regular basis. Remember — we’ll get through this together.  

To make an appointment with an Eisenhower Primary Care Physician, call 760.773.1460.