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Expert Advice for Navigating a Pandemic: Focus on the Small Things

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Expert Advice for Navigating a Pandemic: Focus on the Small Things
“Try to identify one thing you’ve been handling well during the crisis, and use that as an opportunity for self-compassion and less self-criticism.”
Dr. Kristen Davis-Coelho

So here we are, smack-dab in the middle of a global pandemic, and almost every aspect of our lives has changed — at least for the short-term. While we can’t control those external forces (unless you happen to be a scientist working on a vaccine), there are ways we can there are ways we can examine our lives in this new context in an effort to either learn about or improve ourselves — in the short- and long-term.

To learn what the experts recommend, we reached out to Dr. Kristen Davis-Coelho, the Chief Behavioral Officer at Northern Nevada HOPES, to get her thoughts on this important topic.

Her first piece of advice? “Try to identify one thing you’ve been handling well during the crisis and use that as an opportunity for self-compassion and less self-criticism,” she says.

Yes, the first step is to acknowledge what we’re doing well, rather than focusing on the things we perceive we’re doing wrong. This is an extraordinarily tough situation, especially when you stir in the ongoing social and political chaos happening locally and around the world. Give yourself a break, and acknowledge that you’re doing the best you can.

Related: Staying Positive During Coronavirus

Baby Steps

If you do want to work on some form of self-improvement during this time, Davis-Coelho recommends a similar strategy as above — only this time, try focusing on the opposite of your positive takeaways.

“Identify one specific thing that is not working well for you, maybe something that this situation has highlighted,” she advises.

This could be how you manage stress, how your life is structured or perhaps that your support system is not as supportive as it could be. The key, though, is to focus on one thing rather than attempting to restructure your entire life.

“Figure out a small way to stretch around that one thing,” Davis-Coelho says. “What is one change you could make that might make a world of difference?”

She gives the example of someone who feels disconnected or stressed (there’s the “not working” thing) and decides to explore meditation or yoga. “Maybe you download an app and listen to one five-minute meditation three or five nights a week,” she says.

Or perhaps you’ve identified that you’re too rigid or judgmental. While this crisis gives you many opportunities to judge, Davis-Coelho says to use this as a learning opportunity instead.

“Take five minutes to try and understand how and why people are making the decisions they’re making,” she advises.

Related: Staying Connected During Quarantine

If you’re disorganized, try arranging one aspect of your physical space. Organize one drawer, or get rid of your mismatched socks.

“Structure one piece of your day,” Davis-Coelho says. “And understand that’s your accomplishment.”

Value the One Small Change

Davis-Coelho says that one small thing might snowball into bigger things, but that is not the point. “It’s about getting good at identifying small, incremental goals, and not putting so much pressure on yourself to make big changes,” she says. “It’s okay to value the one small change.”

She adds, “These small steps will increase your sense of control during a chaotic time in the world.”

So now, it’s time for some introspection: What aspects of your life are you absolutely rocking these days? What could you improve? Take some time to answer these questions, and find yourself making baby steps toward thriving in a COVID world.  

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