Surfing Through Life: Ride the wave to bliss in stormy times

April 13, 2020

Written by: Kathy Evans, LCSW and Therapist in the Counseling Center and Jennifer Andrews, LCSW, LAC, Director of the Counseling Center

When facing difficulty, one of my favorite inspirational quotes is “We can’t stop the waves, but we can learn to surf.” I don’t know about you, but surfing COVID-19 challenges have occasionally left me with a mouth full of saltwater! (Or at least a shelf full of toilet paper and hand sanitizer). As we face the difficulties and challenges of COVID-19, the Vincennes University Counseling Center offers suggestions for surfing through these crazy times: uncomfortable emotions are expected, self-care is vital, and resiliency is possible.

Uncomfortable emotions are expected--they are part of a fully lived life

Although we don’t like discomfort, we would not know the emotion of joy or happiness if we didn’t also experience sadness or even fear. When this happens, it is important to acknowledge these feelings. It is important to take time to reflect on what you are feeling and how you may be reacting to any fears and uncertainties of the future. 

Fear and anxiety can emerge if you are worried about yourself or family contracting or spreading COVID-19. You might be concerned about obtaining food or other needed supplies. Depression and boredom can emerge due to extended periods of being at home without your usual routines or financial struggles. Anger and irritability can emerge due to your loss of personal freedom, others who are not doing their part to avoid the spread of the virus or uncertainty about the future.

Taking care of yourself is vital--you have to feed yourself physically and emotionally to have the strength to help others

Our second point focuses on some practical strategies for positive self-care.

Be informed, not flooded.

Have you ever said you were going to go online for 5 minutes and 2 hours later you were shocked wondering where the time went? When it comes to COVID-19, we could spend 24/7 reading articles, stories and commentaries about the disease. Pick two reliable informational sources to check only 1-2x per day. Limit your social media presence and be sure you spend some time looking for good news (like cat and dog videos) when you do!

•       https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/

•       https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019 

Activate your brain through meaningful activity.

This is your opportunity to be yourself! What do you value? What is important to you? Do you like to cook? Draw? Read? Garden? Write?  Exercise? If so, build these activities into your daily routines.

Be social from a distance

Social distancing does not mean isolation! Here are some ideas that you might consider in keeping connected with others.

•       Set up regular days & times for online social “dates” with friends

•       Play photo scavenger hunt or charades (via Zoom, Skype, or Facetime)

•       Host a Netflix Party

•       Host an online karaoke party

•       Play social games on your phone

•       Join-host an online book or journal club

•       Engage in virtual team building activities

Expand your horizons

There are many opportunities for online exploration of art and culture. Many museums are offering virtual tours, there are live virtual concert offerings, online art classes and even online streaming of Broadway shows.

•       Museum Virtual Tours or Museum Collections Online

•       Live Virtual Concerts (all genres)

•       Free Classes from Ivy League Schools

•       Learn a language (Duolingo)

•       Broadway Direct Guide to Online-Streaming Broadway Shows 

•       Go on a Home Safari (Cincinnati Zoo) or to the Zoo Live cams (San Diego Zoo)

Practice self-compassion

Many times, we can look over the mistakes and oversights of others, but we are brutally hard on ourselves. It is important to remember that we all make mistakes, and that imperfection is part of the human experience. Practicing self-compassion means treating ourselves as well as we might treat a guest in our home. Although we all want to do our best, we also should remember that our “best” may vary from day to day depending on our health, the stressors around us and other things that we cannot control.

Resiliency is possible--we can grow and find meaning even in challenging times

Our third point focuses on resiliency. What is resiliency? It is the ability to find strength and growth during difficult times. Here are a few that we would encourage you to try.

Keep things in perspective

Take a deep breath and stay focused on what the situation actually is, rather than the worst-case scenario. It can be helpful to shift your focus to things within your control rather than things outside your control.

Practice Gratitude

Research shows that giving thanks can make you happier. Some ideas for gratitude include writing a thank you note, keeping a gratitude journal, and naming 3-5 things daily that you are thankful for.

Reach out to others

When we connect with others, we realize that we are not alone. It also gives us something positive to focus on. Whether it is reaching out to a neighbor or making phone calls to others that we don’t frequently talk to, reaching out is a sure-fire way to help us thrive in the midst of these challenging times!  What will you do to “thrive” instead of just “survive”?

For more resources or to learn more about VU’s Counseling Center, visit https://www.vinu.edu/web/guest/counseling-center

Counseling Center Staff

Jennifer Andrews, LCSW, LAC, Director of the Counseling Center

Kathy Evans,  LCSW and Therapist in the Counseling Center

Laura Pease, Counseling Center Secretary

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