10 Helpful Coping Tips for Patients

Patient Tool Kit

Adapted from available resources by: Amaris R. Tippey, PhD

Yoga And MeditationWe are all experiencing the stress that comes along with the sudden life changes subsequent to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our daily routines and ways of interacting with our world have recently changed. We are being bombarded with the latest information, having to limit contact with others, experiencing worry about the safety of ourselves and loved ones, and learning to cope with the unknown. It is a normal natural response to have increased emotions during this time of uncertainty including feeling stressed, worried, sad, scared, disappointed, and confused among others. The more we focus what is out of our control, the more stressed and anxious we begin to feel. Focus on what is in your control.

This brief patient toolkit was designed to assist you with coping during this stressful time. It is comprised of helpful tips and free phone applications that may assist you with your emotional wellbeing.

10 Helpful Tips

  1. Monitor News Intake: While it is important to remain knowledgeable about what is going on, being bombarded by 24/7 news coverage is unnecessary and only increases distress. Limiting your news intake can be helpful to manage upsetting feelings. Consider checking in once or twice a day for 20 minutes. The need to know news is not changing more rapidly than that, especially if you are already limiting travel and socially distancing yourself.
  2. Develop a Routine: Your routine may be different than normal given social distancing, crowd limitations, and spending more time in your home. In periods of uncertainty it is comforting to have some structure in place. A routine can anchor us to our day, getting up at the same time, getting dressed, planning some to dos, going to bed at the same time each night. Also, make time for things important to you including enjoyable activities. The certainty of your routine can turn down the volume on the uncertainty of life. Routine will reduce stress and is good for adults and children too.
  3. Take Care of Your Body: Taking care of your body can reduce stress and increase your body’s ability to fight off illness. Trying to eat healthy, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, exercising, and engaging in relaxing and enjoyable activities is important. No need to feel guilty for taking care of you.
  4. Avoid Unhealthy Coping: find alternative coping methods rather than drinking alcohol, using drugs, etc.
  5. Give yourself a break and take a breath: Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings. It is okay to not be okay. Our feelings often come and go in waves. Take a breath allow yourself to feel your feelings and focus on the moment. Your feelings will often shift throughout the day. Monitor for positive emotions and things you are grateful for. Show yourself kindness and compassion.
  6. Find New Ways to Connect Socially: during times of social distancing it is common to feel isolated. Think out of the box for ways you may feel more connected. This may be over the telephone, through social media or other virtual connections like Zoom or Marco Polo apps to connect with friends and family. Meaningful interaction and fun is important for emotional wellbeing.
  7. Adhere to Safety Precautions: While we cannot control the covid-19 virus we can reduce our risk of infection. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or with an alcohol based hand sanitizer; Maintain 3-6 feet away from someone who is coughing or sneezing to prevent spread of germs; Engage in social distancing; Prevent yourself from touching your face.
  8. Find ways to contribute or help others: Considering ways you can contribute to or help others can also improve our emotional wellbeing. This may be offering a kind word to a healthcare provider or doing something kind for a spouse, friend, or child in your family.
  9. Practice a Calming Response: Practice slow, steady breathing and reducing the tension (softening) your muscles. Engage in activities that are calming for you stretching, listening to music, taking a bath, scheduling quiet time, etc.
  10. Monitor for Anxiety Provoking Statements: In times of stress it is common to have running commentary on what is happening or what might happen in the future. Monitor for these unhelpful thoughts. Check in and reframe anxiety provoking statements to statements that better reflect the evidence to reduce stress and increase coping. For example, “my family will get the virus and die” to “the majority of people who get the virus recover.”

NCCN patient self-care and distress management

View the PDF

Managing the psychological impact of social distancing

View the PDF

Free smartphone apps to assist with managing stress

StopBreathe & Think: A friendly app to guide people through meditations for mindfulness & compassion. Available on: IOS, Android or Online

Breath to Relax: “This app is a stress management tool, which will help you learn how to perform and use diaphragmatic breathing techniques for stress control. It also provides you with education about the biology of stress, the effects of stress on the body, how to do diaphragmatic breathing, and the biology of breathing. Using this app can be helpful to your meditation practice as well. Even though this app was developed by the Department of Defense (DoD) and T2, it is not restricted to use by military or veterans.”

Mindfulness Coach: is a free and publicly available mobile app for people who are interested in learning about and practicing mindfulness. It was created by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

(Dr. Amaris Tippey is a licensed clinical psychologist with the Siteman Psychology Service. Information was adapted from the following sources: WHO, CDC, American Psychological Association)

Meditation

“Self Compassion Break for Uncertain Times” by Dr. Therese Cash

 

“Brief Mindfulness Practice – anxiety and uncertainty” by Dr. Mark Heiland