There’s no doubt that putting into practice the new national mantra” stay in place, cover your coughs and sneezes, and wash your hands thoroughly” will save lives as we ride out the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. That’s a given. Another indisputable fact is that what we do beyond those basics can have a profound and positive effect on our lives during this crisis and beyond. One invaluable thing we can do is manage negative emotions and doing that leads to becoming more resilient. Here are a few tips on how to focus on positivity and hope as we go through this time of global fear and uncertainty.

Keep a Gratitude Journal: Expand your awareness and happiness with gratitude and personal celebration. Gratitude helps one feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences and improve health while dealing with adversity. Make a list of 3-5 items you are grateful for each day. What are you appreciating today that will bring forth goodness and connect you with hope?

Start your day with a Morning Affirmation: Begin your day with an intentional openheartedness message. I suggest this because it helps me to set the tone of my day. There are excerpts from many books, online passages and prayers you can practice daily.  Checking in with myself before checking in with the world works best for me.  Beginning your day with positive thoughts will help you to embrace your best self and instill happiness, open-mindedness and hope.

Be strict on how you stay informed:  I strongly suggest limiting time watching TV coverage of the virus. There is much misinformation which is often counterproductive and feeds into fear.  Pay attention to how you are receiving information and what you are feeling, if listening to the news makes you feel anxious. It’s wise and appropriate to stop listening to it, especially if it is causing havoc to your physical and mental health. Keep informed, of course, by using the CDC, the World Health Organization and your local public health authorities to get the most trustworthy source of information.

Staying active:  Find ways to exercise to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. There are online programs and videos you can follow. Guess what, you don’t even need equipment. Stretching or using whatever you have in your home as low impact weights is perfect. Experiencing nature, whether sitting in your back yard enjoying springtime or taking walks to enjoy fresh air will absolutely improve how you feel.  In my neighborhood, people are out walking and taking care to cross the street to keep a safe distance. A friendly wave and hello can do wonders to lift spirits all around.

In this time of concern and confusion, let’s remember we are all in this together. Although we may be feeling powerless over this worldwide virus, we do have control over spreading kindness, encouragement and charity to others and to ourselves. Be kind to yourself. If you are staying in place with other family members, investigate activities that make you smile and bring joy. Play with your children, spend quality time with your spouse. Bring out the board games, card games, and puzzles. Watch movies, read something interesting and maybe even learn something new.   Once you have your routine in place, take it to another and share acts of kindness and grace.

Remain connected with others who are staying in place: Who have you called to check in with today?  Set a goal to call someone each day to share encouragement, laughter and empathic concern. Our sincere words are powerful and empowering.  Do your best to maintain and share calmness with others in a time of crisis. What can you do to make a difference in another? Pull out your stationary and consider writing a letter, sending a note or a “thinking of you” card. My family has turned to using video conferencing, like Skype or Zoom. Have a virtual coffee chat or enjoy a cocktail hour together while you catch up. Teach family and friends how to watercolor (build a bird house, etc.) – all compliments of your talent and social media! Don’t have social media but do have a telephone with a speaker? Revert to yesteryear, channel your younger self and laugh at a TV comedy with your friend(s) on the line.

Parents and their two children watching TV together at home

We used to do that with wild abandon, so why not now? These activities provide face to face (ear to ear, or speaker to speaker) contact and are the best medicines for overall health to reduce stress and anxiety. Depression does not have to have the upper hand. It’s within our power to defeat the isolation that can bring about loneliness and depression. Make the first move and invited others to follow your lead.

Sure, negative emotions will crop up during this very difficult time but combating them is a choice — an act of the will. By practicing positivity and hope, and by taking personal responsibility to do what is best for ourselves and others, we become stronger, more confident, less fearful/anxious and far, far more resilient.

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Kathy Faenzi - Head ShotKathy C. Faenzi MA is a Clinical Gerontologist and Senior Care Consultant based in San Mateo, CA.

JC Spicer, M.Ed. is a Freelance Social Science Writer and Developmental Editor based in the U.K.