How to deal with COVID-19 stress

August 3, 2020 by Akira Ikemi

Akira Ikemi, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist and Professor of Kansai University, Graduate School of Psychology, presents several points which are key to dealing with the stresses of living in the COVID-19 world. If you internalize the stress, you can get depressed, angry or sad and your mental health will become unstable. If you externalize the stress, you will become aggressive. We need ways of dealing with COVID-19 stress which are neither internalizing nor externalizing. Here are some key points. Being locked-down is very stressful, particularly for many people who live alone in big cities. The first point is to avoid isolation. Consciousness is essentially interactive, so you can help yourself and other by keeping in touch with your friends. Don’t let interaction diminish. Secondly, let go of your thinking-mind. The more you think about the stressors, the more you get stressed. So don’t think and take a walk for example. Become aware of how your feet touch the ground with every step you take. Notice the air coming in and going out of you through masks and face coverings. When you catch yourself thinking, return your attention to the body. Thirdly, Focusing, a psychotherapy and self-help method will help. There are many ways to implement Focusing with regards to COVID-19. Dr. Ikemi explains one aspect of Focusing called “Clearing a Space”. Rather than thinking about the stress of COVID-19, see how all that is felt in your body. There is a “felt sense” there which is hard to say in words. It may feel like something heavy in your chest. Take the felt sense and the whole situation about COVID-19 and place them somewhere in your imagination, on a park bench or in a suitcase for example. Then you will find a clear space in you, as if you have just cleaned up a clattered room. There you will find a quiet place of no thinking and no stress. This method of “Clearing a Space” blends Focusing with Mindfulness. The peaceful and mindful space you find in yourself can help you live through the stresses of COVID-19.