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Alumnus Jonathan Alpert on how to cope and thrive in COVID-19

Published on May 18, 2020

Alumnus Jonathan Alpert on how to cope and thrive in COVID-19

Jonathan Alpert Alumnus Jonathan Alpert ’95 is a NYC-based psychotherapist, author and performance coach. In light of the myriad struggles brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Alpert recently authored two columns on how to cope and thrive during this unprecedented time. Originally published on Thrive Global, “8 Simple Ways to Maintain Perspective During the Corona Crisis” and “7 Ways to Establish a Routine When Working From Home” are reproduced below:

8 Simple Ways to Maintain Perspective During the Coronavirus Crisis

If everything you're seeing on the news is causing you stress and anxiety, it might be time to set boundaries.

Over the past several weeks I’ve seen an increase in patients coming to see me for anxiety and fear related to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).  Given the uncertainty of the situation, this comes as no surprise. Just as the actual virus can be highly contagious, so can the fear and anxiety that stems from it. 

Let me explain.  In my book, “Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days,” I talk about the contagion effect of fear.  It’s our instinctual and primitive nature to spread fear.  In fact, it can help us to survive. In the days of early humans, if danger lurked, one person would tell the next and the next and then the whole clan was notified.   It’s this instinctual response coupled with modern technology that can cause fear to go viral. With the push of a button, in a split second, the entire world is informed of information.  Given what’s going on, this can help people to stay safe, but it can also fuel anxiety and make people feel worse and ill-equipped to handle the crisis.  

Below are ways that you can keep your fear and anxiety in check as we continue to try to figure out COVID-19:

  1. Stick with a trusted source for your information.  Have one local news outlet and a national/international outlet.  For example, your local news network that you regularly watch, and then another such as the CDC or WHO. 
  2. Separate fact from fiction.  Create two columns.  On one side list the things you know to be true and factual.  On the other side, list things that you can’t substantiate. Then, put an X through the second column, sticking only with facts. Know that the anxious mind attempts to create information to bring predictability to an unpredictable situation.  The problem with this is rarely does it actually provide accurate predictability, just panic. 
  3. Limit your exposure to social media.  Social media has, in part, become a place for people to vent, project fear, spread rumor, misinformation, etc.  I recently had one person tell me that 50 million Americans will die from COVID-19 in coming months. When asked for the source, he said “Facebook”. Folks, Facebook is not a trusted, credible news source! 
  4. Check the news less.  It’s overkill to want to know every minute or even every hour the latest news. Limit the frequency of your updates and notifications.  Instead allow yourself to check the latest news at certain points during your day. For example, morning time, lunch time, and evening.
  5. Give yourself a break.  Rest-assured, feeling anxious and concerned is very normal right now.  Such a reaction is an indicator that you are a healthy-minded person facing new circumstances.  But thinking the end of the world is near, is not healthy, or normal. 
  6. Make peace with uncertainty.  When else in your life have you faced crisis and weren’t exactly sure what would happen? How did you fare? Know that you’ve probably faced uncertainty and anxiety in the past and survived. 
  7. Think ahead.  What steps would you actually take if you felt sick or tested positive?  Play this through and have a plan in place, just in case. By playing this out in your mind you’ll feel better equipped to handle a potential illness. 
  8. Don’t forget basic stress management.  Eat and sleep healthy, exercise, stay connected to friends, participate in enjoyable activities as best as possible, and remain optimistic.

 

7 Ways to Establish a Routine When Working From Home

A little preparation the night before can set you up for a day of focus and productivity.

Change is tough and so is uncertainty and right now, just about everyone I know has to deal with both as a result of COVID-19.  My guess is everyone is touched by this pandemic in some way. You see, predictability, habit, and routine are what allow people to make sense of the world, succeed, and perform.  Without it, anxiety levels increase and productivity might suffer. For the time being, peoples’ work is hugely impacted. For those who are fortunate to still have a job, they might feel added pressure to sustain work and adjust to working from home. 

Here are some ways to optimize your work from home:

  1. Set yourself up for success the night before.  Plan your day ahead, cut off technology an hour before bedtime, and have a healthy sleep routine.  Even though you don’t have the morning commute to deal with, make sure you get to bed at a reasonable hour to allow for 7-8 hours of sleep.  So count back 7-8 hours from your desired wake time.
  2. Act as though you’re actually going to your office.  That’s right – shave, shower, eat breakfast, and wear clothes you’d ordinarily wear for work.  You’ll feel more professional and more ready for work than if you lounge around in your pajamas or sweatpants.  
  3. Set up a schedule.  Plan out your day, schedule every hour (even if it is lunch or walking the dog) and be sure to include all calls, deadlines, tasks, etc.
  4. Set up a workspace.  If possible, create a separate space in your house or apartment to be used for work.  Do not work from your bed! Make sure the space is comfortable, has proper light, and is conducive to work.
  5. Clearly define your work hours.  By defining your work hours you’ll be less likely to get distracted and will be better organized. If you live with people, communicate to them what your hours will be so they can respect them and will know that you aren’t fully available during that time frame.
  6. Build into your day time to interact with colleagues.  Most people thrive on some level of human interaction, especially in the workplace.  It’s an opportunity to share ideas, get feedback, and feel like you are part of something important.  So make sure you schedule such time.
  7. Create downtime.  Make sure you actually take a lunch break and do not work at your desk. Also, if safe, consider getting outside, so long as you’re keeping a safe distance from people and being mindful of proper hygiene. 

Finally, try to remain hopeful that positive change will come.  Optimism is what sometimes separates those who are anxious and depressed from those who are able to persevere and make it to better days ahead unscathed.

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Jonathan Alpert is a psychotherapist, columnist, performance coach and author in Manhattan. As a psychotherapist, he has helped countless couples and individuals overcome a wide range of challenges and go on to achieve success. He discussed his results-oriented approach in his 2012 New York Times Opinion piece, “In Therapy Forever? Enough Already”, which continues to be debated and garner international attention.

Alpert is frequently interviewed by major TV, print and digital media outlets and has appeared on the Today Show, CNN, FOX, and Good Morning America discussing current events, mental health, hard news stories, celebrities/politicians, as well as lifestyle and hot-button issues. He appears in the 2010 Oscar-winning documentary, Inside Job commenting on the financial crisis.

With his unique insight into how people think and their motivations, Alpert helps clients develop and strengthen their brands. He has been a spokesperson for NutriBullet, Liberty Mutual insurance, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Jonathan’s 2012 book "BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days" has been translated into six languages worldwide. Alpert continues to provide advice to the masses through his Inc.com, Huffington Post, and Thrive columns.

Categories: Alumni