Surviving the Coronavirus: 9 Practical Steps for Couples

Instead of our usual date, we embarked on a nighttime adventure to Costco. It was the last task before my husband, Bob, and I hunkered down in our condo. We are both marriage and relationship therapists and made the decision to do sessions virtually for the next week or two.

COVID-19, the coronavirus or the novel coronavirus, also known as a pandemic, had arrived in the U.S. with a bang.

My thoughts raced: Do we already have it?

We are over 60, so we’re in the high-risk group with elderly people in their 80s and 90s. Wow, I never thought of myself or Bob as that old. We still work full-time, are in pretty good physical shape, and lead a very active life.

My next thought: Will we survive?

As marriage and relationship counselors, we see lots of couples as a team every day in our small, cozy office. Before we packed up to leave, I actually measured the distance between our chairs and the sofa where clients sit. To my dismay, it was only about 5 feet. The experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say we’re supposed to stay at least 6 feet away from others to minimize the risk of catching the virus.

Next, I wiped down door handles, bathroom fixtures, desks, office equipment, telephones, and anything else I could find that people may have touched. Our suite of five offices had more “surfaces” than I ever imagined. Was I overdoing it? I do have some obsessive tendencies. parents and children

I left each of the ten therapists who work in our suite a precious gift, a bottle of hand sanitizer.

I left each of the ten therapists who work in our suite a precious gift, a bottle of hand sanitizer. The bottle I’d placed in our waiting room somehow disappeared. Thank goodness I ordered them before all the stores were sold out.

Back to survival. Bob and I had food, shelter, sanitizer, and so far, no symptoms of the virus. During the first 48 hours home, we immersed ourselves in “breaking news” to make sure we were fully prepared for the coronavirus onslaught. Of course, there was nothing else we could do to prepare. We did get one thing from watching all that news: anxiety and fear that went through the roof.

What was going to happen?
Were we getting the facts?
Were my elderly relatives going to die?
How would they cope with visitors not being allowed in their retirement community?
Should we see our millennial kids, since they might unknowingly carry the virus without symptoms?
Would we lose our entire nest egg since the stock market was down and our business might suffer?
Was this going to affect the election?
I could have obsessed for hours. I used my relaxation app and finally got to sleep, only to have dreams about other disasters.

This morning when we awoke, Bob and I decided we were going to stop freaking out and do what we tell our clients to do. Here are the nine practical steps we came up with to survive the coronavirus–for ourselves and for you:

1. Limit the amount of time you spend watching news.
We need to stay informed, but overdoing it is not healthy. Bob and I, like many of you, at times become obsessed with the news. We watch it hoping to hear something that will give us a sense of relief. However, that rarely happens. Watching too much news often creates more anxiety, fear, and helplessness.

We are choosing to tune in to one or two news shows per day and otherwise listen to music, find some shows to binge watch, or catch up on movies.

Decide how much news you need to watch.

2. Stay present and practice mindfulness.
We all tend to get stuck in our “what ifs,” and linger in the question. When my mind starts fixating on the “what ifs,” I answer the question.

Of course, the worst “what if” is, “What if I or a loved one get the virus and die?” Here is the answer I give myself: “If I die, I will have nothing to worry about,” and “Heaven forbid someone I love dies, I would have to bear the grief, and life would continue.” I don’t mean that to sound cold, but that answer helps me stop obsessing. Then I remind myself that the chances of the worst happening are low, and I bring my mind back to the present to focus on what I can control.

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