by Dr Saliha Afridi
  • 4 minute read
  • April 08, 2020
Part II: Clinical Psychologist Dr Saliha Afridi Shares 5 Life-Changing Coping Skills You Should Develop Now

Last time, we spoke about how to establish a sense of control, combat anxiety and gain more emotional resilience and psychological flexibility as we journey through the COVID-19 crisis. Building on those habits, this second instalment will show you how to develop a whole new set of coping skills that will benefit all areas of your life, far beyond the current situation.

So, what strategies have proven to be most effective?

Name your feelings to tame your feelings

People think that they have to put on a brave face and not feel certain feelings. They consider it a weakness to feel anxious or worried, and so they ignore, avoid, or dismiss their emotions. As a result, those intense feelings stay and create constant interference inside of them.

Instead of avoiding your feelings, name them.  Soften into them, name them and hear what they’re telling you. Admit that, “I feel anxious about losing my job,” or, “I feel worried about my finances.” What happens when you do that is that the neocortex/thinking brain sends calming signals to our amygdala/ emotional brain, and the emotions lose their intensity.

Realize that being anxious is a part evolutionary wiring

We’re hard-wired to detect danger and threats; it’s what has gotten us this far as a species. If we didn’t have our anxious, fight-or-flight response, we’d be going around the streets, giving everyone a high five amidst the COVID-19 crisis. It’s precisely our anxiety that’s keeping us safe.

However, when the anxiety is unchecked, it starts to take over. We end up going into a panic, fight-or-flight response and end up panic-buying toilet paper to last us till 2025. So, the goal is not to get rid of the anxiety, but to listen to it, and learn how to manage it.

Connect to combat isolation

Make a plan for how you’ll maintain a connection with your friends and colleagues. If you live alone, you need to write down a list of people that you’ll connect with every day and assign yourself a buddy, who perhaps also live alone. Commit to checking in on each other every day. If one doesn’t hear from the other, then they reach out.

This will relieve you of the anxiety that if something were to happen to you, no one would know. And if you live with people, you need a plan to engage in activities that allow you to have fun, laugh, and be together. This time will never come again, so make the most of it, and hopefully, when all is said and done, we will come out of this with deeper and more meaningful relationships.


Practice grounding yourself in the present moment

Stay as close to the present moment as you can. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed if you start thinking, “How am I going to get through the next two months like this?” However, you’ll feel far more in control if you think, “What’s the smallest step I need to take right now?’ or, “What do I need to do today?” Also, because we’re home day after day, it’s easy for the days to blend into one another and for us to feel groundless.

It can start to feel like we’re floating through our days. So, it’s important to ground yourself today and in the moment. One way to do this is to wake up every morning and find a quiet place to sit and connect with yourself. Say your name, what time and date it is, where you are, and what you are doing that day. This will bring you into your body and into the present moment.

Get professional help

If you really feel that you can’t manage and your anxiety or depression seem to be overwhelming and paralyzing, there are many online therapy sessions and support groups that you can join. You don’t have to suffer unnecessarily, and everyone can benefit from some help at times. Reach out to a professional for mental health support.

While these are all suggestions that I know have worked for myself and my patients, everyone is different. Try reflecting on the difficult times you’ve been through when you’ve been pushed out of your comfort zone. Sure, it might not have been anything like a global pandemic, but how did you cope? What helped you get through those times? What mindset, beliefs, supports, or coping mechanisms did you use to get through that time? You might already be more resilient than you realize.

If you’d like to share some tips that have worked for you, let me know. Send me a message on Instagram, @drsalihaafridi.

Dr. Saliha Afridi is a clinical psychologist and the founder and Managing Director of The LightHouse Arabia, one of the largest mental health centers in Dubai and the UAE. Her expertise is in parenting and burnout in the workplace sector. Since founding The Lighthouse Arabia in 2011, Dr Saliha and her team have contributed thousands of hours to the community, free of charge, to educate and raise awareness about mental health and wellness. Her most recent achievement is bringing Australian Mental Health First Aid to the UAE, where her team has trained over 1,000 first aiders for early detection and treatment of mental health difficulties within their communities. Visit and follow @Drsalihaafridi and @Lighthousearabia on Instagram.

Villa 88’s V for Victory series will feature news and views from industry experts about health and wellness, beauty, fashion, arts and culture, and law in the age of COVID-19. It’s an initiative that encourages you to stay at home and promotes ways you can best utilize your time during self-quarantine. Because together, we will be victorious over the virus.

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