WellbeingAAM Dr Sarah Whyte Coping with Covid-19 induced separation

Coping with Covid-19 induced separation

We’re living in an unprecedented time with the COVID-19 pandemic, where we’re required to practice safe distancing or even to self-isolate at home. While it makes sense to ensure we stay at home as much as possible to slow the spread of this virus, self-isolation inevitably comes with its own challenges.

One difficulty for many families is being separated. Due to strict travel conditions, some family members are stuck in different countries, with a number of people stranded outside of their country of residence. Even when a family lives in the same country, self- isolation means that you could be physically close but still living separately.

A significant number of people are openly sharing their anxieties for family in other countries or those who are isolated in a different household. It’s hard not knowing when you will see family and friends again. Furthermore, many of us have grave concerns over the health risks of the virus, particularly for more vulnerable people. None of us know how long this situation will continue, which is extremely unsettling.

In the face of this indefinite uncertainty, it’s vital to proactively protect and promote our mental wellbeing and resilience. By mental wellbeing, I mean the state of being comfortable, healthy or happy. Mental wellbeing is important as it helps us to cope better with the inevitable challenges and stresses caused by the pandemic. I define resilience as ‘the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.’ Resilience is even more important than usual because we’re all facing difficulties, whether they’re large or small, on a daily basis. The better our ability to bounce back, the better we will feel overall. I’ve included a range of simple but effective strategies below to help improve your wellbeing and resilience.

Strategy 1: Breathe!

Managing your levels of worry and anxiety over the current separation is a helpful first step. An extremely simple way to do this is to use breathing exercises to encourage long, deep breaths. With any breathing exercise, it’s helpful to remember that taking a deep breath in is linked to the sympathetic nervous system. As your sympathetic nervous system controls the flight or freeze response, too many deep inhales can increase your stress. Your focus needs to be on long exhales. Exhaling activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which influences our body’s ability to relax and calm down. Some people might prefer to use an app to guide them through breathing exercises. I recommend Calm, a free app, because it has a beautiful breathing bubble which provides a visual prompt for regulating breathing.

Strategy 2: Acknowledge how you feel

It is such a strange and challenging time for everyone. Most of us are in uncharted territory without similar experience to draw upon to help us cope. People may be experiencing a whole range of challenging feelings, such as guilt, anger, frustration and grief. The best way to address these emotions is to pay attention to how you feel and try to identify those feelings. Daniel Siegel calls this strategy ‘name it to tame it’. This strategy taps into the way our brains are wired, moving us from an emotional reaction into a more rational response, so we are better able to take a more rational approach to the challenges of being separated from our loved ones.

Strategy 3: Bring some gratitude into every day

Gratitude has been scientifically proven to boost resilience. Numerous studies over the last ten years, such as The Science of Gratitude white paper, have shown that people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed. Simply spending a few minutes every day focusing on what makes you feel grateful is enough to improve your mood. There is some evidence to suggest that gratitude focused toward a person has a bigger positive impact compared to gratitude for possessions, so you may like to consider how you would incorporate this into your daily routine. Practicing gratitude can be taken one step further by the process of mental elimination. This involves identifying one thing for which you feel grateful, then spending several minutes considering how your life would be different without that one thing. Paying particular attention to your thoughts and feelings helps to make this exercise more powerful.

Strategy 4: Stay connected

More than ever, it’s vital to stay connected with our family, friends and neighbours. Safe physical distancing is different to social distancing. Research by Martin Seligman demonstrates the vital role of social connection and interaction for both our physical and emotional wellbeing. There are so many ways to stay connected, including video calls, messaging apps and social media. While connecting virtually is certainly different from meeting in person, it’s good to have so many options to stay in touch and support one another.

My work as a consultant, facilitator, speaker and ICT credentialed coach increases people’s emotional wellbeing and resilience to ensure they perform better at work, are more able to adapt in uncertain times and are happier overall. If you’re looking for additional support with your own wellbeing and resilience, I offer online webinars for organisations and individual coaching sessions. I’d love to hear from you.


About  Dr Sarah Whyte

Consultant, Speaker, Facilitator & ICF Coach  Through her innovative, research-based hello/goodbye programme, Sarah offers families a practical, powerful framework to support their emotional wellbeing throughout the whole relocation process. With a degree in psychology, a doctorate in education and a deep knowledge of the expatriate experience, Sarah is the leading expert on Third Culture Kids (TCKs) in Asia. She is one of only a handful of people worldwide to hold a doctorate in this field of study.

Sarah’s experience extends across her work with a range of organisations in South East Asia, from international schools to banks, insurance and tech companies.

Sarah is offering a 10% discount for AAM clients off their 1st consultation, please check the AAM client special offer section in the newsletter.

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