Pandemic Stress? Coping strategies for breathing easier…

This post was written by my friend, Don Streit, who graciously shares his top coping strategies for easier breathing during an unprecedented pandemic. Thank you, Don!

Karin asked me to share my top three mental health tips during this pandemic time of crisis. It sounded like an easy thing to write; however, I am an overachiever, so naturally, I want these to be the best three tips of all time. In typical overachiever fashion, I offer you not three but four of my best mental health tips when dealing with a crisis. My suggestions presume you have your own wisdom of what being mentally healthy is for you and with this preface in mind, here are my top three four tips:

  1.  Stay connected in some way with the people who are good for you and good to you. One way I encourage people to ponder who these significant people are in their lives is to ask a few questions:
    1. When you hear a humorous story whom do you want to contact to share the story?
    2. When you are told some heart-sinking news about you or your children, whom do you call FIRST? 
    3. When you want to celebrate, mourn, pour your heart out, long to hear a comforting voice…. whom do you contact FIRST? 

Karin told me that you all are meeting utilizing the ZOOM platform, so you already are continuing your yoga practice and the time you enjoy together. No virus can impede your enjoyment of what each and all of you enjoy together.

2. Do anything that you enjoy so much that when you do that something you lose track of time.
Doing what you love will put you in a trance. In times like these we need a focus that gives respite from the facts and realities that swirl around us. If you were to visualize a swarm of bees, a hazardous airborne chemical gas, or a flurry of mosquitoes in a small space, you could easily be consumed with protecting yourself, which would leave you little energy to enjoy what gives you comfort, joy, and a sense of well-being.  Doing what you love can actually change your brain waves and positively alter hormones. Being consumed with negative facts and perceptions can induce depression. For people like you—each of you—you need to feel your energy running through your physical and mental system.  To quote Dr. Andrew Solomon’s TED talk,” The opposite of depression is not happiness. It is vitality.” You already know how to choose avenues and opportunities for living a vital life. Bravo!

3. Allow your sense of humor to emerge—one guffaw, one belly laugh, one pass-a drink-through-your nose, one pee-in-your-pants laugh to rapture your soul.  Humor, during times of a crisis might sound outrageous, even disrespectful when people are suffering. I like George Bernard Shaw’s view on this. He says, “life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.”

4. In keeping with humor, and knowing I am writing to a group of smart people who practice yoga, remember, it is incredible how the body and the mind work in concert with each other. Experiencing humor, especially in times of crisis, is a sort of psychotropic agent. Research shows many benefits of laughter including killing cells that destroy tumors and viruses, increasing Gamma-interferon, which is a disease-fighting protein, increasing T-cells, which are important for our immune systems, and increasing B-cells, which make disease-fighting antibodies. Laughter decreases glucose levels in diabetics. On the flip side, laughter increases breathing capacity, oxygen use, short-term hormonal changes, and heart rate, all while releasing dopamine and oxytocin into the system.

I leave you with two sources that illustrate the value of enjoying humor. So, enjoy and be sure and laugh today!
1. TED Talk – Shared Experience of Absurdity by Charlie Todd.
2. The True Story of Norman Cousins — intro to his book, “Anatomy Of An Illness”

Don Streit, LCSW, has been in private practice in Little Rock since 1988. He taught core-graduate school classes at UALR and continues to present workshops on a variety of Jungian topics, most recently presenting at the Jung Center in Houston, Texas and at the Center for Jungian Studies of South Florida in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He presents a popular 4-5-hour workshop on the Use of Humor in Treatment: What’s So Funny About Pain and Suffering.
You can reach Don at 501-416-8334 or

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *