June 9, 2020

Developing emotional protective equipment during the pandemic

Madison, Wis. — According to recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately one third of all Americans are now showing signs of depression and anxiety — perhaps the most alarming indication yet of the pandemic’s impact on the psychological well-being of Americans.

UW Health psychologist Shilagh Mirgain, PhD, says now is the time for people develop what she calls Emotional Protective Equipment (EPE), a powerful set of practices that can improve mood, lower anxiety and foster greater well-being through learning to direct kindness and care towards one’s own and others’ suffering during this time.

Here is some essential EPE to use daily:

  • Cultivate compassion towards oneself and others. Regularly engaging in self-compassion is linked to increased resilience, improvement in mood, lowering of anxiety and strengthening of well-being.

  • Engage in mindfulness moments. Take time to pause and get in contact with the emotional upset we are experiencing so we can give ourselves the care we need. 

  • Manage your mind. When our mind views stressors around COVID-19 in a negative way, such as a threat or loss, we tend to experience increased stress and poorer coping.  Instead when we can view the same stressor as a challenge, we stay resilient.

  • Seek out social connection. find safe ways to strengthen your social support, spend time with loved ones while still practicing physical distancing and masking as applicable.

  • Recognize our common humanity. We are more alike than we are different as we go through some of these same stressors during the pandemic.  Now is the time to break down the divide between us, to move past limiting perceptions of one another.