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Coping with the Challenges of the COVID-19 Crisis: Focusing on the “Three C’s”

These are strange and challenging times, as the Covid-19 pandemic has rapidly transformed our lives in extreme ways.

Everything that constituted the structure of our daily lives, the way things were done, is changed. Many of us don’t go outside our homes. We do our work from our personal space, using the technologies which until very recently we might have not even been familiar with. We are learning to establish comfort, for ourselves and those we teach or work with, while interacting with each other on the screen, at once much more distant than being together in the same room, and also, as one of my patients commented, so much closer, as we never sat quite so physically close to each other as our faces appear on the screen.

For those who are alone in their home, social distancing might have created a great sense of isolation and loneliness. For those who are home now every day, all day, with children who have now been confined to a space in which they cannot discharge energy as they usually do, and without access to friends, there might be the opposite stress of too much interaction, too many pulls by family members that leave little time for oneself to do one’s work, or to simply ‘be’. Even spouses who used to have the daily routine of leaving home for work, to the gym, to meet up with friends, to go shopping – might find that spending the entire day at home together, day after day, can create some tension.

There are several things that seem to me important to remind us all about.

The very first thing is to be very careful about which sources we use in order to get informed about Covid-19 and how to deal with it. There is a torrent of information coming at us online, and it is very important to be highly discriminating in choosing only reputable, reliable, sources such as:

 The CDC website (

Johns Hopkins Hospital Coronavirus Resource center (

The National Center for PTSD Research (

The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress (

Even when you the resources you are getting your information from are good, don’t overdose on Covid-19 information. It is especially important to be mindful of the amount of information that is constantly in the background, such as TV coverage, radio, online talks, and general talk in the family that are focused on the pandemic. We need to be appropriately informed, we need to know how to prepare ourselves for various scenarios, but research after 9/11 showed that an excessive exposure to images and media coverage of the catastrophe were counterproductive to our resilience, and increased distress and related mental health problems.

Busy minds and hands are also important to help us refrain from excessive focus on negative thoughts. Try to refrain, distract yourself and redirect your thoughts when you find yourself ‘beaming into the future’ and worrying about “What if…” (what if this lasts several months, what if there is food shortage in the stores, what if I lose my job, …). These are unpredictable circumstances and uncertain times. We don’t know how things will evolve. Trying to predict the unpredictable and ‘catastrophising’  diminish our strength and have no effect on the future, while focusing on making each day as good as we can fosters our strength and resilience NOW.

Research on resilience and adaptive coping over the last decades has taught us important lessons about certain attitudes which help people deal better with difficult, even traumatic, challenges. It might be helpful to remember these as “the three C’s”: Competence, Connection and Creativity.

Competence is a powerful antidote to the feelings of helplessness and disorientation that situations which are out of our control cause. We can increase our sense of competence by doing one of many small things that distract us and make us focus on small things we can successfully accomplish: that messy corner in your home you always wanted to get to but did not have the time, that recipe you wanted to try out, the new (or old) hobby you wanted to spend some time on.

Connection is a fundamental, evolutionary need among humans, and a particularly powerful defense against despair and hopelessness. When we can feel our connection to others, their care for us and our care for them, the joy of friendship and relationships, we do better. Having grown up among Holocaust survivors and having dedicated much of my professional work to studying trauma and resilience, I know that mutually caring for each other, whether a relative or a friend, was a very significant protective factor for people even in the harshest conditions, in Nazi Concentration Camps.

Creativity is an unlimited source of productive, constructive, ways to feel competent and connected. When we use our creativity to think: how can I make this day as good as I can for myself and for those in the home with me, we can come up with innumerable ways to enjoy the particular circumstances that we find ourselves in, we can find new ways to entertain children, and through all of that we can remind  ourselves and model for those around us the capacity to self soothe and make the most of challenging situations. These capacities are important not only in times of crisis, but will serve our children well during many other times in life.

Finally, we are all confined now to a more restrictive space than we are used to, and many of us share this space with our family members who are also dealing, each in their own way, with the reactions to this unprecedented situation. The space we share and the energy in this space are what we breathe in, so try to be mindful of the way you interact with your loved ones, even more mindful than usual. Pay attention to how you speak, but also to the non-verbal ways in which we move in the space, acknowledge or don’t acknowledge the other, and communicate irritability, annoyance or impatience.

If you find you have ‘polluted’ the space with a nasty tone, or a comment, try to ‘clean up’ as soon as possible. Mistakes are permissible, but owning them and repairing the damage as soon as possible are some of the most important relationship skills.

You are welcome to email me, stay safe and be well.



  1. Minnie Berman says

    Thank you so much for your helpful and wise guidance. Stay safe and healthy.
    Warm regards,
    Minnie (2g ny)

    • Irit Felsen, Ph.D. says

      Dear Minnie, Thanks for your comment and kind words! It is important for me to stay connected to all of you. Stay well. Yours warmly, Irit

  2. Jean Burnton says

    Succinctly put and I like the idea of the 3 Cs – an easy way to remind clients (& others, including myself).

    • Irit Felsen, Ph.D. says

      I appreciate your comment, Jean! We can all use reminders to focus on our resources and on our relational skills at these times. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  3. Sandy Pensak says

    Hi Irit,
    At a time when we are all feeling the effects of information overload, cabin fever and an overwhelming sense of uncertainty, your blog on the 3 Cs provided a good read. Thank you for communicating some strategies and practical activities during these difficult times.

    • Irit Felsen, Ph.D. says

      Dear Sandy, I am so touched by your comment and very happy you find the blog entry helpful. All the best, Irit

  4. Shalom Irit,
    It is a time of unity and reflection.
    One can look into himself/ herself and discover the inner abilities.
    Must stay positive and pray for the sake of everyone; G-d listened to the cry of the Israelites in Egypt only when each prayed for the sake of others.
    Stay safe.
    Happy Pesach: Sweet and Kosher..,

    • Irit Felsen, Ph.D. says

      Hi Bina,
      It is indeed a time for reflection and for remembering that we are all connected and responsible for each other. Thank you for your comment, and Happy Passover to you and your family!
      Warmly, Irit

  5. Lily Starr says

    Thank u for your sage advice. However, I am feeling as if I have been here before . . . Almost as if I am experiencing the reawakening of an historical and emotional memory . . . This time, calm and quiet . . This time, food, shelter and virtual access to the world . . . Grateful and hopeful . . .

    • Irit Felsen, Ph.D. says

      Dear Lily,
      Your comment is incredibly valuable to me, and I think we indeed have to address the issue that you brought up. The echo of the past trauma is an additional hardship that some Holocaust survivors and their children have been expressing to me. Just today someone told me about a phone call she made to the only remaining friend of her mother, a 90 year old survivor of Auschwitz, who was crying and saying that being quarantined, not being able to leave her house and move freely, reminds her of her time as a prisoner. This time, “Shelter at home”, with food and virtual access to the world, as you say, yet trauma has a way of finding the connection to the most disturbing, most threatening parts of the current script, the restriction on one’s freedom, the isolation, the unknown future threats. We must remind ourselves of the differences between the past and the present. And there are many. And yet we must make room for the reverberations of the trauma, they are understandable, “normal”, for us children of survivors, and if we are prepared to make room for them, it will be easier to move through them and not be too stuck in exaggerated responses which do not make things better, but rather take away from our strength and resilience. Our parents would have not survived without such resilience and hope, and we have inherited this part of their legacy, too. I actually was moved by the responses of my survivors and second generation peers to create a personal podcast addressing these issues. Hope to make it happen soon! Thank you again for your comment.

      Yours warmly,

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