Be Better Than “The Bachelor”: Coping Strategies to Get Through a Tough Season
By Dr. Robert Pate
I wish I had a nickel for every time one of the ladies on ABC’s The Bachelor has said, “I literally died.” No, you didn’t. Despite their often ridiculous behavior, I feel bad for the contestants. In addition to editing content to show mostly conflict/angst, contestants are put in a nearly impossible social situation, given few helpful resources, cut off from their support networks, and we only get to share in their experience through technology. So of course they break down and cry, experience increased social conflict, and have a hard time coping! Feel familiar to anyone? If this doesn’t sound like your 2020 experience, maybe you and I were “social distancing” differently!
Either way, I often take away similar thoughts from the hyperbolic social interactions curated for our enjoyment. What I consistently notice is that we were made to be with people and connect in safe, secure relationships. We are meant to have our own space to reflect, rest, and pray. We thrive when we can express our thoughts and feelings with others who genuinely care about us, and who are open to letting go of their own feelings for a few minutes to stay present with us. We all experience joy, sorrow, hurt, betrayal, and the desire to be loved. We are made to have fun. We are made to look each other directly in the eye, to hug, to eat and drink together, and a host of other things we’ve been limited in doing the past 12 months. These activities help us to be in a healthy personal state of mind to be available for others’ needs, and to connect with healthy others in our lives. This connection is related to the concept of attachment, which includes the idea that when we have at least one safe person we can lean on, a secure base from which to explore the world, we can take greater risks and generally regulate our emotions better. This, of course, is related to all kinds of positive life and relationship outcomes.
If you’ve struggled with the loss of any of these things, I hope you have been coping well. I hope you have found creative and safe ways to stay connected with your friends and loved ones. But we can only handle so much screen time before we need to change things up (screen life hack: look out a window or at least across the room every 15-30 minutes to help your eyes avoid strain). Many small distractions can temporarily help us deal with the social/relational losses of the past 12 months, as well as the modifications to our learning environments. I won’t focus on them here, but a few might include standing up from your desk/bed/couch to walk around your dorm, bedroom, or office space. Try stretching for 30 seconds between meetings. I often do 20 pushups between therapy clients and find it helpful in waking my body up after several hours straight in a chair.
But as helpful as these short-term distractions can be, they may not help with the long term mental health needs that many of us have experienced during the pandemic. While the strategies below may be helpful during this national crisis, remember they are also helpful when things get back to the old normal. I hope you are able to employ one or more of them during the remainder of this semester as we look ahead to summer and the eventual return to an in-person everyday experience.
1. Plan a mini-vacation: Having something to look forward to, however small, can help ward off the depression that comes from the monotony of staring at screens all day, the loneliness that often accompanies isolation, and the boredom of being in the same environment all the time. A vacation could simply be taking a day trip to the local mountains with a friend or family member to hike around Lake Gregory in the Crestline area. It’s beautiful up there, the air is fresh(er), and it’s good to get out and exercise. You don’t have to fly to Hawaii to be on vacation! Maybe just take a road trip along the coast for a few hours, grabbing breakfast in Newport Beach heading down to San Diego for a late lunch, and then enjoying the drive back up the coast toward Riverside in the evening. The point is to plan something fun that you can look forward to. It’s better to have three or four small vacations each year to look forward to than one major trip.
2. Have a weekly activity that you do with someone you can build intimacy with over time. It’s important to have trust, safety, and a record of consistent vulnerable communication with at least one person in your life. You can do the same activity each week or mix it up. The key here is to get out and do something you don’t normally do, so the activity is special. Something you can look forward to. Maybe it’s a one mile walk around the campus and surrounding neighborhood. Maybe you get off campus and head to a park to throw a football or frisbee around. Whatever you do, make sure it’s something that allows you to talk without too much distraction.
3. Take a cell-phone holiday regularly. This could be a certain time of day that you set aside your phone and just engage 100% in whatever you are doing. Maybe it’s during dinner, or right when your classes or work are completed for the day. I recently celebrated Valentine’s Day with my wife, and forgot my phone at home. We had a great time, and, being the distractible person that I am, I was able to focus better on her. There’s just something about not even having your phone around that can feel very freeing. Try it sometime.
4. Come up with your own strategy! Do something out of the ordinary on a regular basis. If you regularly pray and/or meditate every day, have one day each week where you do that in a new location and for a longer period of time. Maybe you want to start employing one of the spiritual disciplines and journaling about it. Whatever you choose, find something that works for you, that you enjoy, and that will help you cope with whatever has come up for you this past year. This isn’t homework. It’s supposed to be fun, and it’s supposed to be for you.
Don’t let yourself get to the point in your coping strategies and relationships that you end up being the catty contestant with diminished emotion regulation and communication skills saying ridiculous things like, “I literally died.” Nope. You’re still here. But you do need to get more serious about and creative with your self care!
Feel free to comment below with a strategy that has worked for you so others can try it out!
Hi, Dr. Robert Pate, I really appreciated this article posting. It was nice to read and actually think about after being stuck in the house for practically a whole year already. I’ve been doing school from home for so long now it’s the new normal. The ideas you talked about giving your eyes a break even getting up for a walk in between classes and homework throughout the day was helpful. I feel like it’s taken a toll just sitting and doing school all day without having to walk around campus or go get lunch because were right at home where everything is that we need. Your mini vacations ideas were absolutely so correct I have actually been doing that some of my friends and I will just go somewhere for the day it’s something fun to get out of the house and just get some fresh air and clear the mind. Overall this was a great read and had many great helpful tips to get through this pandemic healthy and happy.
It’s great to read that you have been enjoying mini vacations with friends and hopefully it has lifted some of the weight that this pandemic has placed! Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts!
This blog post is so informative on the importance of self-care and making sure that mental health is a part of that process. The four techniques mentioned I will put into my weekly routine and hopefully see a major difference in my stress and anxiety lower. Thank you for the great advice!
Thank you for reading!
Hello Dr. Pate,
It was quite insightful reading your blog post and I was able to relate on some of your thoughts. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the connection you made with The Bachelor and social distancing in 2020 because this was extremely relatable! I believe that it is important for us to maintain relationships with others and it is crucial for us to have social interaction. Personally, I struggled the most when I was unable to see friends/family and it is not the same through a screen. One of the strategies I developed is going on runs at my local community park. Not only does running outside allow for exercise, but it allows me to get out of my room and off my phone/laptop. Another strategy that has helped decrease my screen time is reading; I have developed a greater appreciation for books through the pandemic. I really appreciate the helpful strategies you provided and will most definitely take them into consideration!
Thank you Leanna for reading and your response! It is so good to hear that you have found ways to decrease your screen time and become active during this pandemic. Hope you have read some interesting books!
This was actually such a simple reminder that mental health, likely for everyone, has been suffering all over since the pandemic started, and that it’s okay to ask for help! It was also a nice reminder personally that it’s acceptable to want an escape from what has become our “new normal” as we weren’t designed to be so isolated from each other!
Thank you Marinna for sharing your thoughts and reading! Yes, we are not designed to be isolated, but to be in community with one another. If anything that this pandemic has taught us is that we need to appreciate the relationships we have with people.
Hello Dr. Pate,
Your words couldn’t be more true! It wasn’t just the adjustment to the sudden lack of social interactions that has been difficult, but also the integration back into this new limited social world. I have found myself stuck in my own alone time that it almost feels like I have forgotten how to connect with the real world. I need to learn to fill these moments more wisely rather than just scrolling through my phone for hours and wasting precious time. Quarantine has definitely made many of us reliant on our phones or social media to satisfy that need for connection, and I personally feel like I have lost some of the emotional connection with others I used to have. I want to take your advice to heart and commit myself to more phone holidays and creating healthy routines that allow me to build authentic connections not just to people but also to God’s creation. Thank you for your advice!
So good Jeremiah! So glad you found this helpful and I hope your phone holidays are an opportunity for connection, health, and the kinds of things that really feed our weary souls!
Hello Dr. Pate,
Especially in the current social climate we are very limited in, this kind of information would be so helpful for people of all different ages and stages of life. I know that, in my own experience, it is so easy to grow accustomed to the monotonous schedule that results from zoom classes and closed-down entertainment. However, you offer such a hopeful, practical guide for maintaining good mental health, hope for the future, and increasing productivity. I thought that the screen hack was interesting, as it is something so small but can still help prevent any eye strain! Overall, taking little steps such as mini vacations (even to just enjoy a local hike) or a phone holiday are great examples of how to facilitate better interpersonal relationships and coping strategies in this time that can often feel like social starvation.
Thank you, Sarah, for reading and sharing your thoughts! I agree these helpful tips that Dr. Pate provides can be used by people from different ages and stages of life!
Hello Dr. Pate,
I really enjoyed reading your blog. I find it very interesting and there were so many things that I can apply in my own life. I agree that us humans were not made to be alone, but to harmonize with others and to live life in a healthy way. I liked the point you had about screen time, I find myself in front of a computer for so many hours a day that I forget about my surroundings. I enjoyed your strategy of looking away from the screen every 15-30 minutes to reconnect with my surroundings. Thank you so much for you blog it was very edifying for my personal life.
Thank you for reading, Steven! It is great to hear that this blog helped you personally!
Hey Dr. Pate, I want to start off by thanking you for writing this blog on mental health and ways to get through tough seasons. While this post’s content could be relatable at any point in someone’s life, it is even more so valuable at this time as we are all experiencing changes in our lives and routines. This time has definitely been an interesting one for myself, as I have actually found it to be eye opening. It has revealed a lot of activities and daily aspects of our lives that I take for granted. Although, it has not been without struggle, as this all started during my last semester of Junior year and has persisted through my entire senior year. It has brought on a lot of challenges with learning how to study and still take time to relax, while doing all of your work in the same building. Although I agree that people have turned to electronic devices more to communicate, I would say that people are not more addicted to their phones at the very least compared to before. Based on my own experience, I have seen people addicted to their phone, unable to put it down at any time (even in restaurants) before quarantine hit. I feel that quarantine provided them an excuse to be on their phone, but not a launching ground for the addiction itself. Although, despite technology assisting with communication and allowing for an augmented sense of closeness, it cannot replace the hugs and general company of being in the same room that seeing someone face-to-face provides. This has been something that has benefited the mental state for years, as having someone to sit with you, rub you back, let you cry on their shoulder, or just hug you before you go to class or the store is a way to know you are not alone. It is something we take for granted sometimes, as we feel we will always have someone there, and I feel that this experience has shown us how precious that time with that person truly is, and how important those hugs and that attention is. This is something that I have even observed, as is the reason that I truly appreciate the potential strategies we could use to help us during this time, as well as any tough time to come in the future. I believe the weekly activity, or planning my own out of the ordinary activity, will be the thing I utilize the most. It is something I could feasibly see myself doing and looking forward to, especially when times get hard.
Jacqueline, thank you for reading and sharing your insightful thoughts! This time of isolation has definitely opened eyes on how precious small things are such as being in a room with a person enjoying their company or even a quick hug. It would make a person appreciate those small things more when we get them back.
Hello Dr. Pate, this blog was very informative about ways to take care of oneself during this difficult time of isolation. I thought the four main points of advice you provided are very beneficial and I will work to implement those into my life. Additionally, the idea of taking mini-vacations is something that I have been doing throughout the past year and it has been so good for my mental health to get out and get some fresh air. One area that I have struggled is with my screen time. Your advice about looking away every 15-30 is so useful.
Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts, Nick! I’m glad that you have taken the opportunity to have mini vacations during these stressful times and that it has helped your mental health!
Hello Dr. Pate,
I deeply resonated with your post since I also struggle to get by through this difficult time. It is very hard to find interesting things to do at home and outside of the house due to social distancing. Your suggestions for short-term distractions were extremely helpful so I am considering planning a drive to the coast in order to escape responsibilities for a little while. I admired how you highlighted how we were made for human interaction and for taking time alone because many people do not social distance due to wanting to be around people. Thank you for providing suggestions that can help ease us through these difficult times such as stretching and coming up with creative ways to contact friends safely.
Thank you, Marlene, for reading and sharing your thoughts! I hope you did decide to take a mini vacation from responsibilities that tend to loom over our heads. A drive down the coast would give anyone a serotonin boost!
Dr. Pate, I really enjoyed this article. It’s a good remind of the things that feel like they’re not that important but really make a difference in this strange way of living. I too took a day trip up to Crestline a few months ago and I came down feel like a totally different person. The power of a change of scenery was astounding. The all too relevant title made me chuckle. I’ve always thought how unnatural The Bachelor process was. It really is so isolating and I think now all of us know the kind of strain that puts on a person.
Thank you, Joy, for reading! It is so good to hear that your mini vacation to Crestline has helped you during this strange times and gave you feelings of refreshment!
I enjoyed your blog post very much it has taught me lots of different coping mechanisms that I have not heard about. I think that these tips are very great for this time of year and that they can help a lot of students! The motivational speaker Tony Robison spoke about your last tip a lot and said that Harvard did studies on it and found that it is the most effective way to get yourself out there and stay motivated. The tips you listed are great for mental health! I think every one is getting that zoom fatigue by now and need ways to break out of that cycle and decompress!
Thank you for your time Dr. Pate.
Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts, Lawrence! Yes, everyone is getting that zoom/webex fatigue. It’s great that Dr. Pate has provided tips to overcome this fatigue.
Hello, Dr. pate,
I really enjoyed your post it is important not to just judge others because they are on national television but be a bit more relatable and put ourselves in their shoes. As a fan of the bachelor franchise, I really enjoyed how you stated their breakdowns, crying, and social conflict along with coping was similar to our life during this pandemic, a great way to drag readers in, AMEN! 2020 has been hard for most of us, like you stated our social interaction was limited and the things we typically do or enjoy have been limited or simply not accessible. I really appreciated your 4 steps to cope with our rough times during COVID.
Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts, Kiara! Who knew we would be feeling the same way as the bachelor contestants do? It definitely brings in a whole different perspective especially of what we endured during COVID.
Hello Dr. Pate,
Wow, I really needed to hear that from someone who is also going through the same things I am given the times that we all find ourselves in at the moment. Self care is almost something that is thought of as an afterthought, with deadlines, zoom meetings, and work schedules all fighting for our undivided attention, it seems almost impossible to get anytime for ourselves in the agenda. This is something that I have noticed and I have started to look forward to the times where I can just drive aimlessly for an hour and grab a bite to eat and head back home soon after just so that I can get away from the same scene everyday. I have come to learn the importance of doing things that don’t really make sense like driving an hour away for dinner just so that I have a time where I am able to let my mind wonder and rest. Art is another way that I have been able to enjoy my time in isolation and it is something that truly makes me happy and looking forward to the next day. Thanks for sharing this, it helps to know that I am not truly alone and that others are trying to find peace in this time of isolation.
Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts, Michelle! It is so good to hear that this post really resonated with you. Yes, it has been a trying time for all of us, but it seems you found a way to put some enjoyment in it!
Hello Dr. Pate,
This post was spot on with the emotions many are dealing with during this pandemic. I found myself struggling with coping with my anxiety at the beginning of the pandemic. We all did not expect this and thought it was just an extended spring break and we are now here a year later. what discouraged me from being the best version of myself and putting myself in this mental state that was unhealthy is my goals being pushed back and I felt like I did not accomplish anything in 2020. I actually used some of those coping strategies when I started to focus more on my mental health in 2021, being on a screen all the time is draining and even taking my eyes off a screen for an hour or two helps immensely. I started to go to the gym with one of my best friends, and it helps our mental health so much because when we are at the gym all the stress and anxiety is not there. Something I found that I enjoyed that I love that is considered a “mini vacation” is exploring national parks and hiking trails to see God’s creation. The view is amazing and overlook the thought of being a pandemic and instead of being ‘dead” it makes me feel alive.
Sophia, thank you for reading and sharing your ways of coping through this pandemic. It’s great that you started working out with a friend and exploring nature more as ways to cope!
Hi Dr. Pate,
I just wanted to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this blog post, thank you so much for sharing! I think we can all agree that self care isn’t always easy, but pair that with a global pandemic, stay at home orders, and limited socialization all while keeping up with zoom university; it’s truly a battle to take care of ourselves. As a long time watcher of the Bachelor Franchise, your title is what initially drew me to this post, and I’m so glad it did. What I loved about these suggestions is that they don’t just apply to this COVID season, these are solid strategies for when this pandemic is over as well. I loved your tip on planning a mini vacation. Having something to look forward to has always been a way for me to cope with rough patches because it reminds me to hold on to hope! I had several trips planned through out last semester and it truly made a difference! Getting outside and doing something as simple as walking around campus or our favorite neighborhood loop has truly delivered me through this COVID season. I’m on an RA staff here on campus at CBU and something I implemented this year was taking each girl on my staff on a walk down Victoria Avenue, my safe haven here in Riverside. It gets me out of my room, it facilities growth in relationship, and again, it’s something I genuinely look forward to every single week. Overall, I really appreciate you taking the time to offer tips on how to practice healthy coping mechanisms, not like the girls on the Bachelor, no matter how entertaining it may be!
Sophie, thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts! The idea of taking your residents on walks down Victoria is a great way to disconnect from screens and build relationships with your residents! As noted in Dr. Pate’s blog, we are made to be in relation with one another.
Hi Dr. Pate,
It was insightful reading your blog post and such a great reminder to take care of our mental health. This past year was definitely not easy and I can see how people can become easily depressed being stuck at home behind technology. Especially social media. Social media can be great to connect with family and friends during this time, but it is also full of negative opinions that can bring our spirits down. In November 2020, my fiancé and I went to Big Bear to take our engagement photos, so we decided to make a small get away out of it. It was beautiful and refreshing to be in the mountains where everything felt “normal.” It is exactly what we needed during the pandemic. My fiancé and I also started to play tennis the past couple months to get out of the house and be active. This has helped us tremendously. At the beginning of the pandemic, I started to yoga. I found that listening to my Jesus music and breathing through the yoga exercise has helped me. With the extra time, I have spent more time in my quiet time reading the bible. I was able to fully understand the verses the more time I spent in the bible. It is great feeling to know that our God’s love is never changing in a time that is uncertain. Thank you, Dr. Pate for the reminder.
Victoria, thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts! It is great to hear that you and your fiancé found things that brought a sense of “normalcy” during the pandemic and that you have discovered ways to remember who God is and His love!
Hello Dr. Pate,
Thank you so much for writing about the reality of the impact social distancing has brought on students, professors and all individuals regardless of their occupation! I enjoyed reading the coping strategies you suggested with the one about planning something weekly so you have something to look forward to even if it is small (e.g., meeting with a friend). To answer your question about a coping strategy I personally feel has benefitted me during this unprecedented time is bible journaling. This activity has allowed me to grow my relationship with Christ while expressing my heart when writing as sometimes I have an abundant amount of feelings and don’t know how to organize them.
Thank you for the insightful post,
It is amazing you found a coping strategy that helped you during a difficult time and further your relationship with Christ! Thank you for sharing!
The time of COVID quarantine are a little behind us, but reading your blog reminded me of things I would do when I was six hours away from my friends. Your suggestion of having a weekly activity with someone is something that I did frequently during my time of quarantine. Every week either for once a week or a couple of times a week, I would watch a tv show or movie with a friend of mine so we could spend time with each other while being miles apart. We would watch shows that we loved and after it was over it would segway into a conversation either about the show or other random topics. Being able to do this allowed me to be still present with my friends even when I couldn’t physically be present and it helped continue our friendships during a tough time. I believe that whether we are in quarantine or just living our day to day lives, we should be more persistent to make time to be with our friends. They help our mental health and we help them with theirs. Plus, life is more fun when you have people to share it with!
I really loved this article for a couple different reasons. First off, I enjoyed the comparison of The Bachelor to how it felt during lockdown because I never really thought of it like that before. I have not ever felt sorry for them before but comparing it to the isolation many felt during covid, made me think about it differently. Also, your coping skills were all good ideas but I liked the take a cell phone holiday one because our phones often get in the way of being present and experiencing things fully.
Thank you for your comment! After quarantine it did put into perspective on how the contestants on The Bachelor felt when they were forced into isolation for the show.
Hello! Although 2020 is behind us now and things are finally getting back to “normal” it is still important to remember those times and how we felt. I personally struggled during these times with the loss of my freedom/independence, social time with close relationships, and just being separated from the community and stuck with just the ones living with me. During these times is when I truly learned the importance of self-care. Being trapped in a house with little to no personal space to reflect and unwind can really take a toll on someone’s mental state. One thing that I found useful during these times was seeking guidance from the school counselor. It is very important to have someone you can confide in and just talk to. I agree that it is taking mini trips is important and also a fun way to cope and to help our mental state. I am already planning my next trip!
You are right when you said we need to remember the times of quarantine because it taught us many things. Not only did it teach us about how to take care of ourselves, but also maintain the friendships that we have. Thank you for sharing!
Reading this definitely made me reflect on the pandemic and how I remember what it was like just sitting in my room all day but I remember doing things to take care of myself like stretching I like how you bring up about starting at screens for a long time I remember doing that but I enjoy all the coping techniques you give showing us what we can do to help us take a lot of care for ourselves.
Thank you for your article! It helps me remember the importance of taking care of myself during these difficult times when it is so easy to give in to unhealthy distractions and behaviors. I like the ideas you gave on how to change up our routine and disconnect from technology.