6 Mental Health Tips During COVID-19 Pandemic
My sister is a mental health counselor and I reached out to her for a few tips on how to cope with stay at home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Feeling the effects myself of the many restrictions put in place in New York and throughout the country, I knew she would be the person to give some of the best advice.
In the past few weeks, the coronavirus outbreak has brought about many changes to our lives. Many of us have transitioned to working from home and have been practicing social distancing. Our new work environment may be the kitchen table or a makeshift desk in our bedroom. Our daily routines have been altered. For the time being there is no more commuting to the office besides walking a few feet to another room. Dress clothes… what are those? We have new stressors like how to stay focused on work at home, helping our kids learn electronically, balancing work and a possible new role of being a teacher. We have entered a new workplace, and need to learn how to handle our new co-workers (who we also call our husband, wife, fiancé, boyfriend, girlfriend, daughter, son, or, often our most demanding coworker, our dog). Some are still working and managing the stress that comes along with being essential personnel on the front lines, making resources available to all in order to stay as healthy and safe as we possibly can.
The current pandemic has produced a great deal of stress, anxiety and grief to people around the world. We’re continuously being updated about the severity of this virus, death tolls, its impact on the economy, and recommendations and restrictions that change our daily behaviors. However, we are also coming together to appreciate and support those on the front lines and finding comfort with others that are experiencing these changes with us. Our sense of community continues to strengthen as we care for each other through assistance with daily tasks and connecting virtually.
Along with the strong and difficult emotions related to our health and safety during a time like this, we may also be experiencing feelings of sadness, frustration, guilt, and anger. Not only are we dealing with worrying about the health and safety of our friends, family, and community, but we are also working on coming to terms with our thoughts and feelings around missing out on plans we had made, vacations that were scheduled, concerts, shows, and plays we’ve been excited to attend, and weddings we have spent months planning. It’s okay to feel upset and angry that we aren’t able to enjoy the fun things in life we have had planned these past few weeks and upcoming months. It’s okay to feel frustrated that we can’t see our family and friends in person, carrying on like it’s a regular Wednesday. It’s okay to feel annoyed that we are told what we can and can’t do, that we must modify our “normal” weekly routine. It’s okay! Take the time to process these changes to your plans and routines. Take the time for you, your mental health, and your wellness.
While we may have had many exciting events and plans to look forward to that are now cancelled or postponed, there are ways that we can still look to take our current situation and make the most of it. Take some time and be creative, think about ways to develop activities to look forward to while we are under quarantine and social distancing. Having a hard time coming up with something? Here are a few suggestions:
- Create your new routine: By creating a routine and/or schedule for yourself, you allow yourself the time to attend to responsibilities, whether it be work, school, chores around the house, exercise, socializing (from a safe distance), or time for self-care. By taking a shower and getting dressed each day (try wearing bright colors; it’s amazing what that can do for our daily outlook), we establish a sense of normalcy that can allow us to feel more focused and energized for the day. Keep to regular meal times and sleep schedules to keep our bodies regulated, knowing that it’s okay to add in the occasional batch of freshly baked cookies.
- Stay connected: Host dinners, happy hours or game nights with friends and family via Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime. Humans are social beings and, while we are isolating for our health and wellness, it is important to find ways to stay connected with our friends and family and/or seek supports to reach out to.
- Let your creativity run wild and think outside the box. Develop a new recipe using items you have on two shelves in your cupboards; count all the corners in your house; try a new hobby; explore a museum, zoo, or aquarium virtually for free; try a workout class online; experience guided meditations on Youtube; try mindfulness practices; learn a new language; watch TEDtalks or read articles about topics you are interested in but haven’t had the time to spend learning about; color and even better color outside the lines and on something other than paper!
- Focusing on the good things: Exercise gratitude. What are you grateful for? What are things in your life that bring you joy? What are you proud of yourself for? What are goals you have for yourself big or small? What are ways you can challenge yourself? What makes you laugh? What makes you uniquely you? Who makes you feel loved, supported, cared for? Show them your appreciation and write them a letter. Sometimes there is nothing better than a hand written note, delivered via snail mail.
- Get outside: Go for a walk. Interact with nature. Go explore your backyard. Find nature challenges online. Smell some flowers. Learn to grow herbs, vegetables, and fruits. Feel the sunshine on your skin. Have a dance party in your driveway. Unplug and put the phones, computers, and tablets away and just be present in the moment. Appreciate all that is around you.
- Breathe and be kind to yourself. We are all going through a time of intense stress, anxiety, and uncertainty. We are experiencing a lot of change and transition in many areas of our lives. Be mindful that we can and do have a variety of emotions that we have and will experience during this time. Develop plans to process and manage our emotions. Understand that we are all in this together. Reach out and ask for help when needed and support others when they reach out, as you feel able to. By finding a good balance between taking action to manage our situation and what is in our control and accepting that certain things are out of our control we can work to build our resiliency and wellness. By being kind to ourselves, listening to ourselves, and taking care of ourselves we are effectively managing our physical health, mental health and wellness.
Stay safe and be well!