3 Ways to Manage Your Mental Health Amidst COVID-19
As we face the COVID-19 virus outbreak across our country and around the world, a surge of anxiety accompanies it. Yes, this is affecting us physically and we need to take the safety measures that will protect us and the people around us, but what in the world do we do about how it’s affecting us mentally?
Regardless of if you are officially diagnosed with an anxiety disorder (here’s a guide of the most common anxiety disorders), everyone intuitively knows and has experienced the feeling of anxiety at least once in their lifetime. A crisis like the virus outbreak can cause people to respond with feelings of fear and anxiety. Cancellations, closings, layoffs, and the huge cloud of uncertainty surrounding us changes our ‘normal,’ which is frightening for anyone to experience, and it especially impacts those with pre-existing mental health conditions, triggering symptoms and relapses in recovery.
Unprecedented change in daily routines and lifestyle habits can leave us feeling on edge, scared, sad, or just generally emotionally unbalanced. We might be worried about the health of our loved ones, have difficulty sleeping and concentrating, or revert to unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking alcohol and using other drugs in order to deal with our feelings. And though physical isolation is keeping us safer, it can make us feel more lonely and socially isolated.
That’s why it’s important to remember that we truly are all in this together, experiencing similar emotions during this turbulent time. We really aren’t alone, no matter how far away others are, and the good news is that there are ways to feel safer, closer to others, and a little happier. Here are a few tips on how to help manage mental health amidst COVID-19.
1. Take advantage of technology
If we were going to live through a pandemic, what better day and age to live in than now? With technological advancements like FaceTime and Skype that allow us to see our friends and family far away, online games and puzzles that let us play with others virtually, a plethora of video games for every personality, and even the rising popularity of telemedicine giving us the access to our healthcare providers, we have the opportunity to continue with some normalcy in our lives, even in a remote world.
Connecting with others, especially during this frantic, uncertain time, can help you feel less alone and give you a sense of community. It might be a good idea to start reaching out to friends and family as part of your daily routine. Having meaningful conversations or just sharing good memories and funny stories with one another can do wonders for your mental health, and adds to a sense of normalcy.
For many people experiencing mental health symptoms either as a result of COVID-19 or from a prior mental health condition, teletherapy may be a beneficial outlet or alternative to traditional in-person therapy. You may also be able to find other online resources to help manage mental health in your local area like free webinars, support groups, and more through a simple internet search.
Don’t forget to use technology to your advantage during this time. Even things like social media, which was once criticized for its suspected ill effects on mental health, is helping us feel more connected right now. So don’t be afraid to Facebook message your best friend, video chat your favorite coworker, host a Zoom birthday party for your sister, or ask your therapist about telehealth options.
2. Maintain your personal health and boost your immune system
Now more than ever it’s critical to take care of our physical health and maintain our immune systems to avoid increasing our risk of contracting the virus. This means a lot of different things. Though it might be tempting to snack on chips and cookies to alleviate your stress temporarily, it’ll be more helpful in the long-run for you to continue balanced eating habits. We all know some of the benefits of drinking water, so staying hydrated is also key to staying healthy. Partaking in some daily exercise can help your physical and mental health too. Even if it’s just a walk around your neighborhood after dinner.
Sleep plays a huge role in our health. Read that again. Maybe one more time for good measure. Not getting enough sleep can impair your daily functioning, and if you are one of about 70 million people in the U.S. that suffers from a sleep disorder, not getting your zzz’s can have even worse effects on your health. So try to maintain a practice of a nightly routine with good sleep hygiene as best you can during this time.
Boosting your immune system also means continuing your habit of taking your vitamins and necessary medications daily. Even though your daily routine has changed, it’s important to not change your treatment plan. Make sure your medication refills are updated and request your healthcare provider to approve 30, 60, or even 90-day supplies of your prescription medication.
3. Be patient with yourself
The last thing to remember to manage mental health during this time, is to be patient with yourself. If you’re working from home, take frequent breaks that include deep breathing and stretching. Relieve the pressure you have on yourself about being as productive as you can right now. We are living through a health crisis that is collectively affecting every aspect of our lives. It’s okay if you aren’t producing as well as you have been. It’s okay to take time to yourself doing something you love each day. Spend time reading a favorite book, binge-watching a tv show, or practicing other forms of self-care.
Your mental health matters, so it’s important to tend to it like you would tend to your body. The changes happening to our world can have you feeling emotionally drained and noticing those differences in yourself can be key to accessing the help you need, whether it’s finding a therapist or taking more time out of your day to relax.
If anything, social distancing and quarantining can teach us to take things slower, be more patient with ourselves, and recognize that our health comes first, whether it’s physical or mental. Chances are, you aren’t the only one experiencing changes in your mental health, so make sure to carve out the time to reach out to friends or family virtually, go for a walk around the neighborhood, and give yourself grace. Though no one knows for sure when things will go back to normal, the point is that they will, and you don’t have to feel alone until that time comes.
If you are in need of mental health crisis resources, please visit: www.crisistextline.org
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