To help protect your mental health from the psychological impact of the coronavirus, here are five tips you can follow starting right now. Whether you’re practicing social distancing, in self-isolation, or even if you or someone you know is quarantined, these tips can help keep you mentally strong and fit to deal with the coronavirus crisis.
1: Make a “Coronavirus Schedule” and stick to it
In a situation like this, the things that are beyond my control–how other people are responding to the crisis, how long it will last, whether or not there’s toilet paper at the store–can spike my anxiety. And if your life has suddenly gone through a radical change because of this outbreak, you probably know what I’m talking about.
To re-introduce a sense of control into my life, I created a schedule that I committed to following. It covers EVERYTHING that I know I need to do, including what times I want to go to sleep and wake up in the morning.
TIP: It might be tempting to sleep in or stay up all night if you’re self-isolating. But that’s a BAD idea! If you do, you run the risk of starting up a cycle of disrupted sleeping habits that you’ll have to deal with when things turn around.
Setting a schedule and maintaining structure and control over the one thing that’s in my own hands right now (my behavior) is an effective way to settle anxiety and keep my mind off of the things that are completely OUT of my hands.
ALSO: I didn’t forget to schedule a time to exercise and get outdoors, and neither should you.
Physical activity is SO important for mental and physical health. Plus, if you get outside you might get some much-needed social interaction. Just practice distancing, keep your hands to yourself, and you’ll be doing your part to stop the outbreak.
2: Maintain social connections
Social distancing doesn’t mean the same thing as social isolation. And if you are self-isolating, the tools and technology that are available to us make it easy to stay connected. We’re social creatures, we need connections to be healthy. So as part of my schedule, I’m including specific days and times to set work aside and catch up with my close friends and family.
This is REALLY important if you know anybody who is directly affected by COVID-19.
Studies conducted on SARS patients who were quarantined in Toronto during that outbreak found:
- 29% of the people who faced quarantine reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder
- 31% of them reported symptoms of depression
So if you know someone who’s sick or even someone who’s just having a difficult time right now and maybe you haven’t heard from them recently, reach out and connect.
One positive thing I’m seeing lately? So many people are leveraging social media to come together in different ways. I’ve never spent so much time scrolling through social feeds. Because right now, it’s reminding me that I am. not. alone.
And that’s a really important thing to keep in mind.
3: Give yourself permission to not be okay.
Letting myself to be open about and have honest conversations about my mental wellbeing was a huge relief. It was scary at first, but it made a BIG difference. Sometimes just talking about what’s making me anxious is enough to calm my anxiety.
BY THE WAY: It’s normal to feel anxious right now. It’s normal to be afraid or even depressed.
And if you are, guess what?
You’re not alone, there are millions of people just like you.
We need to keep talking to each other, now more than ever, specifically about how we’re feeling. Because the more we do, the more we embrace our humanity. So when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I’m going to reach out to people I trust and talk about it. The conversation can start with something as simple as “hey, I’m feeling stressed about what’s happening right now. Got a minute to talk?”
4: Be mindful of what you’re entertaining
Watching the news is important because we need to stay updated, but the 24-hour news cycle can be DRAINING, especially lately. So I’m going to practice changing the channel more often. As a person who loves politics and the news, I’m going to limit how much exposure I have over the next couple of weeks. I’m also going to focus less on opinions and more on critical updates.
What am I doing INSTEAD of watching the news non-stop? I’m filling up my time catching up on shows that make me laugh, or shows that brighten my day. Because I know that laughter is the best medicine, and I know that humor is the best way to cut through tensions and anxiety.
ALSO: I’m being more careful about my social media exposure for the next couple of weeks. I get online to connect and engage and to laugh. When I see things that don’t make me feel great, I mute or unfollow, depending on what I’m seeing.
It sounds simple, but it’s easy to forget:
- You’re in control of how much news you watch.
- You’re in control of who you follow and what ideas you allow yourself to entertain.
Send those bad vibes to voicemail!
5: Find ways to be kind
Recently I dropped off supplies at a local food bank, I talked to a friend who’s having a hard time financially during this crisis, and I offered to grocery shop for my parents and other who are in need.
Servitude, like making a schedule and being mindful of what I entertain, gives me a sense of control in a situation that I have no control of.
But it also fills me up with gratitude, which can pull me out of even my lowest lows.
If you find your mood slipping while you’re weathering this storm, finding ways to help others and show kindness can turn it all around.
Because servitude reminds us all that our contributions can have positive impacts on the world.
Servitude reminds us that:
- The people in your community depend on you.
- We depend on you to make good decisions about your hygiene and your health for the betterment of your community.
- We depend on you to bring positivity and ideas and innovation, for the betterment of our global community.
All that to say, you matter.
Our current circumstance won’t last forever. But while it does, we can cope.
- We can create schedules and structures to help us regain some control.
- We can stay connected with each other.
- We can remember to ask for help when we need it.
- We can be mindful of what we entertain, and
- We can remember to help others as well.
So keep fighting, hope is on the way, and better days are coming very soon.