Anxiety, stress and doubt are perfectly normal reactions to the uncertain times we live in. For many of us, COVID-19 has thrust the future into an uncertain light, laying waste to carefully laid plans and forcing us to pivot into situations we aren’t accustomed to. Not only are we grappling with a public health emergency, there’s also economic anxiety and the removal of our usual in-person social interactions.
During this time, it’s so important to be kind to yourself and open up to self-compassion. It’s OK if you’re struggling to cope, and it’s OK to take time out to manage your mental health. When stress and anxiety are allowed to roam unchecked it can take a devastating toll on our health and well-being in a short period of time.
While we may not be able to control what’s happening around the world, we retain complete control over how we let it affect us. Take some time from your day to read these five suggestions for maintaining mental health during COVID-19.
Invest Time in Yourself
The last few weeks have probably gone by in a bit of a blur. With the situation rapidly changing and plans needing to be made, it’s likely relaxation has gone neglected. Things aren’t always going to be this intense. Once you feel in a position to take the foot off the gas, it’s vital to invest some of this time and effort back into yourself. Ensure you’re getting enough sleep, make some time for your hobbies and eat as well as possible. We’re living in an age of physical distancing but this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a solo walk or bike ride.
Maintain Physical not Social Distance
We’re all playing our role in helping to flatten the curve by physically distancing ourselves. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean we have to socially isolate from others. Working from home without any social interaction negatively impacts on our mental health. Find ways to connect with friends and family remotely. Reach out by phone, text or video call. Missing happy hour? Get your friends together via Zoom, Slack or FaceTime and hang out together remotely. Many groups are even hosting board game nights online. It's so important to maintain our communities at times like these.
Limit Your Intake of News
There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen…
With each day bringing headlines from around the world, it feels like we’re trying to drink from a fire hose of information. Sure, it’s important to be informed, but constantly checking for updates and reading sensationalized stories can take a tangible toll on mental health. Try to limit consumption to trusted, verified news sources and ration the time you spend on social media. Some may find it helpful to talk over their anxieties, but others may find these conversations only make things worse. If talking it over isn’t helping, it’s OK to tell friends, family and others you don’t want to participate.
Have a Plan for Elements You Can Control
A great mechanism for dealing with anxiety is to channel it towards useful action. Preparing for possibilities such as self-isolation and business contingency planning can help ease uncertainty about the future. Itemize all the things you would need on-hand if you needed to self-isolate for two weeks. This list should cover food, pet food, household items and any medications you take. Missing your gym workouts? Invest in a simple home gym setup or get involved in one of the many remote yoga groups happening on Zoom.
Create a Routine
We’re all used to working within a structure. We get up each morning, we dress and go to work. As many of us transition to working remotely, or find ourselves with extra free time, it’s important to keep a structure where possible. Set times for certain activities and be accountable with yourself. Dedicate time each day for relaxation and talking to others. It’s OK if you slip in these plans, this is a time for compassion – both with ourselves and with others. Start again the next day and try to build good habits.
Where to Find Help
We’re living in unprecedented times and it’s OK if you need help to get through this. Know that supports are there if and when you need them. If you need information about local services, or you just need a friendly ear to listen, call the BC Mental Health Support Line at 310-6789 at any time.