COVID-19 and YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
This is a strange time we are living in, y’all, unprecedented… meaning this is new for all of us. No one has the answers on what to do or how to get us back to our normal. With so much uncertainty, stress and anxiety are sure to follow. COVID-19 has left many feeling anxious about losing jobs/income, getting sick, loved ones getting ill, and/or feeling isolated and alone. You might feel like you have no control. It’s important to remember the things you do have control over and the things you can do to help reduce stress and anxiety, as well as regulate your emotions, while honoring your emotional experience. I have a few ideas I would like to share with you:
Make sure that you are attending to the needs of your body during this time. Make sure you are eating 3 meals a day and a couple of snacks. It’s important not to wait hours in between meals. Hunger has a huge impact on our ability to regulate emotion and handle stress.
Are you taking your prescribed medications? An interruption in your normal routine can have a ripple effect, causing you to forget things that used to be habit (like taking your meds). You might not be going to school or work, yet it is important to continue taking your prescribed medications, whether they are for your physical or mental health. Consistency is key.
Has your sleep schedule changed since COVID-19? Routine is your friend when managing anxiety and stress. Sleep hygiene routines can help get you back on your sleep schedule. Staying up late and sleeping in can be enticing, yet it is known that a change in routine can have a major impact on our mental health. Feel free to check out DBT’s sleep hygiene protocol and step by step instructions.
MOVE. (If you’re following your meal plan and your dietitian/physician has approved it.)
Can you get outside to go for a walk and still remain 6 feet from others? We are meant to move our bodies. What can you do to be physically active while maintaining spatial distance? Ideas: at home yoga, dancing in the kitchen, yard work, scrub the bathtub and bathroom floors, bike ride, repot your house plants, prepare your garden for spring/summer planting.
Right now, we need to maintain spatial distance, not social distance. Humans need connection… even introverts. Spend time each day connecting with people you care about. There are a number of technology platforms that can be used FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, MarcoPolo, etc. Have dinner with friends over FaceTime. Play a game with your parents on Skype. Watch Tiger King with your friend Group on Zoom. The options are endless, think creatively to avoid feeling isolated and alone.
What can you focus on aside from COVID-19? Consult Instagram or Pinterest for hobby or interest ideas. It takes a lot of thought, time, and practice to learn a new skill. Try a new recipe, raid your craft closet and tap into your creativity, fix that leaky sink with the help of Youtube, or dust off that old guitar. The sense of accomplishment feels great when you complete a challenging yet doable task, and hopefully you have forgotten about COVID-19 at least for a moment.
Anxiety is contagious, and I don’t know about you but COVID-19 is the only thing on my newsfeed and the only thing broadcasters are talking about. It is good and helpful to stay informed, however I would recommend that you limit your media intake. Check it once in the morning and once in the evening (but not right before bed). If you prefer to have the TV on during the day, check out Netflix, Hulu, or Prime, but avoid the news channels.
So what are you feeling? Anxious? Angry? Sad? Disgust? Check in with yourself a couple times a day, and practice identifying what emotion you are feeling. Then allow yourself to fully experience it. If you’re angry, be angry. If you’re sad, be sad. Let yourself cry if that would feel good. Set a timer. Fully experience your emotion, and then get back to work. Our emotions can be so big sometimes that they paralyze us. They don’t have to. Give yourself permission to feel and then get back to it.
COVID-19 is new and scary. People manage scary in different ways. As Brené Brown discussed in her recent Podcast, “we don’t have to be scary when we are scared. Let’s choose awkward, brave, and kind.” Be kind to yourself and be kind to others, it’s a new type of world we are all trying to navigate. Just remember, we are all in this together.
I hope you find these tips helpful. If you or someone you know is struggling to cope with the stress and anxiety created by COVID-19, please reach out to schedule an appointment. You can schedule on my website or if you have questions prior to scheduling, feel free to call/text/or email.
Thanks for reading,