I hope that everyone is safe and well during these unprecedented times. We are all going through unexpected adjustments, changes in our daily routine, not being able to follow our daily schedule, having to homeschool, adhering to curfew, engaging in health practices to avoid exposure to COVID-19, experiencing changes or loss of job, etc., all which can influence the development of mental health symptoms to include some of the following:
- Mood changes
- Withdrawal (this is something to be mindful of due to social distancing)
- Problems thinking
- Increased sensitivity
- Sleep or appetite changes
- Unusual behavior
As the number of cases of COVID-19 increases, the decline in mental health is prevalent and expected. Not only would I encourage you to pay attend to your warning signs, I would also encourage you to pay attention to the warning signs of your loved ones in your environment. Listed below are some tips to help you stay encouraged, calm, and attend to your mental health during this crisis:
- Manage your expectations: Difficulty concentrating, low motivation, and distraction is expected during this time. Our brain (thoughts/emotions) is likely on overdrive as it experiences unexpected changes. The key is having the understanding that adaptation is a gradual process and we must develop a new routine until this crisis end. Set realistic goals for yourself (ex. Do not think that you’re going to drive to the beach to relax because it helps relieves stress. Do try and engage in mindfulness or at home exercises to help relieve stress).
- Be Proactive in managing your stress. Make sure that you’re not spending your days stressing about the things that you can longer do. Instead, continue to get enough sleep, eat healthy, and start doing in home workouts. Also, be mindful to not drink as much alcohol as a way of coping…your body can easily become dependent upon it and make continue to crave it after the crisis.
- Maintain connections. We are all in social isolation and our only source of contact may have been the people that we live with. For those who live alone, it extremely important that you maintain family and social connections. You can continue to engage with your support systems though virtual meetings (ex. Zoom allow you to meet up with several people. You and your social supports can have girl’s night, coffee dates, do online book club meeting, do virtual check-ins, etc.). Just because we are isolated does not mean that we must be alone.
- Manage your uncertainty by staying in the present moment. It is easy to start to forecast (predict) what is going to happen, in which we start to operate from that manner. For example, we may predict that the COVID-19 crisis is never going to end and we’re never going to get back into our routine, so we start to panic and our mental health declines. Stay in the moment. Take things one day at a time. Practice some healthy coping skills, to help you navigate through these unprecedented times. Some health coping skills can include the following:
- Listening to music
- Taking a therapeutic bath (dim lights/candles, jazz music, therapeutic aromas, etc.)
- Play with a pet
- Read a book
- Watch your favorite movie/tv show
- Try out a new recipe
- Go for a walk
- Engage in a hobby
- Use aromatherapy
- Engage in self-care (paint your nails, do your hair, put on a face mask, etc.).
5. Avoid unhealthy coping skills. It is important that you do not utilize unhealthy ways to manage your stress. Some unhealthy coping skills can include the following:
- overindulging in alcohol or using drugs
- Sleeping too much
- Being avoidant
- Venting too much
The important thing is figuring out what works for you as you make necessary adjustments. Figure out how to make things fun and enjoyable while you’re temporarily displaced. Recognize that you cannot control what’s happening, but you can control how you respond to it.