With the number of coronavirus cases increasing every minute and our knowledge of COVID-19 expanding with each passing day, there’s one thing that has been consistent throughout this global crisis: the toll on mental wellbeing. We are all dealing with excess stress due to pandemic anxiety, job and healthcare insecurity, problems managing the virtual landscape, difficulties juggling work on top of remote learning and childcare, social isolation. The strain felt in the face of these challenges has negatively impacted the mental health of every person, heightening intrusive thoughts, insomnia, eating disorders, depression, sleeping difficulties, substance abuse issues, and suicidal behavior.
As we take precautions to protect our physical health from the virus, we must also remember to do everything we can to build good mental health. Here are some steps to help you cope during a crisis:
1. Stick To A Routine And Set Small Goals
Our minds crave structure. They are habitual creatures. In this new era of lockdowns, changes to work life, remote learning, and more, our schedules have become irregular and unpredictable. To combat this blurred time warp, it’s good to establish a daily to-do list of key tasks and have a core routine with specific hours each day dedicated to work, self-care, and free time. By accomplishing everyday tasks and avoiding procrastination, you build self-confidence to tackle larger tasks. Break up these big projects into small goals to make them less overwhelming.
2. Accept Thoughts And Feelings, Then Let Them Go
You are not your thoughts. No matter how many worries and self-doubts pop into your head throughout these chaotic times, remember that intrusive thoughts are just brain noise. You can let this static disrupt your day or you can accept the existence of unwanted thoughts and choose to not give them power. Instead of letting anxiety take the wheel, you can release your fears and make the decision to focus on positive activities that support your life goals. Concentrate on career and personal development. Devote time each day towards self-improvement. Remember, you are in control of your life.
3. Work On Productive And Meaningful Projects
Being stuck at home for longer periods can lead to an idle mind. And an idle mind often wanders. It seeks something new to expend its energy on and control. While it is good to let your mind go free in moments of creative expression or examine your thoughts through regular meditation, remember that these activities are purposeful and done with intention. Allowing your mind to drift and take hold of itself in everyday moments can lead to destructive habits. Instead, channel your active mind into projects that have a positive impact on your life. Get involved with charity work in your community. Take up a hobby. Start a DIY project to improve your home.
4. Take A Day Off
With tourism presenting a health risk and travel between countries limited, it’s easy to forget to take a few days off every now and again. If you are lucky and privileged enough to have vacation days from work, don’t forget to take them. Invest in your mental health by stepping away from the stresses of work. You will come back refreshed and feel even more productive and energized.
5. Stay Informed
Follow the research and guidance of leading medical experts and stay up to date on the latest pandemic news and developments. Practice the technique of mental rehearsal: Think of all the challenges you are currently facing and the problems you fear, then run through everything that could possibly happen and formulate a solution for each scenario. The more informed you are, the less anxiety you will have and the more prepared you are the more in control you will feel if something does go wrong.
6. Limit Online Engagement
While being informed is important, it is also essential to step away from the news and your social media feed from time to time. For the sake of your sanity, limit the amount of time per day you spend online and ignore negative trolls and toxic commenters.
Not only is exercise a great stress reliever, but it’s also a wonderful socially distanced activity to partake in during a pandemic. Go for a brisk walk and enjoy the peace and serenity of nature. Sign up for a virtual yoga class or online workout. Find a beautiful bike trail and go for a ride.
8. Keep In Contact With Friends And Family
Social isolation causes depression and anxiety and can actually increase risk of premature death. Be sure to stay in touch with the ones you love. Set up regular phone calls and virtual hangouts. Schedule to meet up for a masked and socially distanced walk in the park. Go old-school and exchange letters and care packages in the mail.
9. Celebrate Small Victories
From finishing your daily to-do list to finding all the ingredients you need for a new recipe to completing a project at work, it’s important to celebrate the little wins and find excitement in a time when most days feel monotonously similar. Enjoying the simple pleasures and relishing in your achievements will go a long way towards improving your overall mood.