Practicing social distancing has left most of us blindly navigating a life we’d never imagined. Some of us are working from home, while others are not able to work at all. Some of us are faced with the new challenge of trying to educate our kids while simultaneously meeting our other responsibilities. And, some of us find ourselves isolated alone in our homes. No matter what the specifics of your situation are, you can be assured there’s one thing we all have in common — we feel unsure and overwhelmed.
By now, we know that staying at least six feet apart, not gathering in groups and washing our hands will help protect our physical health, but what about our mental health? It’s important to protect that, too. The strategies below can help ease anxiety and preserve your mental and emotional well-being during these trying times.
Tune Out and Keep the Virus in Perspective
While you need to stay informed, scrolling through endless newsfeeds or watching hours on end of TV news coverage about the virus can feel overwhelming. Try checking the news a couple times a day instead and limit the amount of time you spend doing it.
Also, try to keep in mind that when you look at the statistics of the COVID-19 virus, the survival rate is about 97%, and that the majority of people who get infected only suffer from mild to moderate symptoms — if they have symptoms at all.
So, yes, we do need to follow social distancing guidelines and take precautions to protect our health and the health of others, but it’s also important to remember that statistically the odds of a positive outcome are dramatically in our favor.
Stay Close to Family and Friends
Being away from our loved ones is hard. Surely, none of us will take hugging the people we love most for granted again. But in the meantime, we can feel grateful to be living in the digital age! We can see each other’s faces through FaceTime, Skype and Zoom. We can stay connected through Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. There are many platforms available to keep us connected — it’s up to us to decide how to use them. Some people are having virtual happy hours with their friends. Some are staying connected by playing online games together. Get creative, but most importantly, stay in touch.
Take Care of Your Body and Your Mind
Exercising, eating well and getting outdoors every day will not only make us feel better, it will actually strengthen our immune systems. Not to mention, endorphins have been known to reduce anxiety.
In addition to taking care of our bodies, we also need to tend to our minds. There are lots of ways to exercise the brain. Learn something new or spend time on hobby you haven’t had time for in the past. Do jigsaw puzzles, play brain games, read books or listen to pod casts. Anything that stretches our brains and helps us focus on something positive for a while is a winner.
Create A New Normal
As tempting as it may be to sleep until noon, stay in our pajamas all day and eat cookies for lunch, it’s vitally important to keep some structure in our lives. Set the alarm, take a shower, get dressed, eat meals and plan out the day. Creating a new normal during these trying times will help calm the chaos and anxiety.
Look at the Positives
During this strange, unfamiliar time we’ve all been faced with challenges — some more than others. And as we work through those challenges, it’s important to look for the bright spots. Maybe we’re grateful to still have our job? Maybe we’re grateful to have a place to shelter safely? Maybe we’re grateful for our kids, or our dog or even just a sunny day. No matter how big or small it seems, if it brings a sense of peace, be sure to spend some time focusing on it every day.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, there’s no shame in reaching out. Most therapists are currently offering teletherapy, so you can get the help you need safely, at home.
For more useful resources on protecting your mental wellbeing (including finding an online therapist or psychiatrist) during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) website.