When it comes to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there’s what you see, there’s what you hear, and after taking it all in, there’s how it all makes you feel. There is no denying that there is an overwhelming amount of changes happening right now. You’re being asked to stay home as much as possible. Restaurants are taking to-go orders only. Bars are closed. Schools are closed. You turn on the news and coronavirus is there. You scroll through your social feed and it’s there, too. It’s a lot to take in, and if you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed or panicked – I want you to know you’re not alone. Although we primarily view the virus as a physical threat on our health, it is important to recognize the impact it has on our mental health too.
According to The Depression Project, this is why the coronavirus is triggering mental health issues:
- Triggers feelings of hopelessness, despair, and loneliness
- Mindset switch from “living” to “survival”
- Increased health anxiety
- Fear for loved ones’ lives
- Decreased financial and job security
- Promotes social withdrawal
- Quarantine makes it more difficult to distract oneself from existing mental health issues
So, what can we do to get a handle on our anxiety and take care of ourselves during this scary, uncertain time? Read on for a few tips!
Limit your social media exposure.
Given that schools, restaurants, and gyms are closed and all outside activities have been cancelled, what are you supposed to do other than scroll, scroll, scroll through social media? I get it. You’re not likely to limit your exposure to social media. However, you can and should limit your exposure to negativity. The next time you are scrolling through, any time you see someone posting or sharing something designed to spark fear or anger, simply hide their posts for 30 days. I recommend this even if the topic is not about the coronavirus. Blocking out any type of negativity, coronavirus-related or not, really makes social media so much more enjoyable and fulfilling! When 30 days is up, you can decide one at a time on which voices you want to add back to your general feed.
Stay on top of your health.
You should always keep your health as a top priority, but during a pandemic, staying healthy becomes more important than ever. You want to stay healthy to reduce your risk of contracting any illness. Staying healthy means eating healthy, getting a good night’s rest, and exercising.
This means that, in addition to preventing the spread of coronavirus, you should make sure you’re:
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Drinking plenty of water
- Getting enough sleep
- Exercising daily
With gyms closing, I initially struggled with continuing my exercise regimen. If you are also struggling with this, I recommend watching home workout videos on YouTube or even just going for a walk around your neighborhood. These healthy habits will also help you reduce and manage the stress of handling the changes and challenges you face over the coming weeks.
Choose valid sources of information.
Information and news about the coronavirus pandemic is everywhere. Local news, online news sources, social feeds… everyone seems to have information, and they certainly all have opinions. Staying up-to-date is important, but you’ll want to make sure that who you’re listening to is getting it right. If you have been primarily relying on social media for your up-to-the-minute COVID-19 information, I urge you to review your other options for gathering the facts you need to make the right decisions for yourself and everyone around you. You should also be selective about which TV channels you watch, especially news shows that seem to offer over-the-top headlines rather than straight facts.
Take good care of yourself.
Follow the recommendations: avoid exposure to crowds, wash your hands, and sneeze and cough into your bent elbow. These last two should be a habit for all of us anyway. The first one -avoiding crowds- is probably the most powerful way we have to limit the spread of the virus. Again, don’t forget about your mental health! Stay in contact with friends and family via video chats, email, phone calls, and texts. Host dinners through FaceTime, Hangouts or another video call service and remotely dine with friends and family. Practice calming breathing techniques and meditation. Always remind yourself that you are not alone in how you feel; we are all in this together.
Take advantage of your time at home.
At first, social distancing might sound like an inconvenience, but you may want to look at it as an opportunity. Consider using this time at home to catch up on the things that get put on the back burner of a busy life, including:
- Doing yard work, housework, or other home improvement projects
- Reading more books or catching up on shows
- Calling friends and family to catch up
- Trying out new recipes
- Taking a break from drinking alcohol
Make being ‘stuck’ at home as fun as you can. Do activities that bring you joy. Spend time with your family. Cook with them, watch movies, read, sit and have dinner together. Pull out the board games. Re-read a favorite book. Take some free online classes on topics you’re interested in but never found the time to do. All of this social distancing is unprecedented. Take the opportunity to make it a time you will look back on and enjoy the memory.
From me and all of us here at Amy Wine Counseling Center – we hope that you and your loved ones are staying safe, healthy, and well during this time. Hang in there, AWCC family. We are with you. Call us if you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, 832-421-8714.