5 Steps to Remember About Mental Health During COVID-19
It goes without saying that these past several weeks have been confusing, stressful, and trying. The world is at a very uncertain point and we are faced with many new personal, professional, and emotional challenges that we likely never anticipated in our lives. You may begin to experience stress, anxiety, fear, sadness and loneliness like you never have in the past. In addition, mental health disorders and symptoms like anxiety and depression can heighten and become increasingly worse.
In order to combat these new feelings and work toward a new “normal”, it is vital to learn self-care strategies and get the care you need to help you cope. The following five tips are some basic strategies to try and implement immediately in your everyday life:
- Take care of your body: Be mindful about your physical health as it directly impacts your mental health. Our mental health is dependent on our physical health so prioritizing our whole health is critical.
- Get enough sleep.Go to bed and get up at the same times each day. Stick close to your typical schedule, even if you’re staying at home. Recognize that patterns may have changed but we do need to take steps to be able to rest and sleep when we can.
- Participate in regular physical activity.Regular physical activity and exercise can help reduce anxiety and improve mood. Find an activity that includes movement, such as dance or exercise apps. Get outside in an area that makes it easy to maintain distance from people — as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) or your government — such as a nature trail or your own backyard.
- Eat healthy.Choose a well-balanced diet. Avoid loading up on junk food and refined sugar. Limit caffeine as it can aggravate stress and anxiety. Challenges to this are being stuck inside and having more access to our pantry or refrigerator. Be mindful that we don’t have to be perfect, just try your best to make good choices.
- Avoid tobacco, alcohol and drugs.Obviously these aren’t healthy choices for our health, but particularly if you smoke tobacco or vape, you’re already at higher risk of lung disease. COVID-19 affects the lungs, therefore smoking anything increases your risk during this pandemic. With more time and higher stress alcohol can sometimes seem like a good way to cope, however this can make matters worse and reduce your coping skills. Similarly, taking drugs to cope, unless your doctor prescribed medications for you, should be avoided.
The above five are pretty obvious basic tips that are fairly simple to implement. Less obvious is what I call the PDF: Play, Downtime, and Family or Friend Time. Whether you have kids or not these are important.
Play is so much more than simply having fun. Research suggests that
play — especially when it is freely chosen, unstructured, and personally-directed — is linked to increases in cognitive skills, physical health, self- regulation, language abilities, social skills, and empathy for children. For adults, we have similar benefits that recharge us physically and emotionally when we disconnect from our typical demands.
Downtime is an easy concept in abstract but is much harder to implement. It is important to set aside time beyond structured activities or academics to relax, daydream, read, or just be in your own thoughts. Research suggests that downtime throughout the day for improves physical and emotional health. Sleep is also an essential component of downtime.
Family time or Friend time creates a sense of connection and belonging. Research shows that when we are part of a family unit or social group that spends time together, we are more likely to feel supported, safe, and loved unconditionally, as well as have increased self- esteem and better academic outcomes.
We are all in this COVID19 pandemic together in a way that the world has never seen before. Self-care is vital in our emotional well-being and as we find our new normal and start to come through this pandemic with light shining through from the other end of the tunnel, be patient, be kind and trust that in the end we are stronger when we help one another.