COVID-19 has had a profound impact on our world, our families, and our everyday lives. For many it is also having a significant negative impact on our mental well-being. As I watched the events unfold over the past several days—closing of schools, lines in the grocery stores, restaurants closing, and rise in rates of infection, I started to feel anxious. I found myself watching the news, reading media reports, and scrolling through social media. COVID-19 was pretty much all my husband and I talked about. Finally, on Sunday night I realized that I had not functioned normally for 3 days.
I had to shut it down.
If I was going to come out on the other side in a healthy manner, I had to do something different from what I spent the last 3 days doing. I had to go back to functioning normally. I have a business to run. I have a family. I have me. I had to tend to all of those things in the best way that I can given the circumstances.
These are the small changes that I made, and I feel much better for it. They may help you as well.
Take a break from the news. Yes, being informed is important but, let’s face it, about 70% of the news coverage relates to COVID-19. Take a break from that.
Censor your social media. Many of the posts these days are related to the virus and its impact on our every day lives. However, a lot of these posts do little but stir up anxiety, anger, and fear. If a post is not helpful, just keep scrolling. A few years back I consciously took steps to ensure my FB feed was generally positive and informative. For example, I chose not to read divisive, ill-informed political posts. I unfollowed many people and unfriended others. My mental health is better for it.
Listen to positive upbeat music. Music can have a significant, immediate impact on your mood. If you are feeling tense, anxious, or sad, take a break from whatever you are doing and listen to upbeat music with positive lyrics. Don’t just listen. Dance! Sing along! Here is my playlist on Spotify.
Go outside. Yes, we must practice physical distancing, but we can still enjoy fresh air. Take a walk around the block. The exercise, fresh air, and sunshine will have a calming effect.
Take control. There is a lot that we cannot control right now, but there is a lot that we can. If you are suddenly at home and not at work, if your spouse is suddenly working from home, or if you are suddenly homeschooling your kids, the routine which you have perfected for the last several months or several years might have been upended. Instead of focusing on that, take control and create a new routine for your household. As much as we may not want to face it, the reality is that we have no idea when things will go back to the old normal. Embrace the new normal.
Maintain social connections. That’s right, even while we are practicing physical distancing, it is important to remain socially connected. Humans are social beings. We rely on support from family and friends. Whether it is via telephone, email, text, or social media (but see #2- Censor your social media), keep in touch with your friends and extended family. A friend excitedly told me that she was going to a virtual cocktail party. She explained that she was going to dress up, put on makeup, and have her cocktail in hand. Be creative and remain social!
Seek help. If your mental health is suffering, get help. In these challenging times, there are many resources out there, some of which are free or low cost. We are talking a lot about paying attention to physical signs of being sick, and we are all ready to rush to the doctor when our physical health declines. Pay just as much attention to signs of your mental health deteriorating.
Take care of your physical self. Eat well, get exercise, drink water, and gets lots of sleep. What you should have been doing before, do now. Many of us have stocked up on nonperishables. Fresh fruits and vegetables are still available! You may not be able to go to the gym or meet with your personal trainer, but you can still workout at home. There are many exercise apps and many gyms are streaming classes for their members. Take steps to not allow worrying to keep you up.
Find your calm your way. Figure out what helps calm you. It might be music, it might be exercise. It might be another way. I find comfort in prayer. I also find comfort in walking, reading, journaling, and watching sitcoms on TV. Figure out what does it for you and incorporate those things into your routine. Healthy ways only!
- Help others. Once you have taken steps to care for your mental health, consider serving others. Reaching out and helping others is one way to avoid a feeling of helplessness and lack of control. Call friends to see if they are OK. If you are going on a grocery store run, check to see if elderly neighbors need anything. Caring for our community is essential for all of us to come out on the other side physically and mentally well.
Stacey Montgomery, Founder
Stacey M Design and Stacey Montgomery Publishing
Posted 3/18/20; updated 4/2/20
©2020. Stacey Montgomery. All rights reserved.
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