While the Coronavirus pandemic threatens a larger crisis of a psychological pandemic, there are few ways to take care of your Mental Health and Well being.
TW: There is a lot of material and news around the outbreak of COVID19 (also referred to as the Coronavirus) - If this is a topic area which is unsettling for you or makes you anxious, it is advisable to not read ahead.
The Coronavirus outbreak has triggered a ‘psychological pandemic’ - it has led to feelings of loneliness, isolation, uneasiness and distress.
It is quite normal to be feeling this way in the current situation. Stress and the feelings associated with it are by no means a reflection that you are failing or that you are weak. Managing your Mental Health and Psychological well-being during this time is as important as managing your physical health. While it is important to stay informed, there are also many things we can do to support and manage our well being during such times. Here are some tips we hope will help you, your friends and your loved ones to look after your mental health at a time when there is much discussion of potential threats to our physical health.
Focus on what you can control rather than on what you can’t. This includes where you get information from and actions to make yourself feel better prepared. For instance, stock up on essentials including medication if you can. Talk about your feelings and focus on taking care of yourself. Your routine may be out of the ordinary at this point, but try and develop a routine for each day as best as you can. Think about how you can adapt and create positive new routines - try to engage in useful activities (such as cleaning, cooking or exercise) or meaningful activities (such as reading or calling a friend). You might find it helpful to write a plan for your day or your week. That being said, be flexible, there may be days where you may face an uphill battle with your emotions, and this is ok. Remember that this is a difficult time for everyone and sharing how you are feeling and the things you are doing to cope with family and friends can help them too.
Make time to unwind - Take care of yourself at this time. Try and use helpful coping strategies such as ensuring sufficient rest and respite during work or between shifts, eat sufficient and healthy food, engage in physical activity, and stay in contact with family and friends. Avoid using unhelpful coping strategies such as use of tobacco, alcohol or other drugs. In the long term, these can worsen your mental and physical well-being. During times of stress, pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly, keep regular sleep routines and eat healthy food. Keep things in perspective. Self-care looks different for everyone - You are the person most likely to know how you can de-stress and you should not be hesitant in keeping yourself psychologically well. You cannot look after others if you yourself are down and out.
Look out for one another. Make sure you check in on your friends and dear ones, even those who seem to be strong and appear to have it all together. Not everyone is lucky to be with those who they love during this time which may make the situation harder for them - be there for them. If you are separated from your loved one, it is easy to let your emotions get the better of you and be angry, but this situation calls for you to be compassionate with each other. Don’t abandon them during this time even if it is hard being apart. Help children find positive ways to express feelings such as fear and sadness. If you are around children, keep an eye out for them and regularly check in with them for any distress they might be experiencing. Children have been cooped up indoors, away from school, the outdoors and their friends. Every child has his or her own way of expressing emotions. Sometimes engaging in a creative activity, such as playing, engaging in some movement activity or drawing can facilitate this process. Children feel relieved if they can express and communicate their feelings in a safe and supportive environment - so try and provide them that at best you can during these times.
You might be isolating right now, but you are not alone. Stay connected and maintain your social networks. Try as much as possible to keep your personal daily routines or create new routines if circumstances change. If health authorities have recommended limiting your physical social contact to contain the outbreak, you can stay connected via telephone, e-mail, social media or video conference. Technology has evolved, used it to your advantage. During these times, don’t underestimate the power of human connection.
A tense air of uncertainty looms, and the rich repository of Coronavirus information available on the news and social media, poses a new mental health challenge, especially for those already living with underlying conditions such as depression, OCD, and anxiety disorders. For those experiencing ‘Covid Anxiety’, give a mute to the media. A near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel anxious or distressed. Seek information updates and practical guidance at specific times during the day if you really need to and ensure you follow credible health professionals and news sources like the WHO. Don’t judge people and avoid jumping to conclusions about who is responsible for the spread of the disease. The Coronavirus can affect anyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity or religious beliefs. Check your sources to avoid listening to or following rumours or sensationalised new that makes you feel uncomfortable. Be mindful while forwarding such news as well, you don’t know who might find these articles triggering.
Times may seem bleak, but this storm too shall pass. Be easy on yourself. Some days might be harder than other day for you, but you are doing the best that you can in these times. In hard times, be gentle to yourself - that’s the best way to take care of your Mental Health and well being.
Written by: Vedica Podar