Managing Your Mental Health During a Pandemic

Are you feeling stressed, scared and anxious amid the COVID-19 pandemic? If so, you’re not alone. The pandemic has caused widespread concern, fear, and anxiety– All of which are natural and normal reactions to its unsettling and precarious nature. Coronavirus has had an unprecedented impact on our communities and our world, and after almost five months of social distancing, of course we feel emotionally drained.

It is normal to experience overwhelm, grief, anxiety, anger, sadness, or emotional discomfort– Who wouldn’t? However, stress management is essential for optimal wellbeing, and now more than ever, it is important to take care of ourselves and our mental health as our world addresses the COVID-19 pandemic.

You cannot pour from an empty cup, so here are a few ways to fill yours:

Let’s Get Physical

Movement is great for both our minds and bodies– It helps to alleviate stress, boost endorphins, and give our eyes a break from the computer screen. Research shows that regular movement can increase energy levels, improve memory, improve sleep quality, and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Even if you cannot get to a gym– Go for a walk, jog, dance, do some light yoga, or just get moving– Maybe ask a buddy to join you virtually, or from a social distance.

Catch Your Zzz’s!

Even while working from home, maintaining a balanced sleep routine is important for our mental health. A good night’s sleep helps promote a positive mood and better concentration. It can be helpful to avoid blue lights before bed, make some herbal tea, have a nighttime routine, and set consistent sleep and wake times.

Nourish to Flourish

Maintaining a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help improve mood, energy, and overall health. Staying healthy physically can help you stay healthy emotionally too. Nourishing with healthy foods keeps our bodies strong, helps us to cope with stress, and helps to fight illness. Perhaps try spending some free time in the kitchen, or maybe try some fruits and vegetables that you’ve never tried before.

Get Mindful When Your Mind is Full

Mindfulness helps us to become more aware of our thoughts and feelings and manage them in a positive way. Taking control of your thoughts and feelings can help reduce stress and anxiety. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or just want to reconnect with yourself, try mindful exercises such as meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, body scans, or even a nature walk. There are lots of free meditation apps, YouTube videos, and online worksheets to try as well!

Routine is Your BFF

While working from home, it might feel like we are living in our office 24/7. Although work and home can coexist, it is important to take regular breaks and stay offline when the work day is over. It might be helpful to set yourself a work schedule with a hard end time– For instance, make 5:30 p.m. your end time, put work away until the next day, and do something for YOU in the evenings. Try to do some activities or hobbies that you enjoy.

News… Not a Breakup, Just a Break

We often read and watch news stories without even noticing it. Whether it be on social media, through phone alerts, or on the television, we are constantly overwhelmed with gloomy news stories and COVID-19 updates. Not only can this cause discomfort and sadness, but the ever-changing nature of news stories can induce a great deal of anxiety. Setting a specific time limit for the news each day can help alleviate some of these feelings. For example, try only watching 25 minutes of the news in the morning and 25 minutes in the evening.

Alone, But Together: During times of increased social distancing, people it is important to maintain social connections. Phone calls, video chats, and Facetimes can help you and your loved ones feel socially connected and less isolated– Maybe have a virtual lunch date with a coworker, set up a virtual escape room for the kids, or have a virtual family dinner over facetime. It might be helpful to set up regular video conferencing or Facetime calls with your friends and loved ones to make sure you’re staying connected during this tough time.

Asking For Help is Cool

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, and fear and anxiety about the pandemic can be overwhelming for kids, teens, and adults alike. If you’re feeling persistent, increased stress, there are licensed professionals who can help provide skills, tools, and resources to help alleviate and work through some of these uncomfortable emotions. If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, grief, or just need a good listener, please reach out to a close friend, therapist, or a professional support group for help.

Kindness is Key

Most importantly, please remember to be kind to yourself. This time has been overwhelming and unsettling, so give yourself permission to take mental breaks. Your mind and body will thank you.

Amidst the chaos, there is hope– Coronavirus quarantine brought with it some surprisingly positive side effects. Despite the fact so many people are alone in their homes, our communities have never been closer or stronger. Community support groups have sprung up around the world, there has been overwhelming support for our frontline workers, and people are in touch with family and friends now more than ever. Give yourself a pat on the back for choosing resilience during this difficult time, and remind yourself that there is hope for brighter days.

Written by: Allison Liguori