You can’t turn on the television, browse on your phone or open your email without hearing about the Coronavirus also known as COVID-19. What appeared initially to be something “they” were dealing with has quickly become a problem for the U.S. as well. The Coronavirus, which I will refer to as COVID-19, has managed to wreak havoc on our “normal” lives. Everything has changed, from how we buy toilet paper and groceries, to how we educate our children, and most importantly how we survive.
With all these changes unfolding right before our eyes, it is only natural to experience some fear and anxiety. Chaos and confusion is a breeding ground for anxiety. It is vital that we identify ways to manage our emotions before they start to manage us. Below are five steps to help you keep your mind right, while dealing with COVID-19.
#1 Be Calm
It may sound cliché to tell someone to be calm but I’m going to say it anyway. Maintaining a state of calm is essential for several reasons and can be beneficial. Research supports that stress can weaken your immune system. The stress hormone itself can create challenges for our body to fight off various illnesses. Stress also increases the likelihood that individuals could engage in unhealthy forms of coping, such as smoking and drinking. Calmness can look differently for everyone, but some common ways to being calm is to practice and engage in breath work. Simply focus your attention on your breathing. Ensure you are breathing from your diaphragm and controlling your breath by inhaling through your nose at the count of 4, holding your breath at the count of 7, and exhaling through your mouth at a count of 8.
#2 Be Cognizant
It’s important to know the facts related to how to protect yourself and identify preventive measures, while balancing the amount of information you consume. This can be tricky, how much information is too much information? This may be different for everyone. For instance, someone working in the health care field may need to know more about this virus because of the nature of their job. These individuals may need to safeguard their personal conversations and limit how much they are consuming on social media. A helpful way to determine your individual limits is to check in and see how you are feeling. Is your heart rate accelerated? Are the muscles in your body constricted or tense? This could be an indication that it’s time to step away. Be aware of the language you use to describe your personal situation as it relates to this pandemic. Are you using fear-based language or freedom-based language? Fear based language can increase your anxiety and freedom-based language can offer you a sense of peace and control. Examples could be I’m choosing to stay home vs I’m stuck at home. So be mindful of how you are speaking to yourself and how you are allowing others to speak to you.
#3 Be Consistent
It’s important to maintain a reasonable routine although life is different right now. Now is not the time to do away with structure. It’s very possible that the first few weeks of this pandemic created some feelings of flight and brought up some big emotions. Many people felt drained and reported wanting to just sleep, eat, and mentally disconnect from everything. Know that this is ok initially. It takes a lot of energy to be stressed. This crash that many are experiencing can be a result of being over activated by stress or grappling with the grief of what this new normal means for us. However, it is important to get into some sort of routine as soon as possible. This routine doesn’t have to mean drowning yourself with work, but it needs to have some balance between productivity, activity, and rest. Cultivate a new normal. What does your mornings look like now, how you will manage working from home, homeschooling, or finding new ways to limit your stress and possible frustrations with change?
#4 Be Creative
Find ways to activate the creative and imaginative part of your brain through enjoyable activities. Cultivating creativity can be helpful to keeping your mind right because it can give your mind a break from all the stress and worry. Creativity looks different for everyone. Finding opportunities to play, cook, laugh, dance, exercise, paint, or have sex can be a helpful way to relieve stress. I’m loving that celebrities and artists such as DJ D-Nice, Anthony Hamilton, and PJ Morton are hosting live parties online. Churches are live streaming services and engaging with members online. Personal trainers are offering virtual workouts. Engaging in these activities can help relieve stress and provide a sense of normalcy during these “far from normal” times. Sometimes we find ourselves feeling guilty for enjoying life when it seems like the world around us is falling apart. Remember it is ok to be concerned with others and care for yourself simultaneously, especially in a time like this.
#5 Stay Connected
Although we are practicing social distancing doesn’t mean we have to be disconnected. We can be distant and connected. Virtually connecting with friends, family and therapists, if needed, can be vital to helping keep your mind right. If you are really struggling with anxieties, depression and grief, now can be a great time to try therapy. Many counselors, myself included, have transitioned our practices to telehealth. This means you can log on to a therapy session via your computer or phone from the safety of your own home and have a confidential virtual therapy session.
Now is not the time to sit on information, we must be intentional about implementation. Even if you choose one of these tips to focus on this week it can be beneficial to your overall mental health and well-being. While we are working to manage our minds during this global pandemic, if you need help dealing with stress associated with COVID-19 feel free to call and schedule a telehealth appointment today.
To access coronavirus-related crisis counseling from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Helpline, call 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746. You can also reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Crisis Text Line by texting “HOME” to 741741, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.