SALTSØBY – Outbreaks of infection, such as the current pandemic in COVID-19, can be frightening and can affect our mental health more than we realize. While it is important to be informed and helpful in getting advice from reliable sources, there are also many things we can do alone to support and manage our well-being in such times.
Everyone can agree that the coronavirus pandemic has been a stressful time. While many try to follow standard protocols to reduce the spread of the virus, such as wearing masks and social distance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that these recommendations can be the things that lead to feelings of depression, isolation, loneliness and anxiety.
Here are some steps you can take to keep your mental health on track during this time.
Cultivate a daily routine
When life and its circumstances are unstable, it is one of the best ways to stabilize ourselves and help us feel grounded when we have a daily routine, according to Dr. Gladys Pearson, Director of the Research Center for Musculoskeletal Science and Sports Medicine. This does not mean that your whole day should have a strict schedule, it may mean that you simply implement a simple routine or activity in your day to help you feel calm and centered. This can be just 5 minutes of meditation, a morning jog or reading a book before starting your day. The key here is consistency. When everything in life seems shaky, having a routine that is the same can help you feel safe with tremendous help.
Know where and how to get treatment
Consciously enough, we may know that we are healthy. But subconsciously, we may experience some underlying background anxiety about when or if we (or someone we love) get sick. Not to mention, if there is uncertainty about where and how to get treatment, it can add additional stress beyond anything else. If you or a loved one falls ill, remember to bookmark some of these resources to keep an eye on things:
- Coronavirus.utah.gov: Here you can find information on everything related to COVID-1
- Valley Behavioral Health Telehealth: This Salt Lake County-based behavioral health care company currently offers telemedicine remote treatment and drug delivery through ValleyRX. Whether related to COVID-19, this is an important resource to provide you and your loved ones with any kind of mental health care.
- 211utah.org: Here you can connect to useful resources regarding mental health, drug use and emergency childcare services.
- CDC: Center for Disease Control and Prevention is one of the best resources for real-time updates on COVID-19. Both a local and national resource, check the CDC for any updates or questions.
- WHO: The World Health Organization is another reliable, valid, and accurate resource for all COVID-19 updates.
Be sure to bookmark these resources or put them on your refrigerator so you never feel insecure about where to get support.
Self-insoles, but stay connected
Taking care of your mental health while staying home is of paramount importance. Many of us spend much more time at home, and many of our regular social activities are no longer available to us. While isolation is extremely important (especially if you are experiencing symptoms), the UK Mental Health Foundation says it is just as important to stay connected to our friends and loved ones to avoid depression and loneliness. If you ever feel lonely, reach out. You probably do the person on the other line too.
Get creative with how to connect
While most of us are familiar with today’s most common ways to connect – social media, phone calls, video chat tools like Zoom and Skype – it can become a little mundane after a while. In these times of isolation, we can actually have fun connecting in new, creative ways.
Try a few new ways to connect to keep things fun and fresh:
- Write letters. Go back in time to how our grandparents used to connect. Try writing notes or letters, and either send them via email, or drop them on your friends’ doorstep.
- Drive-bys. For birthdays, parties or even just for fun, many people do “drive-bys” where you drive past a person’s house to visit them from a distance.
- Digital parties. Hold a digital party – whether it’s for a birthday, a sports game or even to make dinner together. The digital age has arrived and we can now host and attend parties via video chat platforms like Zoom, which can host up to 100 people with the basic version.
- Online training. There are many yoga and fitness instructors who offer classes through Zoom or Instagram and Facebook Live. In this format, you can train with your teacher and friends as if you are with them in real life.
Actively manage your well-being
It is impossible to pour from an empty cup. Therefore, make sure that you are actively working on keeping your cup full. This means getting a good night’s sleep, drinking plenty of water, eating healthy foods and exercising. Luckily for us Utah locals, we have access to stunning, secluded areas for hiking, biking, running and resting in a hammock between a few trees. If you ever feel down, isolated or stressed, it will almost guarantee to get you back to feeling good when you get out into the amazing Wasatch Mountains.
Stick to reliable sources of facts and limit time on social media
What we eat and how we eat it greatly affects our outlook. Try your best to avoid speculation and find reputable sources regarding the outbreak.
It’s OK to feel overwhelmed when we read all the negative news these days. If you have previously experienced trauma or a mental health problem, have a long-term physical health condition, or fall into one of the other groups that make you more vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus, be aware of the sources of information you choose to consume. With all the extra time we have inside and at home, it can also be very tempting to thoughtlessly scroll through social media where we may fall victim to consuming inaccurate and biased information. Try using a social media monitoring app, such as Moment, that monitors and limits your time spent on your accounts.
Know that this will pass
Remember that change is the only constant. Mindfulness expert Steven Aitchison has said: “Emotional pain is not something to be hidden away and never to be talked about. There is truth in your pain, there is growth in your pain, but only if it is first brought out into the open. “
Consciousness is the first step. As an authorized clinical social worker Allison Abrams says in an article in Psychology Today, do not be afraid to embrace your shadows, acknowledge the existence of your pain, because only then can the healing process begin. If you need additional support, specialist therapists are available.
Get grounded, get strong and take care of your mental health during this time.