Your Mental Health in a time of Uncertainty
We are in a time of uncharted territory for most of us. A health pandemic -- also known as COVID-19 or Coronavirus, has impacted just about every aspect as life as we know it not only here in the USA, but around the globe. All we have to try to give us reassurance is a handful of historical statistics from other pandemics, advancements in science and health technology and our own personal faiths. No matter how you frame it, it's scary -- and it's okay to be scared.
I wanted to write this blog post not to promise you all that you won't die from this disease, or that you won't feel the economic impact -- because the truth is, both of those things COULD happen. Statistically speaking, you are less likely to die from this virus than you are to survive, so the odds are in our favor, for most of us who are lucky enough to be lower risk. BUT - that doesn't mean that it's absolutely impossible. It is pretty much a given that we will all feel the impact in some way. Here in my hometown, schools are currently closed for at least a month and most of us are working from home as much as possible and practicing social distancing to help slow the curve and spread of the virus, so that hopefully, we will not end up isolated in our homes for months to come.
However, I want to make sure that we focus on our mental health during this time too. It has been my experience as a therapist, and as just a human, that we really don't want to be seen as a burden. We don't want to be seen as over-reacting, or scared. We don't want to be seen "Weak". I am not sure why having feelings of fear is bad. Having feelings of fear is normal and valid during a health crisis. It IS scary! Every time someone says they are scared -- please do not tell them they are overreacting or that their feelings don't matter. All of our feelings matter no matter where they land on the spectrum.
Here are some tips to help you mange during this time of uncertainty.
1. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL.
The hardest part of this time is the uncertainty. Nobody knows what will happen for sure. It is hard. REALLY hard. I for one, have had panic attacks about it, have cried, stomped my feet and pouted. It sucks. For all of us. Do your hardest to control what you can. Follow the CDC guidelines, because you CAN control that. Stay informed with facts, stay prepared.
2.TURN OFF THE NEWS SOMETIMES
It is totally okay to unplug. I suggest checking in a couple of times a day so that you stay informed, because that is important right now. But you do NOT need to stay glued to it. Unplug and focus on your family, your work if you can work, a project at home, give yourself permission to take a break.
3. PRACTICE SELF CARE EVERY DAY - EXERCISE.
There has almost not been a more important time for this. IT will look differently for everyone. For me, it includes daily exercise. Atleast an hour for me. But even 30 minutes will work. This also may include reading a good book, taking a walk, allowing yourself some quiet time in a room alone.
4. GET OUTSIDE
Yes, you need to avoid crowds for awhile, but there is no harm in going for a walk in the sunshine, sitting out under a tree to read, or taking your homeschooling outside for your kids. The Vitamin D will do all of us good for our immune systems and moods.
5. DO NOT EMOTIONALLY ISOLATE
It is super easy to isolate completely during times where we are told to isolate. But be careful. Especially if you struggle with depression and anxiety already, this can be a very tricky time. Stay connected with friends and family using FaceTime, and the telephone. Social media is good too, but I still recommend limiting your time on there as the news can be overwhelming if you spend too long. Limit your screen time to your own needs, but make sure you call your friends, check in on your grandma and FaceTime when possible! I promise the video helps you feel more connected!
6. PRACTICE GROUNDING EXERCISES
Grounding is something simple that we do in most therapy models, but it is also very useful when things are anxiety triggering. I recommend practicing on the regular. Close your eyes and breathe deep --and name 3 things you can hear and then open your eyes and describe to yourself 3 things you can see. Then take another breath and describe to yourself how you are feeling. Remind yourself that you are here, right now - in this present moment.
7. FIND A NEW HOME PROJECT TO KEEP YOU BUSY
This is a great time to find a new project to focus on that you can do at home. Clean out the closets, paint a room, start writing that book you've been thinking about. Keep busy where you can.
Remember, at the end of the day, we control what we can control. Use this time to do that, to take care of yourself, to stay connected where you can, and be kind to one another. Everyone is struggling in one way or the other and it is never okay to minimize those feelings.
Stay safe and healthy to all of you!