People are under an increased amount of stress due to the ongoing pandemic, which has no concrete ending. People who don’t have a mental illness disorder, such as anxiety, are also experiencing mental health vulnerabilities during this time. They report having issues like difficulty concentrating, difficulty remembering things, sleep disturbance, and decreased mood.
4 “M”s in mental health
Mindfulness is living in the present moment in a non-judgmental way, and practicing it fosters awareness. People who have completed a mindful activity say that they feel more calm and peaceful afterwards. Download and use mindfulness apps on your phone, follow along on a YouTube video, and try a variety of other mindful activities like the three below. Building mindfulness takes practice because it is a skill.
Mastery is about engaging your mind and doing what you’re good at. Ways of engaging can be tasks as simple as cooking and cleaning. Other ways of engaging your mind include creative writing and expressing yourself through art or music. Mastery can be thought of as a form of distraction. Lastly, it can be thinking about what we have already overcome in life.
Physical movement, such as walking, weightlifting, running, hiking, yoga, writing, painting, playing an instrument, and dancing are all ways to keep moving forward. Movement helps our minds de-stress and feel better. Another benefit is that mood is boosted.
Stay connected to people. If you can’t meet in-person, then stay in-touch through video chatting, social media, phone calls, and sending letters in the mail. Another idea of staying connected is by having a digital picture frame and sharing the “add photos” link with your extended family. Then, extended family members can upload pictures to your frame. This is a good way to see what they (and their pets) have been up to.
These four tips take 10-15 minutes per day and everyone can apply them.
We should be taking advantage of mental wellness strategies like these daily to build up resiliency and improve overall wellbeing. Everyone should have mental health preparedness for situations like the pandemic. People need a list of resources and coping strategies. People should also re-engage with their mental health treatment professional or seek out one if counseling is new to them. Needing support from a professional does not mean that you are weak.
Information from the CDC on taking care of your emotional health during a disaster. A few steps that you can follow:
Take care of your body.
Connect with others.
Avoid too much exposure to the news.
Seek help when needed.
Common signs of distress to look for:
Feelings of numbness, disbelief, anxiety or fear.
Changes in appetite, energy and activity levels.
Difficulty sleeping or nightmares and upsetting thoughts and images.
Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes.
Worsening of chronic health problems.
Anger or short-temper.
Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.
* If you are experiencing these feelings or behaviors for several days in a row and are unable to carry out normal responsibilities because of them seek professional help. * There is further information and additional resources on CDC’s website, here.
These 12 tips are specific to living through a pandemic (COVID-19) where there are multiple tragic events and crisis occurring at once on a worldwide scale.
A brief overview of the destruction that COVID-19 has caused
• People are ill and dying from a virus.
• People are socially isolated from family and friends.
• People are restricted in where they can go and what they can do.
• People have lost jobs and are financially unstable.
– Connected to all of this is the person’s identity because people identify themselves through going out and participating.
• Political issues, finger pointing and name calling are a big part of this pandemic.
• People wear face masks to reduce spread of the virus, but the mask also hides smiles.
• Anxiety, depression and suicide is on the rise.
• People are silently hurting.
The benefits of these tips are (but not limited to)
• Increased happiness
• Connection to others
• Raising awareness
• Fostering positivity
• Finding value and meaning in life
• Learning coping strategies
• Finding help
Keep in mind that this article isn’t telling you to ignore, dismiss, or minimize what’s going on around us. It is important to sit with the difficult emotions and thoughts, to process, and personally grow from what’s occurring in our lives. We can’t run, there needs to be a resolution to do something about it, but there needs to be a balance and healthy approach.
Let’s cover the tips on getting through
1) Limit your time on social media and watching the news. Be informed and have proper understanding about what’s going on around the world, but don’t allow the information to overwhelm and carry you away. The information on social media and the news shouldn’t occupy a good portion of your day.
2) Mute or unfollow people on social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram if they are posting unhelpful information on the pandemic or are posting frequently on the pandemic. Always check the resource of what they post to make sure it is true and accurate. There is a lot of information being shared that is inaccurate or highly one-sided. Be your own researcher, fact-checker, and it is beneficial to try to see from both sides of an issue. Widening perspective allows us to have a more open mind and gives us a little more breathing room.
3) Use social media and technology to your advantage. Since we have to limit being around others or can’t be around people at all, use social media to connect and to lift up others. Post something kind or funny. Post a beautiful picture. Have an engaging conversation, but leave out the pandemic and political issues surrounding it. You can lift someone’s spirit and your own!
We use video platforms on almost a daily basis now, continue to use it to connect. Talk to a good friend who you haven’t seen in a while. Use video platforms to check-in with a person’s mental health, you don’t know who is suffering in silence.
Are you feeling unsure about how to check-in? This link will lead you to check-in questions:
Do you have a favorite hobby or interest? Join and follow social media groups and pages to motivate and fuel your interests.
4) Virtual tours, adventures and visits. If you are looking for something new and interesting to do without leaving your house, take a virtual trip to a National Park, zoo, museum, etc. Think of somewhere that you’ve never been and would like to go. Read about it, look at pictures, watch videos, and take a virtual tour. This is fun activity to do with kids and it’s educational.
If you’re religious or spiritual, consider attending a virtual service or practice.
5) Teach someone about your hobby or trade. Write, blog, create social media content, and make a video to do so. Engage with people, answer their questions, and provide them with credible resources so they can learn more.
5) Increase your self-care. Do more of what you enjoy and try new things, even if you don’t feel like it. Take care of your body and mind. Try to keep to a normal schedule, this includes proper exercise, diet, and staying hydrated. If you’re overwhelmed with work, schedule in self-care. Slow down, read a book, take a bath, watch a movie, call someone you care about.
6) Make a vision board to stay focused on your long-term goals. Read how here:
8) Practice mindfulness, breathing and or meditation. Find someone who provides these services online if you need help getting started. Create a YouTube playlist of relaxing music and sounds that you can practice to. Don’t give up if these exercises don’t immediately benefit you in an impactful way, it takes time to learn them. It’s a process.
9) Use online presence to raise awareness or funds for a cause that you’re passionate about. Help people learn more, support people who need it the most, connect to others who care about the same thing as you. Feel good!
11) Have a safety plan and an emergency plan. For the safety plan:
• Write down what triggers maladaptive behaviors.
• Write coping strategies for each trigger that you can participate in right away.
• Write down three positive affirmations or favorite quotes.
• List three people whom you can trust to call and talk to and receive support from (Do ahead of time: make sure that they know they are on your safety plan list and tell them how they can best support you if you contact them.) (Ideas on how they can help: this can range from a phone call to recall favorite memories or to meet up for coffee.).
• If your situation turns into an emergency, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 or your local mental health crisis lifeline. Add these emergency phone numbers to your safety plan.
12) Speak with a professional counselor. They can teach you several coping strategies and powerful tools like cognitive reframing. They are someone who will be present with you, be non-judgmental, listen, and provide feedback. They will support you and give you space for you to process your strongest emotions and thoughts.
Check out these other benefits to seeing a counselor: