We all experience some form of adversity or trauma throughout our lives – the loss of a loved one, serious illness, separation and/or divorce, or currently, the global pandemic known as the Coronavirus (COVID-19), for example. In times like this, it is reasonable to feel overwhelmed, sad, or worried. Taking care of your mental health and well-being is always essential, especially now.
Here are six suggestions to help you cope during a time of crisis:
Create a routine
Many of us are laid off or will be working from home during this time. Schools and events are canceled. We may struggle to adjust to our interrupted routines, which may cue higher stress levels. Maintain what you can: regular sleep/wake times, mealtimes, hygiene habits, exercise, etc. while you develop a new, temporary sense of normalcy.
Limit social media/news consumption
We are so overloaded and inundated by social media and news outlets as we all navigate how to keep ourselves and loved ones safe. You may notice that reading articles and watching news updates about the virus increase anxiety. Excessive media consumption can cause us to engage in catastrophizing: a cognitive distortion in which we believe the worst-case scenario is inevitable.
Notice how social media/news consumption is affecting you. If it is causing you to feel higher levels of discomfort, it may be beneficial to set some limits for yourself. You can do this by allowing yourself a set time (i.e., 15 minutes a day) to stay informed or by choosing one credible outlet to follow.
Connect with your loved ones
We are urged to isolate ourselves from the outside world, but we do not have to disconnect from those we love entirely. Connect with others virtually through FaceTime, Facebook, Instagram, and old-fashioned phone calls. To further maintain your routine, it may be helpful to check in with those whom you talk to daily.
Being with your family presents an opportunity to become closer without the usual time constraints of work, homework, or other regular activities. Use this time to play games, watch movies, have dinner at the table, or take up new hobbies together.
The physical state of our body can have a tremendous impact on our mental health. You may not be able to go to the gym, but perhaps you can get some fresh air by going on a walk or run. Search YouTube for yoga, dance, or full-body workout videos.
Feel your feelings
It is okay to feel how you feel about what is happening in our world and communities – scared, anxious, angry, sad, lonely, etc. Your feelings matter. Change invalidating thoughts like, “I shouldn’t feel this way” to “It’s okay to feel this.” As you become aware of your thoughts and feelings, notice and give them space. It may be helpful to write them down.
Seek professional support
Many therapists are now offering video sessions to provide support to their clients. You can have a therapy session from the comfort of your home. If you feel that you are struggling to cope and need more support, consider telehealth. A therapist can offer you the freedom to express yourself in a healthy, nonjudgmental space and help you develop healthy coping mechanisms.
Remember that this is temporary, as all things in life are. Focus on what is in your control and how you can use this time productively to improve your mental health.
What steps are you taking to cope with the world in crisis?