Everyone reacts differently to traumatic situations. Whether COVID-19 has you restless and raring to go or exasperated and feeling helpless, all responses are normal. No matter how this pandemic is affecting you, remember that you are allowed to feel however you want.
Some people can’t sleep because of their anxiety, while others can’t sleep enough. Some eat more, some less. Some find their pre-existing mental health conditions are getting worse. Some realize that their celebratory Friday glass of wine has turned into a nightly occurrence.
Right now, honestly acknowledging your emotions is the most important way to manage your mental health. Take time to process what you’re feeling and look for ways to work through it. Just remember that every pandemic in history has ended. You are not alone, and we’re all in this together.
How to Cope With Stress and Anxiety
If you’re struggling with difficult emotions, you might feel stuck. Here are five self-care tips for mental health amid Covid-19. These will help with overcoming fear and anxiety during this time:
1. Treat your body well.
It’s easy to neglect your physical health when you’re stressed. Two more episodes of your latest Netflix binge probably sounds a lot better than an hour on the treadmill or a walk around your neighborhood. And that pint of ice cream in your freezer likely seems more appetizing than the roasted vegetables you keep “planning” to make. But taking care of your physical self is absolutely imperative for your overall health.
Start by making small changes. Instead of watching another TV show with your family, learn a TikTok dance together. Side note: This can also be done virtually with family and friends who are far away. Rather than a second glass of wine, try having a warm cup of your favorite tea. And, as good as that frozen pizza sounds, give the roasted veggies a shot. Turn on your favorite music and chop ingredients alongside someone else in your household. The more healthy changes you make, the better you’ll feel.
2. Be gentle with your mind.
Your mind has had a lot to process over the past few months. It’s frustrating to feel listless and depressed, but you have to cut yourself some slack. There is no playbook for how to manage stress and anxiety. Let yourself acknowledge your emotions, and then you can take steps to reduce stress triggers using self-help strategies for mental health.
When you can, try to avoid exposure to news media. Of course, you want to stay up-to-date, but you don’t need to check the news more than once a day. Instead, keep yourself busy and try to keep your mind centered on positive thoughts. Does staying busy help anxiety? Absolutely. Set priorities and work each day to accomplish those goals. If they involve helping and supporting other people, that’s even better.
3. Don’t let yourself disconnect.
Ironically, during times of isolation, it’s easy to fall into the trap of isolating yourself even further. It’s a vicious cycle. Reaching out to friends and family starts to seem like more and more of an effort, and it can be easy to slip into a dark place.
Working from home? Ask your co-workers how they’re doing and what ideas they’ve had to cope with the effects of isolation on mental health. Depending on the culture of your company, maybe your colleagues would be up for a virtual Friday night happy hour. If your company is more conservative, you could all meet for a virtual lunch and talk about the dishes you made.
4. Maintain a sense of normalcy.
It’s hard to know how to manage stress and anxiety during this time. As much as you can, try to return to your pre-isolation routine. That means picking up your old bedtime, meal, showering, and leisure activity routines.
You may not be able to go to yoga class, but you can livestream a yoga instructor in your living room. Maybe you can’t visit your parents or children, but you can video chat with them or learn a new skill together. Yes, it’s not the same as being physically together, but you’ll be surprised at how much those familiar activities will help ease the effects of isolation on mental health.
5. Check in on your loved ones.
Whether it’s your sister who’s managing her young kids or a grandfather who’s at a long-term care facility, pick someone you miss talking to and dial their number. Don’t give yourself time to second-guess yourself or fall into the trap of thinking that it’s not the right time. Chances are, you’ll have a wonderful conversation and improve both of your outlooks and moods.
It may be tough but rouse yourself and text, email, or call your friends and family. Take a walk outside while you talk on the phone. Schedule a Zoom call with the other neighborhood moms you used to meet for coffee on Wednesdays. FaceTime your parents so that they can see their grandchildren. Pick up carryout from the new local restaurant you’ve wanted to try and review it with your significant other. Play a card game via video chat with your parents or grandparents. There are plenty of ways to stay connected to people — it just requires a little creativity.
It can be easy to feel alone during this time, but you’re not. If you feel isolated, make a point to take care of yourself, reach out to others, and ask for help. Do not hesitate to talk about your feelings with family, friends, co-workers, supervisors, and your healthcare provider. If you feel too overwhelmed, reach out to your doctor. We can fight together, help each other, and soon return to normal life. And we’ll likely be more compassionate and empathetic people when it’s over.