We have approached a very strange and scary time in our lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is something that most of us could never have prepared for logistically, financially or emotionally. The situation is calling on us to use all the skills we have cultivated in our lives, as well as learn some new ones and put them to use in order to support ourselves and the people we love.
If you feel impacted emotionally, here are some tips to stay mentally healthy during the pandemic.*
How to stay mentally healthy during the pandemic and quarantine/isolation
Create simple and small routines
Most of us have been pulled away from what we identify as normal with what is happening.
During this time, it is incredibly important to create some simple routines to help you adapt to the new, temporary normal. Whether you are working from home, suddenly facing the reality that you aren’t sure when you will be working again, or working for an essential business, routines are a must.
Creating some temporary routines helps you feel a bit more organized and keeps you connected to your values and the things that are meaningful in your life.
Identify what you have control of versus what you don’t
As humans, we feel safe when we know what to expect. So being amidst so many uncertainties is very triggering for all of us.
To keep you mentally healthy during isolation, pull out a good old-fashioned piece of paper and create some lists.
The first list to make is one that identifies things that are most concerning to you in the present moment. Once you’ve created your list, go through each item and ask yourself if you have any control of it.
If your answer is “no”, leave that be for the current moment.
For the things in which you answer “yes”, create a new list for each item. Then, identify what you can do to alleviate the concern
Hopefully, this helps you organize the things that are concerning you, while being able to see that a lot of the things on your list may very well be out of your control.
Getting things out on paper versus them spiraling in your mind can be a helpful start to give your mind a break from having to retain all of that info.
As social creatures, it is so important that we do our best to connect with people virtually.
If you are not a fan of video chats and or talking on the phone, do your best to make a point to get out of your comfort zone and hear someones voice, even if it is to check in with a co-worker.
Do not be afraid to ask for support. Our culture has failed a lot of us and tricked us into thinking we need to work through things on our own — we don’t.
Now more than ever, it is important for us all to support each other through this collective experience.
Identify and validate your feelings
Do your best to check in with yourself at least once a day.
This is something most of us aren’t used to doing if we don’t go to therapy regularly or have a mindfulness practice. It can seem so unimportant but in the big picture, the lack of checking-in can impact.
Take a few moments each day to ask yourself “What am I feeling?” Be present with yourself to allow what comes up to the surface.
There is no such thing as a wrong feeling.
When you’re able to identify what you’re feeling, next you can ask “What is the kindest thing I can do for myself?”
Maybe that’s making yourself something to eat, drinking some water or taking a nap.
Identifying what you feel and giving yourself permission to feel it is necessary for your emotional health during this time and beyond.
Move your body
Don’t worry about those workout challenges circulating on social media. If you want to do those challenges, do them — but don’t feel compelled to do so.
This has nothing to do with your physical appearance or weight, but rather just something that’s good for your mental health and good for your soul while being stuck in the same place for an extended period of time.
Simply commit to some kind of movement.
Maybe movement is a free online yoga class, or going for a walk with your dog (if you don’t have one but want one, local organizations have plenty to foster!) in your neighborhood.
We are not meant to be sedentary beings.
If you are working from home currently do your best to stand up and look away from your work or screen at least every 30 minutes.
Eat real foods when possible, but don’t be hard on yourself
Its no secret that our physical and mental health are boosted when we are able to eat whole fresh foods often.
If you have fresh veggies make some delicious recipes with them.
If you were not able to get as many fresh ingredients as you would like, don’t be hard on yourself. Remember, this is a unique time that can trigger a lot of disordered eating, just do your best with what you have.
Enjoy your snacks and do your best to eat minimal amounts of processed sugar if you’re prone to anxiety or depression.
At the end of all of this, if you ate more frozen veggie burritos than you would have liked, you’re still the same beautiful, caring person. Be kind to yourself.
I see some of you over there, claiming that you’re not creative, wanting to skip ahead to the next item on this list.
I am here to interrupt you mid-sentence.
Most of us were never given permission somewhere along the way to be creative. We have ideas in our minds that if we aren’t professional artists, we aren’t creative. This is so far from the truth.
My guess is you are one heck of a creative person in your day-to-day life, without even realizing it.
Pull out the crayons and coloring books, yarn, cloth, journals, etc. Brainstorm ways you can support your local community or your favorite organizations virtually.
Or, organize and tackel home projects that also require a lot of creative energy which is very healthy mentally.
Boundaries come into play in a lot of different areas of our lives. During this time having certain boundaries in place can really impact your mental health.
I suggest everyone implement boundaries when it comes to limiting time on social media, news consumption and time in front of the TV.
We want to know what’s happening in the world, but do your best not to fall into the pattern of holding your phone in your hand. Take breaks and keep the agreements with yourself. Turn off the TV and put on music instead.
Communicate your needs to anyone in your household with you or who is connected to you.
This could look like you telling your children, partner or roommates you need some time to yourself without talking about anything serious.
Or, it can look like communicating to a family member that you don’t have the space to talk about the current pandemic.
This will look different for all of us, but there is no wrong thing when it comes to what is helpful and necessary for you to feel well.
Do things that bring you joy
It is tempting to fall into a trap of feeling as though this time needs to be productive, it doesn’t.
Although we do experience benefits by organizing our closets and pantries, this quarantine that was brought upon us is not just a weekend off of work.
We didn’t choose this and we didn’t see it coming until recently.
You are going to be facing a lot of feelings, starting with adjusting.
Give yourself permission to do things that may not seem to serve a particular purpose other than making you smile. So long as you are honoring your boundaries and taking care of yourself, watch the cute animal videos, play games, binge your favorite shows that you love — it’s okay.
We are such a fast paced culture that has difficulty slowing down. whatever your current situation is, do your best to squeeze in some things that bring you joy, just for the sake of it.
Reach out to a therapist
If you are currently in therapy, reach out to your therapist to see if they are offering virtual sessions.
Most therapists have made the shift to virtual sessions and are able to accommodate you so you don’t miss your regular appointments.
If you are considering beginning therapy, now is the time to reach out. Start by requesting a providers list through your health insurance to see where you are covered.
If you don’t have insurance, Psychology Today is a perfect place to find a therapist. Most therapists list their prices (and let you know if they offer sliding scales) and specialties.
You can always call a therapist and request a free consult call and ask them any questions you may have about the counseling process or to see if setting an appointment with them would be a good fit for you.
This is not intended as medical advice. If you feel suicidal, please seek a therapist or other medical professional to help you.
Erica is a therapist in the Las Vegas Valley. She is passionate about supporting people in gaining the tools needed to reduce stress, heal from their past traumas, and enhance all domains of their lives through her counseling and coaching services. Erica has worked in the mental health field since 2009 which is when she fell in love with helping people improve the quality of their relationships while working with families. When not working with clients, she loves supporting other small local businesses as a plant based foodie, traveling, being in nature and spending time with her fiancé and their two golden retrievers, Summit and Everest.