So much is happening including schools being closed and events being canceled, all of which can still leave us feeling anxious, angry, helpless or sad. An excellent article, “Protecting Your Mental Health During the Coronavirus Outbreak” by Doreen Marshall, Ph.D. offers timely advice.
It’s important to note that we are not helpless in light of current news events. We can always choose our response. If you are struggling, here are some things you can do to take care of your mental health in the face of uncertainty.
Separate what is in your control from what is not. There are things you can do, and it’s helpful to focus on those. Wash your hands. Remind others to wash theirs. Take your vitamins. Limit your consumption of news.
Do what helps you feel a sense of safety. This will be different for everyone, and it’s important not to compare yourself to others. It’s ok if you’ve decided what makes you feel safe is to limit attendance of large social events, but make sure you separate when you are isolating based on potential for sickness versus isolating because it’s part of depression.
Get outside in nature – even if you are avoiding crowds. I took a walk yesterday afternoon in my neighborhood with my daughter. The sun was shining, we got our dose of vitamin D, and it felt good to both get some fresh air and quality time together. Exercise also helps both your physical and mental health.
Challenge yourself to stay in the present. Perhaps your worry is compounding – you are not only thinking about what is currently happening, but also projecting into the future. When you find yourself worrying about something that hasn’t happened, gently bring yourself back to the present moment. Notice the sights, sounds, tastes, and other sensory experiences in your immediate moment and name them. Engaging in mindfulness activities is one way to help stay grounded when things feel beyond your control.
Stay connected and reach out if you need more support. Talk to trusted friends about what you are feeling. If you are feeling particularly anxious or if you are struggling with your mental health, it’s ok to reach out to a mental health professional for support. You don’t have to be alone with your worry and it can be comforting to share what you are experiencing with those trained to help.
Below is a quick review of the basic, everyday behaviors we should all have adopted.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds or longer (sing “Happy Birthday” twice or two verses of “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain”).
- Dry hands with a clean towel or air dry.
- Stay home if sick.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
- Clean and disinfect “high-touch” surfaces often (doorknobs, counters, phones, etc.).
- Avoid touching our eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands or after touching surfaces or using the bathroom.
- Get adequate sleep and eat well-balanced meals.
- Practice good hygiene
- Call before visiting your doctor.
- Get your information only from reputable, fact-based sites, such as the Ohio Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and World Health Organization.