During the pandemic, be proactive in establishing routines that help you make a new "normal" as you wait for better days.
"As humans, we like certainty," says Erica Torres, Psy.D., system director of Behavioral Health at PeaceHealth. "Anxiety often comes from a sense of what we think we should be able to control but can't. In times like these, it is especially important to pay attention to your mental health."
Here are some ways you can take care of your mental health:
- Take a break from the news, including social media. When you feel the need to check in about the current status of the pandemic, limit yourself to information from legitimate, official sources. Try to avoid speculation, rumors and misinformation as they can fuel anxiety.
- Take care of yourself. Be intentional about physical, mental, emotional and spiritual self-care.
- Eat healthy foods.
- Make sure to pause throughout your day to take some deep breaths.
- Exercise outdoors.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Get plenty of sleep.
A lot of anxiety stems from not knowing what will happen or how long things will be different. The first step in overcoming what can quickly become paralyzing anxiety is accepting that your life is going to be different for a while.
Focus on things you can control (like practicing good hand-washing hygiene) instead of those you cannot.
- Try to stay connected. Social distancing helps to limit the spread of the virus, but social distancing does not mean isolation. Try to keep in touch with your friends and loved ones with phone calls, emails, texts or other digital tools.
Receiving support and care from others can be comforting and stabilizing. It can also feel good to reach out to someone who may be feeling alone or concerned.
- Talk to your children. Do not assume that your young children don’t know or can’t understand what is going on. Remain alert and ask your children what they’ve heard. Listen to their concerns and respond to them in supportive ways.
Explain the facts but try to avoid over-exposure to news coverage. Involving our children in the ways to stay healthy is essential. Practice proper handwashing as a way to be proactive. Reassure your children that they are safe. Let them know it is OK to feel upset and share with them some ways you cope with stress (e.g. deep breathing) so that they can learn how to healthily manage stress.
- Engage in playfulness. Engaging in fun and laughter releases stress and is healing. It is OK to have fun and enjoy being with your kids, pets and significant others while also being aware of what is going on around you.
- Ask for professional support. If needed, consider reaching out for support from a professional. If you already see a professional, don’t skip your therapy appointments. Seek out teletherapy options if you think they would be beneficial.
If you are struggling to connect with a mental health provider right away, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990. The helpline provides 24/7, 365-days-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to disasters.
Experiencing anxiety during this pandemic is normal. We are temporarily entering a different rhythm of life. Be proactive and create a daily routine that prioritizes your self-care. Be kind to yourself and remember to stay present in the moment, notes Erica.