Six Ways To Protect Your Mental Health Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
With coronavirus pandemic engulfing the whole world, our lives have been disrupted like never before. While it is important to follow the guidelines of precautionary measures and social distancing, this situation can seriously affect your mental health and should not be overlooked. Although the overall mental health impact of coronavirus is likely to be huge, there are simple things that we can do to address our well-being while we are dealing with this menace.
With the precautions being in place throughout the world, social distancing should not mean isolation. It is important to practice healthy lifestyles as much as possible. Staying connected with friends, family members via telecommunication and digital media can be helpful. Talking to friends, sharing thoughts and feelings can help dissipate some of the anxiety. Coronavirus pandemic has also increased the utility of videoconferencing platforms and they should be used when available to stay connected.
It is still important to eat healthy, sleep at regular hours and do some exercise at home.
It might still be possible to stay behaviorally active while making sure that health care precautions are being followed. For example, walking outside home in the neighborhood with appropriate social distancing can still be practiced in areas where there is not a total ban on outside activities. When that is not possible, constructive indoor activities can be utilized. Painting, drawing, playing ball in the backyard, writing or journaling can still be done in these testing times. Or this might be the time for cleaning that document cabinet that you have been ignoring for the last year or making sure that you arrange your closet which has been a mess for months!
Reconnect with the family
Staying at home, might also provide a much needed opportunity for the family members to reconnect. Family members can share their thoughts, worries and help younger ones to be less worried about the situation. It might be helpful for parents to reassure, support children and adolescents and help them overcome some of their anxiety. Providing information in a developmentally appropriate way, keeping children away from disinformation and reassuring them of continued support without making any false promises is likely to help our children who might already be curious with a lot of anxiety. A lot of times, they may not be worried about themselves but for the safety of others around them and may fear losing them. Reassurance, open and constant communication can help with such anxiety related thoughts.
Limit consumption of news media
It may not help to look at each and every news report concerning coronavirus as there can be a lot of misinformation and confusion. Staying up to date but with accurate and reliable resources is likely to more helpful in alleviating anxiety. A couple of such resources are the CDC and the WHO websites that are updated regularly. Social media might also be contributing to a lot of confusion and unauthentic information and therefore limiting the time spent on social media can be helpful. Limit the consumption of news reports on television.
Instead, it is time to catch up on all your shows and movies.
People who suffer from anxiety can try to use some of the basic techniques to help themselves at home. Deep breathing exercises, relaxation techniques can help with anxiety and panic like situations. While more professional help might be needed if these measures do not reduce anxiety. Such simple measures are easy to practice and can help a lot of people. Similarly, people who are suffering from depression might benefit from behavioral activation. Making oneself do something that can break the cycle of procrastination – poor energy and feeling bad about oneself can be helpful. Tracking one’s mood by keeping a mood diary or keeping a record of thoughts in stressful situations can also be helpful. Mindfulness exercises can help understand underlying anxiety and make one more aware of our own thoughts and feelings. Obviously professional help will always be better but in situations where that is not easily available, online resources to receive authentic information and guidance can be utilized. The key is to use reliable organizational online resources.
Be medically compliant
For people who are suffering from mental health problems, it is vitally important to not dismiss the mental health needs and continue taking their medications and attending therapy as prescribed.
Stressful times can be a trigger for mental health relapse and therefore staying mindful of the risk of relapse is important.
The writer is a child and adolescent and General Adult psychiatrist working in USA. He is American board certified in General and Child and Adolescent psychiatry and member of Royal College of Psychiatrists, United Kingdom.