In a time of uncertainty, remembering to maintain your mental health should not be left on the back burner.
As millions of people across the world are choosing to stay inside to help slow the spread of COVID-19, or coronavirus, this has left many vulnerable groups in a compromised position.
“It is common for people to show signs of stress after exposure to a disaster making it important to monitor the physical and emotional health of those affected as well as those responding to the needs of others,” the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said on its website.
“Although everyone reacts differently to disasters, some of those affected may suffer from serious mental or emotional distress.”
Identifying healthy coping mechanisms to handle COVID-19-related stress is the key to finding the treatment best for you to help minimize negative outcomes of untreated stress. Additionally, it’s important to replace destructive coping mechanisms with productive ones.
“Those who already have problems with mental health, stress, anxiety or depression or pre-existing mental health issues, are particularly vulnerable because you add the stress of (COVID-19) to the already significant stress going on in their life,” said Larry Schallert, assistant director of College of the Canyons’ Student Health Center. “It could really push people to the limit.”
“Self-care is always important, but now more than ever. It comes in many forms: taking care of yourself physically, emotionally and socially—from a distance,” emphasized Lauren Budman, a doctoral-level trainee psychotherapist.
To maintain your mental health during this time, mental health professionals and organizations offer suggestions on how to mitigate the stress and anxiety related to loneliness and COVID-19.
Social media detox
As news stations and social media show wall-to-wall coverage of the COVID-19, it’s a good idea to give yourself a break and take a social media detox.
“(Coverage) could create more anxiety and uncertainty,” said Schallert. Taking in this coverage in moderation is the best dosage for those who suffer from mental health issues.
Though social media can help get the latest updates on the virus, it is also home to the spread of misinformation. However, as of late, social media sites have worked to combat the spread of misinformation by promoting guidelines created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
During these social media breaks, Schallert urges people to use the time to take care of their bodies and minds.
“Take a break from social media,” said Schallert. “Stretch, meditate, eat healthy, exercise and get plenty of sleep, but be sure to keep to your normal sleep cycles.”
Journaling is both a great way to express your emotions and take a screenshot of a specific moment in time. This medium has been proven, by multiple mental health experts, to have positive effects on a person’s well being.
“Journaling clarifies your thoughts, (lets you) get to know yourself better, reduce stress and solve problems more effectively,” said Licensed Clinical Social Worker Maud Purcell, in an article with Psych Central.
This allows the writer the chance to control how they are feeling because as they write they are unconsciously prioritizing their problems, fears and concerns,” a University of Rochester medical center study said.
For those who haven’t journaled in the past, set aside 20 minutes to free write anything that may be on your mind at the moment. As each day passes, it will become easier and easier to fill the page.
“It is a way to put down the record of how you’re feeling,” said Schallert. “This is going to be something that everyone is going to look back on and ask ‘what were you doing during this time’.”
Checking in and maintain relationships
In a time of self-isolation, the feeling of loneliness may seem inevitable; however, with the use of technology, there are ways to help combat this feeling.
Though you can’t see your friends in person, make it a point to text, FaceTime, Skype or call them.
“(Remaining connected with friends is) one of the number one things that help with resilience and is known as a self-help strategy,” said Schallert.
During unfamiliar times, it’s crucial to try to create seemingly “normal” occurrences or conversations with others.
“It’s important to stay in touch with friends who are self-isolating, but to keep the connection as normal and supportive as possible,” clinical psychologist Dr. Joshua Klapow in a recent interview in a Bustle article. “Asking them how they are doing repeatedly will remind them that they are self-isolating and, over time, can cause distress.”
Budman also emphasized the need for maintaining contact with friends and family. “Regular texts, calls, and video chats are safe alternatives to gatherings but will still keep you engaged with others,” she said.
It’s also important to check in on the elderly and people who live alone to provide some companionship and comfort during a time they would appreciate it most.
“Check on each other,” said Schallert, “and remember to check on the strong.”
For a list of local mental health resources, visit BeTheDifferenceSCV.org.