Covid-19 has increased depression and anxiety over the last several months. Besides the physical damage that it does to the body, this tiny virus has induced insomnia, fear, sadness, motivation, and a multitude of other symptoms that are severely affecting the mental health of people around the world. While fear is understandable, we don’t have to let it control us. Here are a few quick and easy pandemic mind hacks to help all of us stay a little more centered during these difficult times.
Limit Media and Social Media Exposure
Television, radio, and our news and social media feeds are naturally filled with the latest news of COVID-19. While it is important to stay informed, too much information can contribute to a sense of anxiety and overwhelm. Consider monitoring the amount of time you spend consuming information, and take note of how you feel before, during and after. It may help to set a timer or alarm to remind you when a certain amount of time has passed, and it is time to move away from the news.
Take Control of the Situation
Washing your hands frequently, wearing a face mask, limiting large gatherings, and practicing physical distancing are all ways that a person can protect themselves and others from getting the virus. These simple actions are controllable, so they may offer a sense of empowerment. This can contribute to staying positive during COVID-19 because such choices offer an opportunity to take greater control of one’s health. We can also use this time to take good care of our physical health, including nutrition, outdoor physical activity, and keeping up with our routine health maintenance.
Focus on the Present Moment
A simple meditation technique that helps with anxiety and uncertainty involves training the mind to stay focused on the present moment. Whenever fears of the future begin to arise, we simply do our best to come back to the here and now, perhaps by focusing on the sensations of the breath, or tuning into our five senses. Anxiety often consists of future based fears; when we come back to the present, we may find that we are actually okay right now. We can also practice gratitude for the people, places and things that are important and meaningful to us.
Human beings are inherently social creatures. While some of us may be more introverted, and some more extroverted, practicing physical distancing has been a challenge for many individuals. It can be helpful to remember that physical distancing doesn’t have to mean social distancing. We may not be able to hug our friends, but we can still stay connected through outdoor or distanced visits, phone and video calls, and text messages. We can even use the pandemic as an opportunity to reach out to those we may not normally chat with on a regular basis. Similarly, we can still smile with our eyes, offer a helping hand to strangers, and be fully present for those around us.
Start a Creative Project
Instead of focusing on COVID-19, many people have chosen to spend the extra time that they have at home working on new or creative projects. For some, this may involve planting a garden or fixing up the backyard. Others are trying out their creative pursuits as they learn a new banana bread recipe, oil painting or photography. We may find ourselves with more time than we normally have. This is an opportunity to perhaps rediscover the analogue, creative sides of ourselves.
There is no question that these are difficult and unprecedented times. If you find yourself or a loved one experiencing persistent symptoms of fear, depression, or anxiety, it may be helpful to seek professional mental health support. The Mental Health Collective in Orange County, California, is here to help.