Whether you’re working from home, leading the front lines of wellness, supporting a loved one through critical work, navigating unemployment, adjusting to the obstacles of shelter in place, most households are struggling with the new reality of COVID-19. For those feeling lost or paralyzed in the societal shock that comes with an impact of this magnitude, here are some helpful tips for mindfully prioritizing your mental health during this time.
Stay connected. This may not come as a surprise, but maintaining communication during a time of crisis is the most important thing you can do right now. It’s easy to fall into the same routine of laying in bed and drifting into a state of complacence. Make an effort to initiate communication with loved ones. Social media live platforms like Instagram and Zoom have never been more important.
Stay active. While you may not be able to attend spin class with your favorite instructor or run in the park like you used to, there are still plenty of ways to stay active at home. In fact, many fitness instructors and studios are bringing their classes online like Yoga with Adriene. Moving is an important part of mental fitness, so be sure to plug into daily activities that promote blood flow and positive endorphins.
Manage your information intake. Follow the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) helpful guidelines regarding self care. The CDC suggests taking breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
Stick to a routine. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that those in isolation “Keep regular routines and schedules as much as possible or help create new ones in a new environment, including regular exercising, cleaning, daily chores, singing, painting or other activities. Keep in regular contact with loved ones (e.g. via telephone, e-mail, social media or video conference).”
Use mindful coping mechanisms and online resources. Coping when you’ve reached a mental wall or potential breaking point can be one of the biggest hurdles for those in isolation, which is why the American Psychological Association (APA) says it’s important to “Examine your worries and aim to be realistic in your assessment of the actual concern as well as your ability to cope. Try not to catastrophize; instead, focus on what you can do and accept the things you can\’t change. One way to do this is to keep a daily gratitude journal. You may also choose to download smartphone applications that deliver mindfulness and relaxation exercises. Focusing on the altruistic reasons for social distancing, quarantine or isolation can also help mitigate psychological distress. Remember that by taking such measures, you are reducing the possibility of transmitting COVID-19 and protecting those who are most vulnerable.”
On this same point, UCLA offers free and comprehensive online guided meditations. According to the university’s Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC), “Mindful awareness can be defined as paying attention to present moment experiences with openness, curiosity, and a willingness to be with what is. It is an excellent antidote to the stresses of modern times. It invites us to stop, breathe, observe, and connect with one\’s inner experience. In the last ten years, significant research has shown mindfulness to address health issues such as lower blood pressure and boost the immune system; increase attention and focus, including aid those suffering from ADHD; help with difficult mental states such as anxiety and depression, fostering well-being and less emotional reactivity; and thicken the brain in areas in charge of decision making, emotional flexibility, and empathy.”
Don’t forget about your mental health in the midst of this pandemic, and be sure to stay home, stay healthy and stay connected. Dr. Monisha Vasa, psychiatrist and co-founder of the Mental Health Collective reminds us all: “We will get through this time together. Just as we are additionally cautious of our physical health right now, we must take extra measures to care for our mental health. Small self care steps, reaching out for support, and staying in the present moment can help us all remain calm in trying times.”
Be safe, be well.
Writer: S. Mishkin