Anxiety and stress were difficult enough to handle back when the world was normal, but they are heightened during this pandemic. Helplessness and hopelessness are compounded. The constant uncertainty of living under a threat and feeling unsafe is bound to affect you. So recognize that you may be more on edge than usual. That you may feel angry, sad, helpless, frustrated. If you are among the many who already struggle with staying mentally well, you may find your struggle even greater during these times.
The key take away here is that it is normal to feel unsettled. Tension and fear and anxiety are normal by-products of a flight and fight response that many are experiencing now. To make things worse, we humans are wired to need close contact with other humans. Belongingness and love are fundamental to us and part of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We need intimate relationships and friends and we are being asked to distance ourselves. We are being asked to deny one of our basic needs.
So what can we do to protect our mental health during these trying times?
- Recognize what you can control and let go of what you can’t. You can do things to mitigate your risk, so pay attention to those things. Wash your hands thoroughly. Stay physically apart from others. Follow the guidelines and be as careful as you can. Do all the things you know will protect your health and stay in the moment. It’s easy to let your mind give in to the fear of what may happen in the future. When you worry about things you can’t control, bring your mind back to the present. It will help you stay grounded.
- Limit your news and social media intake. Certainly, you want to be aware of what’s going on in the world, but too much screen time keeps your nerves on edge. Give yourself a certain amount of time to absorb the news and then shut it off. Unplug and allow your brain to relax. Take a break from all the incoming messages. Use quiet time to your advantage. Learn to meditate. Take a walk. Read a book.
- Keep yourself physically healthy to stay mentally healthy. Pay attention to the simple things your mother told you to do—eat right, get enough sleep and plenty of exercise. When you are physically charged up you are in much better shape to combat the coronavirus blues.
- Stay connected to friends and family—virtually. Maslow was right. We do need intimate relationships and friends. Even though we can’t be physical with them, we can maintain our friendships via phone or computer. Tell your trusted friends if you are feeling anxious or sad. Confide if you are struggling and describe your feelings. Chances are they’re feeling some of the things you are. You don’t have to be alone with your worry while you are social distancing.
- Reach out to a mental health professional. Many therapists can help you by remote means, and you may need someone who is trained to give you support in these difficult times. Do not hesitate to get professional help.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact