Protecting Your Mental Health During a Pandemic

As we navigate uncharted waters with the impact of the coronavirus worldwide, one thing is certain — life has changed without warning. There have been disruptions in our daily routines, work lives, family dynamics, financial situations, and more. Facing these stressors and losses all at once can cause great emotional stress for many of us.

While everyone reacts differently to emotional stress, it is important to remember that your unique feelings are valid and that you are not alone in this. If you are not sure how to manage your emotions during this time, here are seven things that you can do to help protect your mental health as you forge through this global pandemic in a way that will empower and support your life journey at large.

1. Establish a Routine

As much as possible, figure out a routine for you and your family. Get up at the same time each day. Figure out mealtimes, homes-school times, work times, exercise times, etc. Stability and predictability are important to adults and children and helps us as we feel insecure during this time.

2. Practice Self-care

Self-care needs to happen EVERY DAY! Beyond sleeping at least 7-8 hours a night, eating well, and exercising — do something you enjoy, no matter if it is 15 min or 2 hours. Figure out what helps take your mind off stressful events and what you enjoy. What works for you may not work for someone else. If you do not know what works for you, experiment! This is the time to figure it out. You may find feel a sense of calm doing a puzzle, taking a bubble bath, reading, listening or playing music, creating art, knitting, etc. Investing time for yourself will make you better at everything you do.

3. Stay Social

Find a way to connect with your family and friends every day. Technology is so important right now. Try using online video chat software like Skype or FaceTime to see the faces of your family and friends. Brainstorm creative ways to talk with each other while practicing social distancing. Human connection is fundamental to our mental health. We are social creatures and not meant to be alone. Fight for new ways of connection.

4. Move Your Body Every Day

Most likely you will need to reinvent how you have done this in the past. It is so important to get the natural endorphins and keep up your strength. It helps with immunity, mental health, and basically, brings a brighter outlook on life. Stress is cumulative and builds up in your body. Do something to get your heart pumping at least 20 minutes a day. Releasing stress through exercise will keep you feeling GOOD!

5. Embrace Mindfulness

Mindfulness is learning to live in the present. You can do this by paying attention to your thoughts, sensations, feelings, and environment without judgment. This is a skill that will be easier the more you practice. There are hundreds of studies showing how mindfulness can have dramatic benefits on your mental health. If you find yourself ruminating over something in your past, or your fear of the future, gently remind yourself to focus on today. There are many free mindfulness apps online that will help you get started.

6. Notice What You Are Feeling and Name It

Naming your emotions helps defuse the intensity. Emotions related to stress and trauma will be easier to move through and process if you label them. “What I am feeling is loneliness” or “I am so frustrated by this lifestyle”. Common emotions are sad, happy, disgusted, angry, scared. Talk about feelings in your family. Help your children name their emotions. Notice where these emotions may be hurting your body.

7. Get Out in Nature

Do you have a backyard? Porch? Balcony? Get outside in fresh air several times a day. Notice Springtime and feel the sun on your face. This will release all those positive endorphins and remind you that rebirth and renewal are part of the great plan of the earth.

M'lisa Tillack

M'lis HR Director & LCSW
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