10 ways to care for your emotional and mental wellbeing during COVID-19

While these uncertain times present new stresses for many of us, things will get better eventually. Normal will return. The world is full of good people who will help each other. Here are 10 steps you can take to care for your emotional and mental well-being during COVID-19:

1. Exercise and get physical activity every day

We’ve been here before. When a heavy snowstorm keeps us inside for a day or two. When we stay in because of the rain. Now is the time to begin your new routine of strength training. Find a YouTube video, acknowledge that this might be your first time in a while and that awkwardness and sweat is part of the experience, and that thirty minutes goes faster than you think.

2. Use technology to connect with friends and family

Staying in touch with people is easier now than in previous decades. Pick up your phone and call someone you haven’t talked to in a while. FaceTime a family member and cook a meal using the same recipe together. Maybe call a random person from your address book or phone contacts and reintroduce yourself. Ask them about their favorite tv show or podcast. Ask them if they’ve listened to Dolly Parton’s original song Better Get to Livin’ lately.

3. Create positive family time

You’re around each other more than you probably have been in the last few months, so take some time to build each other up. Sit in a circle and compliment the person on your left. Pretend you’re the family dog and take turns interpreting what the dog would say to everyone in the room. Put on one of your favorite songs and dance along. Make memories now during this notable time.

4. Use focused meditation and relaxation

Take ten minutes a day to turn off the cell phone, power down the television, and simply be. Consider sitting down with your legs folded. Maybe try lying on the grass as you look up at the sky. Just breathe in, then breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat as many times as needed. Breathe in. Breathe out. Deep breaths have a way of helping us center our thoughts.

5. Be discerning with news media

Find a balance between being informed and stepping away from the news. The 24-hour news cycle has a way of keeping us entertained, but in times of crisis bad news after bad news can be consuming. Set a routine, like only watching the news in the morning or in the evening. The news won’t change much from day to day, so get back to reading your historical fiction novel, harlequin romance mystery book, or that middle school reading paperback you always meant to return. 

6. Set a clear schedule

Keeping the same wake-up time and posting the family schedule on the fridge can seem, well, boring, but keeping your routine can help keep you feeling in control of your situation. A daily shower can keep you feeling clean and refreshed. A regular bedtime routine can help kids maintain normalcy, help teens catch up on sleep, and help adults stay empowered. Routines can help, so make and keep one today.

7. Read a physical book

Distractions seem to happen when we read from a laptop or a cell phone. If you have a book on your shelf, pick it up and start reading. Have an old Reader’s Digest in the back room? Now is a great time to read and share some funny jokes. Have an old magazine lying around? Turn it into an art project with scissors, tape, or glue. Reading from side to side is thought to restore brain pathways for people who have survived a traumatic event. Take some time to read and let us know what you think.

8. Remember what you enjoy. Then do it.

If you’re a master quilter, now might be a great time to make a quilt dedicated to a theme of renewal, springtime, or dinosaurs. Watching replays of your favorite sports teams can remind you of the good times behind you and the good times ahead (plus, you’ll already know the outcome). Now might be a great time to rewatch your favorite television shows and call a loved one when a memory pops up while watching.

9. Spend time alone

Hide in a closet or relax in the shower. Give yourself an extra five minutes in the shower because you can. While it’s important not to isolate ourselves, spending some time alone can help ground your emotions and relax your brain. Reading, writing, yoga, drawing, cooking, running, swinging, or cleaning can all be times to recharge and reconnect. As you take better care of yourself, you can better take care of others. Bonus points for spending time outside. 

10. Control what you can control

Make cleanliness a priority. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are frequently touched. Life is better with clean hands, so wash your hands often to stay healthy. Keep yourself focused on what you can do right now. Staying six feet away from others is good and spreading positivity can help fill you with hope and optimism. Choose to limit the news from the television, your Twitter feed, and your Facebook friends. Now might be a great time to look for home design ideas, perfect your grandma’s bread recipe, or finish building that project you’ve been working on for months. Each day can be better than the last.

Most of us have lived through different personal trials and societal challenges. We’ve made it through. We’ll survive the COVID-19 virus, too. A little humor can help. A good belly laugh can help you breathe and connect.

And remember, anxiety is normal during COVID-19. But our minds can also play tricks on us and that’s why limiting the amount of news you feed your mind is important. Instead of thinking months in the future, take the time to focus on today and tomorrow. 

We’ll get through this. We always have.