If the COVID-19 outbreak is leaving you feeling stressed and overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Worry, fear, and anxiety are common emotions during a crisis – just ask the toilet paper suppliers. Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations and taking care of your mental health will help you think more clearly. Here are 5 ways to support your mental health during COVID-19.
As a general rule, crises increase impulsivity. When our emotions are strong, we feel a misdirected sense of urgency. People have a hard time just sitting with their feelings. Instead, they feel compelled to “do” something. But a misdirected sense of urgency and a surplus of time to think can be a dangerous combination. Remember, in a crisis, less is more. Tolerating your distress without taking rash action may be the wisest course to pursue. At the very least, sleep on decisions (such as, “Should I really invest in a hand sanitizer company?”) before acting on them.
Our impulsivity is directly proportional to how much news we watch. We need to know what’s going on but there’s a point of diminishing returns. Set a time limit on how much news you consume – especially if you feel it’s consuming you. Turn it off and tune in to loved ones who may need your support and connection – especially if small children are looking to you for comfort and guidance.
Gently bring your mind back to what you can influence and be willing to let go of the rest. That technique is also referred to as mindfulness.
But that’s hard in a time like this. While I appreciate the maxim to “stay in the present,” my brain doesn’t work that way. It constantly jumps to the future; a special place I like to call “what-if” land. When this happens, I non-judgmentally notice what my mind is doing and gently bring it back to the COVID-19 serenity prayer: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (my 401k); courage to change the things I can (handwashing, social distancing, not going to work when I’m sick, coughing into a tissue); and the wisdom to know the difference.” If we take care of today, tomorrow will take care of itself.
Practice good self-care. Take a walk. Meditate on things that give you hope. Reflect with compassion on yourself and others. Rediscover things that fill you with faith and gratitude. A person first has to decide he or she has an opportunity before an opportunity can be utilized. This could be a time of opportunity. If this moment passes with hand-wringing but without being used for good, then it was pain without purpose – and that would be even more distressful.
If you or someone you care about feel overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety — or feel like you want to harm yourself or others — call
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. (TTY 1-800-846-8517)