As people all over the world focus on their physical health, it’s important to remember that we need to be taking steps to maintain our mental health and wellbeing too. Levels of worry, stress and anxiety are rising alongside the number of COVID-19 cases and it’s important that we don’t let these feelings overwhelm us.
Here’s a 3-pronged approach to maintain your emotional and mental wellbeing.
Step 1. Acknowledge your feelings are normal
It’s important to remember that it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious and worried during a stressful situation like the new coronavirus pandemic. It’s also normal for people to react differently, so don’t expect that you should feel the same as others. The first step involves acknowledging your feelings and reminding yourself that they will pass.
Step 2. Watch out for the signs of stress and anxiety
Common signs of stress that you should watch out for during a pandemic include:
Difficulty sleeping, concentrating or relaxing
Changes in your eating and sleeping habits
Increased or decreased energy levels
Excessive worry or fear over health matters
Increased irritability, angry outbursts and arguments
Increased use of tobacco, alcohol or other drugs
Wanting to be alone
Having trouble listening or communicating
Lacking the ability to have fun or feel enjoyment
Physical signs, such as stomach upsets, headaches, tremors or muscle twitches and being easily startled for example
Step 3. Take steps to maintain your mental wellbeing
There are plenty or simple steps you can do to maintain your mental wellbeing. Here are some recommendations:
Reach out to a support network
Even if you’re stuck at home you should maintain contact with your regular support network, or join a new one such as a local community Facebook group. Depending on your situation you may be able to meet up in person if you follow social distancing rules, but if that’s not possible then picking up the phone, talking online, texting or messaging are options. While family and friends might not be able to come over and help entertain the children, maybe they could make use of a video calling app to read them bedtime stories or similar.
Keep up your routines and stay active
This is particularly important if you are stuck at home. It’s good for your mental wellbeing to stick to regular mealtimes, bedtimes and exercise routines if possible. Consider adapting your routines if necessary. For example, go for a run or exercise at home instead of hitting the gym.
Switch off and take time to relax, have a break and unwind
It’s important to step away from watching, reading and listening to the news about the pandemic. Read a good book, watch a movie, exercise or spend time on your hobbies to take your mind off things. If you usually meditate or pray then these activities might also help. When you are reading news about the pandemic, make sure that it's from legitimate sources.
Take care of yourself
Now is the time to eat well, get the recommended amount of sleep and exercise, and just generally look after yourself. Avoid excessive amounts of alcohol or caffeine - they can make anxiousness worse.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Manage Anxiety & Stress. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html. [Accessed March 25, 2020].
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Coping with stress during infections disease outbreaks. Available at: https://store.samhsa.gov/product/Coping-with-Stress-During-Infectious-Disease-Outbreaks/sma14-4885?referer=from_search_result. [Accessed March 25, 2020].
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Taking Care of Your Behavioral Health: TIPS FOR SOCIAL DISTANCING, QUARANTINE, AND ISOLATION DURING AN INFECTIOUS DISEASE OUTBREAK. Available at: https://store.samhsa.gov/product/Taking-Care-of-Your-Behavioral-Health-During-an-Infectious-Disease-Outbreak/sma14-4894. [Accessed March 25, 2020].
- Ministry of Health. COVID-19 - Taking care of your mental wellbeing. March 20, 2020. Available at: https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-novel-coronavirus-health-advice-general-public/covid-19-taking-care-your-mental-wellbeing. [Accessed March 25, 2020].