- Lavanya Sampasivam, PhD
10 Strategies for Maintaining your Mental Health during COVID-19
Updated: Apr 19, 2020
Many individuals are struggling with their mental health during the coronavirus pandemic. See below for 10 strategies that may be helpful:
1) Observe, acknowledge, and accept your emotions, both positive and negative.
Anxiety is a normal response to a perceived threat and therefore feeling anxious during a time of so much uncertainty (e.x., Will I be able to pay my bills? Am I going to get the virus? When will I return to work?) is a normal reaction.
2) Identify sources of negative emotions.
If you are feeling anxious, for example, identify the thoughts that are making you anxious. Is it the thought “I am going to get the virus” or “I am not going to be able to afford my mortgage?”
· Evaluate the facts: What is the actual risk of getting the virus? If you are in quarantine, go out only for your essentials, and respect public health guidelines, your risk of getting the virus is low.
· Identify what you can/cannot control: You cannot control the virus, but you can control how much you respect public health guidelines. You may have no control over having to pay your mortgage, but you do have control over calling the bank to defer your payments.
3) Have a routine.
We have all gone from having a lot of structure and routine in our day to almost none. Routine provides a sense of security and structure to our days. Although it is not essential to rigidly follow a routine, having some structure is important to mental health. Try waking up and going to bed around the same time, for example.
4) Accept what is.
Most of us have been caught off guard and are experiencing negative emotions related to the pandemic which is very normal. We can choose to resist and stay frustrated or accept what is (e.x., Staying in quarantine sucks, I wish it was not happening, but this is what is).
5) Be aware of the source of the media you are consuming and how much you are exposing yourself to.
There is so much information about the coronavirus in the media, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Be aware of the source of the information you are getting, is it reliable and valid? Also, limit your exposure to the news and keep it local, as much as possible.
Exercise is a great way to work on your physical and mental health. If possible, try exercising outdoors while following public health guidelines as being in nature further improves mood.
7) Seek social support.
We are social creatures and this is a large part of why people are struggling with their mental health at this time. Find alternative ways of keeping in contact with friends and family.
8) Do things you enjoy and work towards small goals.
Do things that make you feel good or relaxed. We are all guilty of saying “If only I had the time to…” and now we have that time to try some of the things we have been wanting to. At the same time, be careful not to put too much pressure on yourself to be productive during this stressful time.
9) Practice mindfulness.
Take things a day at a time and be in the moment. A large part of why we feel anxious is because we are thinking too far ahead. Stick with what is happening now. If you find yourself thinking too far ahead, notice your thoughts and bring them back to the present.
10) Practice gratitude.
What are things that you are grateful for despite everything that is happening? Are you grateful to have job security, to be healthy, to spend more time with your children?
Tips for parents:
Children are also undergoing a lot of the changes that we, as adults, are experiencing. They, however, are less likely to understand what is happening around them.
1) Speak to your children about COVID-19 in age-appropriate terms.
Children know that their lives have changed drastically. It is important to speak to them about what is happening in an age-appropriate fashion so that they are aware of what is happening and do not draw wrong conclusions on their own.
2) Listen and validate your children’s thoughts and emotions.
Normalize their feelings, such as anxiety during times of uncertainty or feelings of sadness about not seeing loved ones.
3) Make sure to reassure your children that they are safe.
4) Allow them to connect with loved ones using alternative ways.
5) Limit exposure to media and conversations that are not age-appropriate regarding COVID-19.
Children may be more likely to misinterpret information they see or hear which may affect their well-being.
6) Provide routine.
Children thrive on routine and it provides them with a sense of safety and security.
7) Get active.
8) Set realistic expectations about your role in your child’s life.
At this time, many parents are expected to take on multiple roles (e.x., parent, spouse, employee, teacher). It is important to recognize that you are not your child’s teacher, for example. Providing some educational stimulation may be helpful but do not put pressure on yourself to homeschool them. This can be a great time to teach your children life skills, such as baking, folding clothes, and learning to negotiate during a disagreement.
9) Take care of yourself.
If you are mentally exhausted and not in a good place, it is hard to be the parent you want to be. Give yourself some time to do the things that you enjoy or find relaxing.