We are all reeling from a week in which our world changed dramatically and so rapidly that we are struggling to keep up and to understand what it all means and how we should respond. This situation demands that we attend more than ever to our mental health and well-being. I offer the following in the hope that it will support you in finding ways to sustain your mental health through this alarming period of uncertainty.
Recognize that it is very natural to feel anxious and afraid in times of fear and uncertainty. The challenge is to find a healthy balance that avoids panic or avoidance and denial. You’ll want to focus on the things you can do (hand washing, not touching your face, social distancing, taking care of yourself) and find ways to trust that we will survive this together. Take faith from you religion or spiritual beliefs if you hold these and from science and data.
Create a new routine for yourself and keep as much as you can from your previous routine. Our social and work lives have been up-heaved. This places the burden on us to create a new schedule or routine. We know from the research how important this is. Do your best to go to bed and get up at regular times. Eat meals at scheduled times. Don’t skip meals and limit “stress eating.” Set an alarm in the morning and, when you wake, start your day with a workout, meditation, prayer, or any small ritual that gets you going. Shower and dress even though you may not be leaving your house.
Keep a realistic, informed perspective and beware of catastrophizing. It is normal for our minds to go to the “worst case scenario.” Balance this with the information we do have. It is estimated that 40-80% will NOT contract this virus and that 80% of those who do get COVID-19 will have only mild symptoms and fully recover.
Manage information: It is all too easy to get addicted to the 24 hour news cycle. Carefully chose the sources you turn to and limit your exposure to them. Be aware of your response. If you notice watching, reading or listening to the media is raising your anxiety, turn it off.
Stay connected to your loved ones. We have eschewed phone calls in favor of text and personal communication in favor of “posts.” Now is absolutely the time to change our habits around how we connect. Send personal messages and make phones calls or video calls to stay in touch.
Be kind to yourself and others. We are all under a great deal of stress. In any interaction you have with another person, be kind and appreciative. We’re spending a lot more time with those we live with and virtually no time with others. This puts a great deal of strain on our primary relationships. Make time to have open discussions about your thoughts, feelings and stress level and balance closeness and private time at home.
Above all, get the support you need to sustain yourself and those you love through this challenging time. Do not discontinue your therapy appointments. You need regular support more crucially than ever. Discuss any concerns you have about the safety of in-person appointments with your therapist and have a back-up plan. In general, I discourage replacing in-person meeting with virtual or “telehealth” meetings as in-person provides a superior level of interaction and care. However, if in-person sessions pose too much risk for you, telehealth may be the best option for you for now.
Take care of yourself, support yourself and others and be well,