Managing Mental Health During COVID-19
For many of us, the last few weeks have been a sudden and shocking change to our routines. It is safe to say that many of us are finding ourselves struggling with our mental health right now. Any reaction you are having is likely to be normal – whether you feel anxious, unmotivated, numb, hypervigilant, frazzled, or completely fine – it’s all normal. As a nation and as a global community we are going through a traumatic experience together, and we are having to find some unique ways of managing!
There are steps you can take today to help you and your family navigate this difficult time. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts that you may find useful…
- DO practise radical acceptance
Psychologists talk about a concept called “radical acceptance” which means accepting the reality of what is going on, even when we find it unacceptable. This might mean acknowledging what is going on around us even though we don’t like it – e.g. “My whole life has changed,” “I am feeling anxious,” or even, “This situation is driving me crazy!”
- DO focus on what you can control
There is a lot happening right now that we can’t control. This can lead to some behaviours we have seen in the community like hoarding toilet paper or food items – looking for something that we can control in the midst of chaos! But there is a lot we can control, even in the current situation. If you start to feel the panic rising, remind yourself of some of these – you can control your own thoughts and actions, you can choose to connect with people over the phone or internet, you can choose what you wear today, what time you go to bed, or what route to take when you go for a walk.
- DO remind yourself that this will not last forever
One of the hardest things about the current situation is that none of us knows how long we will be living this way. But you can remind yourself that this is temporary. Notice the way you are talking to yourself and change your thoughts if you need to. E.g. if you notice yourself thinking, “Never leaving the house really sucks!” you could try changing your thought to, “We are staying home temporarily and it is really hard.”
- DO connect (virtually) with your community
It is particularly difficult to navigate this new situation without the support we may be used to from family and friends. This is a great time to find new ways to check in with others. You might like to help an elderly relative set up a Zoom account so you can chat with them, or you might set a time for regular FaceTime calls with your siblings. If you normally attend a social group, perhaps it has moved online – and if you don’t, maybe you could start one!
- DO reach out to others when you need support
… and do it early. The more you start to struggle with anxiety, depression or other symptoms, the harder it might become to tell a loved one that you need their support. Don’t wait until you
are not coping. Reach out early and connect with others, and check-in with them regularly.
- DO put structure in your day
When you can’t leave the house, it can be easy to spend a whole day in PJs or stay up later than usual at night. It is fine to do this once in a while but as a rule, it is better for your body and mind if you keep some structure in your day. Your old routine may no longer suit you, but you can set a new one. And I would encourage you to include some physical exercise – we need those endorphins now more than ever!
- DON’T feel pressure to make this a time of super productivity
I don’t know about you, but I have been seeing memes and comments online about how this is a great time to achieve something great with my time – and it doesn’t make me feel motivated, it feels like extra pressure at a time that is already difficult! It’s okay if you don’t write a novel or learn a language or start a side business or clear out the Tupperware cupboard while we are in lockdown. It’s okay if the best you can do is survive it. It’s okay if the kids get more screen time than usual. It’s okay to take one day at a time.
- DON’T watch the news 24/7
Be alert to signs that your media consumption is hurting you instead of helping you. The threshold will be different for everyone, but switch off the news and turn off your social media notifications if you need to.
- DON’T be afraid to reach out to a professional if you think you or your kids would benefit
There are many psychologists currently offering online sessions (including Real Therapy Solutions) and you can also call Lifeline, Kids Helpline, or the Mental Health Line if you need immediate support. Professionals are here to help!