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Coronavirus: How to Manage Your Mental Health

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Coronavirus: How to Manage Your Mental Health

Coronavirus. It seems as though it’s the only thing people are talking about. While it’s good to stay informed, the constant news surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic is taking a toll on people’s mental health. Being concerned about the uncertainty the virus brings is understandable. However, it can bring about added stress and for many, it can make mental health problems worse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who may respond more strongly to the stress of a crisis include:
  • Older people and people with chronic diseases who are at higher risk for COVID-19
  • Children and teens
  • People who are helping with the response to COVID-19, like doctors and other health care providers, or first responders
  • People who have mental health conditions including problems with substance use
It is important to remember that everyone reacts to stressful situations differently and that there are ways we can manage our mental health during this time.

Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings.

Journal. Write down what you’re feeling. Don’t filter your thoughts while you write, simply put pen to paper. Take deep breaths and slow down. Recognize your feelings. If anxiety comes up throughout the day, acknowledge it. Take a moment and pause; don’t react. Just breathe. Remember that what you’re thinking or feeling is not a fact. Let go of it, and then explore the present moment. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell. Shift your focus of attention to something else - on what you need to do, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry, or do something else - mindfully with your full attention.

Limit your exposure to the news.

Place boundaries on how much news you consume. Limit to one hour a day, or ask a friend/family member to alert you if there are any emergency updates so you aren’t worried you’ll miss something. Don’t believe every rumor you hear. Make sure you are receiving news from reliable sources, like government websites.

Clean-up your social feeds.

You have control over your social media feeds. Unfollow negative accounts, or people/organizations who are sharing information that’s making you anxious. You can always follow them again when the dust settles if you wish. Your mental health is a priority and should be treated as such. Focus on positive outlets that share either factual information, or hopeful stories. Even with a culled feed, take breaks as needed. When you start feeling anxious, put your device away and focus on a different task.

Take care of your body.

Not only does this include practicing healthy hygiene habits (washing your hands, covering your cough/sneeze), it also means getting plenty of sleep. Try to eat well-balanced meals, stay hydrated, and exercise when you can. Practice yoga, do a mediation, or go for a walk to get some sunshine (while practicing social distancing). We need to take care of our bodies as it has a major impact on our mental health.

Make time to unwind.

Do the activities you enjoy and that help you relax. Read a book, watch your favorite movie, start a puzzle, play a video or card game. If you’re at home with kids, try to get some time alone when you’re able to do something for yourself. In general, practice self-care. It will do wonders for your mental health.

Connect with others.

Check-in with friends and family. Make sure you have the right phone numbers to connect with them. Establish a time for regular chats, and talk to people you trust to discuss your thoughts and feelings with. Share accurate information with them if you wish. This is something that you can also set limits around if needed. For example, if a particular family member or friend is talking about the virus in a manner that upsets you or causes additional anxiety, put a boundary in place. Let them know that while you respect their viewpoints, you (politely) ask that they don’t discuss it when you’re checking in with them. While there are many things that are out of our control right now, we do have control over the actions we take to protect and manage our mental health. Remember to laugh with your kids or relay a joke to your partner. This is a particularly strange and unprecedented situation; humor helps once in a while.

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