It seems like our world has changed overnight. The novel Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has disrupted the way of life for billions of people around the world. Many of you are reading this from your own home, where you’ll be isolated for days or even weeks to come. During this stressful event, how can you protect your mental and emotional health?
Recognizing the Signs of Stress
First, realize that your mental health affects your physical health. Stress can lower your immunity defenses, which is exactly the opposite of what you need right now.
While the coronavirus itself shouldn’t cause panic, its effects on your everyday life certainly add stress. Lost hours, layoffs, isolation, and fear: all these factors play into your mental and emotional health.
The first step is to recognize when you’re feeling stress. This might be harder than you think; tress presently differently for everyone. Signs of stress include:
- Sadness, irritability, or anger
- Confusion or inability to focus
- Tension, muscle aches, or body pain
- Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, or sleeping too much
The first step to addressing the added stress from the COVID-19 pandemic is recognizing that you are stressed. Notice the symptoms you’re experiencing, and then try some of the following techniques to lessen the anxiety.
Simply put, mindfulness is the practice of rooting yourself in the here and now. It’s taking a moment to intentionally notice how you’re feeling physically and emotionally. Then, it’s about shifting the focus away from what is causing the stress and towards the things you can control and accept.
There are countless ways to practice mindfulness. You can find a good list here to get you started.
Self-care is absolutely vital during this pandemic. And no, self-care isn’t all about visiting a spa or getting your nails done (those practices are discouraged right now, anyway!)
Instead, self-care is about extending grace to yourself. It’s about saying “no” to unnecessary things that cause you stress, and “yes” to the things that help you feel better.
But it’s also about taking good care of your physical, mental, and emotional health during a crisis. You might practice self-care by doing a fun workout, eating healthy foods, taking a nap, reading a positive book, or laughing with a friend (at a safe distance, of course!)
Want some unique self-care ideas? Check out this blog!
Stay Social Without Social Gatherings
For us extroverts, social distancing itself is stressful. And even those who like their alone time can start to go stir crazy without interpersonal interactions.
During this time, stay connected to your loved ones. Schedule time every week - ideally every day - to chat with your friend on the phone or FaceTime with a close family member.
And while social media can often be a good source for interaction, be aware that too much social media can cause your stress rather than relieve it.
When life gets hard, journaling can help. Physically writing down your fears, anxiety, and thoughts can help you put a name to what’s causing your stress. Then, you can go back and reflect on what you can control and what you can’t.
Research shows that journaling decreases anxiety and helps lessen depressive symptoms. Your mental and emotional health will thank you for putting pen to paper.
Want even more ways to protect your mental and emotional health during this time? Check it out this article from PsychologyToday.com.