With this pandemic taking over our everyday lives, we are forced to face a new reality. Social distancing measures, schools being closed, businesses forcing their workers to work from home, and activities being canceled can create a feeling of isolation. Social distancing measures have caused us to physically isolate from our friends, family, and coworkers. We are humans and most of us like to connect with each other. We enjoy being close to the ones we love but we now are forced to change our behavior. Isolating ourselves has caused us to feel stressed and anxious about our everyday challenges. Some of us may feel that we have lost control. Some of us may be worried about unemployment. Some of us may have serious health concerns. It is completely normal for this disruption to cause anxiety and stress. Whatever you are feeling is valid!
Now more than ever it is important to take care of our mental health and well being. Some of your physical symptoms may even be related to your mental health. For e.g., are you having headaches? Are you having trouble sleeping? Maybe you have an upset stomach. This all could be physical signs of neglecting your mental health during this pandemic. For those of us living with a mental health condition like depression, anxiety, or PTSD you may especially be vulnerable during this time. Monitor any new or worsening symptoms you may be experiencing with your mental health or overall-health.
While it may feel like life has stopped, there are ways to carry on:
- Find ways to create a schedule and stay busy. It is easy to get off of your schedule. Try sticking to a normal routine as much as possible. This means waking up and going to sleep at the same time every day. Get dressed in the clothes you would wear to work. Try getting exercise in around the same time every day. Even eating at the same time every day. This will help you feel in control of your day.
-Stay connected. Keep in mind that social distancing does not mean social isolation. Make it part of your daily routine to check in with your loved ones. Call, text, facetime, or zoom with the ones you care about. Make time on the weekend to have a game night with your friends via facetime! Staying connected may give you a sense that you are not alone.
-Control your anxiety. Many people with or without anxiety disorders may be feeling extremely anxious at this time. You may be hypervigilant about the surfaces you are touching and the places you are going to. Witnessing other people's anxious behaviors may even heighten your worry. Oversharing about the pandemic can create children to worry too. Limit their exposure to the news because it can be overwhelming for them as well. Although this feeling is normal, you do not want to allow it to consume you. Consider writing down your worries or fears, do some deep breathing and /or meditate. Put your focus on playing a game, watching a funny movie, creating some art, doing a puzzle or listen to music. Physical exercise or just taking a walk also helps to decrease stress.
-Recognize signs of depression. You may have trouble sleeping, staying asleep or sleeping during the day. You may lack energy and and concentration. You may have lost interest in activities you once enjoyed. You may notice changes in appetite or weight. As mentioned earlier you may have unexplained aches and pains. You may feel hopeless, agitated, helpless and cry more often. You may engage in reckless behavior (substance abusive, compulsive gambling, porn addiction etc.) or have thoughts of harming yourself or ending your life. You may not experience all of these symptoms but these are red flags to watch for if you or any of your loves ones start experiencing any of these signs. It also doesn't mean you are clinically depressed if you are for eg. experiencing a few nights of not sleeping well or have a stomach ache. If you aren't sure about what your are feeling and what it means please reach out to a mental health professional for a mental health evaluation, especially if you have suicidal ideation.
-Be practical. Stay connected and watch for updates from your local health department. Avoid watching the news and social media. Facts about the pandemic can become blurred or amplified. Try limiting your news 20 minutes in the morning and evening to determine if there is anything you need to change about your behavior.
It is important to talk about the temporary new normal, even if those feelings are negative. The good news is that the pandemic is serious but it will not last forever. This means that life will eventually return to normal, but unfortunately we don't know when. This is what is most worrisome to many and therefore we need to take one day at a time. It may be difficult to make long term plans therefore it is important to have something to look forward to every day. Whether it's a favorite meal, talking to an old college friend, taking a bubble bath...try to find joy every day in this journey. Be careful not to overindulge in drinking alocohol. Having an occasional zoom happy hour with friends can be fun however drinking to self-medicate is a danger zone. Healthy coping skills, checking in with others and staying calm will help you get through this moment in history.
If your mental health is causing you concern, we are always here to help.