Categories: health and medical

Simple ways to combat mental health issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic

SALT LAKE CITY — Infectious disease outbreaks, like the current COVID-19 pandemic, can be scary and can affect our mental health more than we realize. While it is important to stay informed and helpful to take advice from trusted sources, there are also many things we can do on our own to support and manage our well-being during such times.

Everyone can agree that the coronavirus pandemic has been a stressful time. While many try to follow standard protocols to reduce the spread of the virus, such as wearing masks and social distancing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says these recommendations can be the very things leading to feelings of depression, isolation, loneliness, and anxiety.

Here are some steps you can take to keep your mental health on track during this time.

Cultivate a daily routine

When life and its circumstances are unstable, having a daily routine is one of the best ways to stabilize us and help us feel grounded, according to Dr. Gladys Pearson, director of the Research Centre for Musculoskeletal Science and Sports Medicine. This doesn’t mean your entire day has to have a strict schedule, this could mean simply implementing one simple routine or activity into your day to help you feel calm and centered. This could be just 5 minutes of meditation, a morning jog, or reading a book before you start your day. The key here is consistency. When everything in life seems shaky, having just one routine that is the same can tremendously help you feel secure.

Know where and how to get treatment

Consciously, we might know we are healthy. But subconsciously, we may experience some underlying background anxiety about when or if we (or someone we love) get sick. Not to mention, if there is any uncertainty about where and how to get treatment, it can add additional stress on top of everything else. If you or a loved one does get sick, be sure to bookmark some of these resources to stay on top of things:

  • Coronavirus.utah.gov: Here you can find information on everything related to COVID-19 — from mental health resources, to general (factual) information, to all updates — in the state of Utah.
  • Valley Behavioral Health Telehealth: This Salt Lake County-based behavioral heath company is currently offering remote therapy by telephone as well as medication delivery through ValleyRX. Whether COVID-19 related or not, this is an important resource to provide you and your loved ones with any kind of mental health help.
  • 211utah.org: Here you can connect to helpful resources regarding mental health, substance use, and emergency childcare services.
  • CDC: The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is one of the best resources for real updates on COVID-19. Both a local and national resource, check the CDC for any updates or questions.
  • WHO: The World Health Organization is another reliable, valid and accurate resource for all COVID-19 updates.

Be sure to bookmark these resources or post them on your fridge so you never feel unsure of where to receive support.

Self-isolate, but stay connected

Looking after your mental health while you have to stay at home is of primary importance. Many of us are spending a lot more time at home, and many of our regular social activities are no longer available to us. While isolating (especially if experiencing symptoms) is of utmost importance, the UK’s Mental Health Foundation says it’s equally as important to stay connected to our friends and loved ones to avoid depression and loneliness. If you’re ever feeling lonely, reach out. You’re probably doing the person on the other line a huge favor, as well.

Get creative with how you connect

While most of us are familiar with today’s most common ways of connecting — social media, phone calls, video chat tools such as Zoom and Skype — it can become a bit mundane after some time. During these times of isolation, we can actually have fun through connecting in new, creative ways.

Try a few new ways of connecting to keep things fun and fresh:

  • Write letters. Go back in time to how our grandparents used to connect. Try writing notes or letters and either send them through the mail or drop them on your friends’ doorsteps.
  • Drive-bys. For birthdays, celebrations or even just for fun, lots of people are doing “drive-bys,’ where you drive past a person’s house to visit them from a distance.
  • Digital parties. Host a digital party — whether for a birthday, a sports game, or even to cook dinner together. The digital age has arrived, and we can now host and attend parties through video chat platforms such as Zoom, which can host up to 100 people with the basic version.
  • Online workouts. There are many yoga and fitness instructors who are offering classes through Zoom or Instagram and Facebook Live. In this format, you’ll be able to exercise alongside your teacher and friends as though you’re with them in real life.

Actively manage your well-being

It’s impossible to pour from an empty cup. Therefore, make sure you’re actively working on keeping your cup full. This means getting a good night’s sleep, drinking lots of water, eating healthy foods, and exercising. Luckily for us Utah locals, we have access to stunning, isolated areas to hike, bike, run, and rest in a hammock between a couple of trees. If you’re ever feeling down, isolated or stressed, getting outside in the stunning Wasatch mountains will almost guarantee to bring you back to feeling good.

Stick to reliable sources for the facts and limit time on social media

What we consume and how we consume it affects our outlook tremendously. Try your best to avoid speculation and look up reputable sources regarding the outbreak.

It is OK to feel overwhelmed as we read all of the negative news these days. If you have experienced trauma or a mental health problem in the past, have a long-term physical health condition, or fall into one of the other groups that makes you more vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus, be mindful of the sources of information you choose to consume. With all of the extra time we have inside and at home, it can also be very tempting to mindlessly scroll through social media, where we can fall victim to consuming inaccurate and biased information. Try using a social media monitoring app, such as Moment, that will monitor and limit your time spent on your accounts.

Know that this will pass

Remember that change is the only constant. Mindfulness expert Steven Aitchison has said, “Emotional pain is not something that should be hidden away and never spoken about. There is truth in your pain, there is growth in your pain, but only if it’s first brought out into the open.”

Awareness is the first step. As licensed clinical social worker Allison Abrams says in an article for Psychology Today, don’t be afraid to embrace your shadows, acknowledge the existence of your pain, because only then can the healing process be initiated. If you need extra support, specialized therapists are available.

Stay grounded, stay strong, and take care of your mental health during this time.


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