Updated: Jul 13, 2020
A few months ago, none of us could have imagined that the world would be looking down the barrel of a spiraling health crisis and economic recession unlike any witnessed in our lifetime. On March 12, 2020, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Now, in a world gripped by the fear of a marauding virus, more than ever the importance of your mental health and taking care of yourself has increased.
Pandemics, like COVID-19, challenge the way people cope. Fear and anxiety about a new disease and what could happen can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Public health actions, such as social distancing, can make people feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety. However, these actions are necessary to reduce the spread of the disease. Coping with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.
Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can sometimes cause the following:
Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on
Changes in sleep or eating patterns
Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
Worsening of chronic health problems
Worsening of mental health conditions
Increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances.
With negativity hanging over the entire world right now, what is it that we can do to maintain good mental health?
It’s got to be mind over matter. The only thing any of us can control is our own mind. The language we use to talk to ourselves is important. It is what we believe. It is who we become. What we feed our brain matters –– whether it is frightening news or a nice book by someone we admire. These things change our mindset, and as a result, how we show up in our lives for ourselves, those we love, and those we come across. Here are some of the best mindset practices for times like these.
Limit News Intake.
Watch the news ONCE A DAY. Know enough to be informed, especially about your local area, and do what you can to not let it become an obsession. Tuning into media stories that talk about how fast an illness is spreading, or how many people are getting sick, can increase your anxiety. Limit your media consumption to a certain time frame or a certain number of articles. Read news from trustworthy source and avoid media outlets that build hype or dwell on things that can’t be controlled.
Don’t let paranoia or fear overwhelm you.
Fear does not serve you. It does not propel you. It does not need your focus or attention. Stay positive and don’t jump to conclusions the moment you start seeing symptoms of cold, cough and/or fever. Speak to or video call a doctor and let him or her decide whether you need to get tested or not.
Have you wanted for a while now to learn to do something new, to start reading a new book, or to devote time to playing an instrument? Now is the time to do all that. Create healthy, supportive routines and rituals. Build your physical strength, fitness or flexibility through yoga or exercises. Tidy and declutter. Reflect on your goals and work towards them. Focus on yourself. Find something creative that requires you to focus and leave the anxiety behind even temporarily.
Take care of others.
Be kind to others and invest yourself in uplifting. Taking care of your friends and family can be a stress reliever, but it should be balanced with self-care. Helping others cope with their stress, such as by providing social support, can also make your community stronger. During times of increased social distancing, people can still maintain social connections and care for their mental health. Virtual communication (like phones or video chats) can help you and your loved ones feel less lonely and isolated.
The attitude of gratitude can change your life. By practicing gratitude, you can live a happier, more fulfilling life. Gratitude is the great antidote to fear. It focuses your mind on what you have, and all the positivities life brings –– both from good and bad events. To strengthen this muscle, because gratitude is a muscle, you can practice writing in a gratitude journal.
The result? While everyone around battles with their thoughts, sinking into a dark pit of despair, you maintain your sense of hope. Hope is the shield that guards your mental health during pandemic, war, pain and suffering.
“Bad things can teach us how to look at good things in a whole new light.”
Lastly, remember that it will not be forever this way. Life as we know it has changed. This is a difficult time, but it is just that — a time. Remember that you were given this life because you’re strong enough to live it. Have courage and be kind. Remember we’re all in this together — and we will get through this together.
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