Maintaining Mental Health in the Midst of a Pandemic
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our world is rapidly changing. Daily news delivers messaging that slowly strips away our sense of normalcy. Recommendations for social distancing and self-isolating go against the skills and habits that we develop to maintain our mental health. Amid uncertainty about the state of the world (and for some, our personal livelihoods), anxiety is a normal response. Here are some ways to try to take care of your mental health while we navigate a pandemic:
Find what you can control: With a large-scale issue like novel coronavirus, things inevitably feel out of our control. You may no longer have control over your work schedule, your academic status, or your childcare. It can be helpful to think about and connect with things that you can control: washing your hands, not touching your face, limiting your physical interactions, and taking care of your mental health.
Maintain routine: If you’re suddenly working from home or met with hours on end of unexpected free-time, it’s important to maintain some type of routine. Try to develop a schedule that mimics your day-to-day life. Set an alarm, log into work at the same time, shower, and get dressed as if you were going out into the world.
Stay connected: Though the common recommendation at this time is “social distancing,” this concept is better captured by the term “physical distancing.” Fortunately, this pandemic hit during a time when we can be more connected through technology than ever before. So while you should still maintain physical distance, video calls, phone calls, and text messaging can help you stay socially connected during this time.
Limit your media consumption: News is developing at a rapid rate. It would be possible to check the news every five minutes and see a new headline. However, being so plugged into the news can increase anxiety. Try to limit your engagement with the news. Give yourself a time of day when you’re going to check in on the developing stories, and see if you can limit it to five or ten minutes of catching up on things.
These are extraordinary times, but this will pass. We can get through this, one day at a time.
Bethany Kriegel, LMHC, earned her master’s degree in mental health counseling from Boston College. She has experience working with adults in residential treatment settings, helping those struggling with eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder, among other issues.
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