Mental Health Awareness Month this year feels timely now more than ever before. While our physical health is at stake with preventing the spread of disease, our mental health during COVID-19 is taking a toll.
For some people (like myself), this continuing period of sheltering-in hasn’t been too disrupting to our lives. Perhaps it’s even nice to have everything move online and cancel large gatherings. However, most people are feeling their mental health during COVID-19 take a nose-dive. With no end in sight, we cannot help but feel overwhelmed, disheartened, and downright hopeless about what may come next.
This is why we must prioritize our mental health during COVID-19. In uncharted waters, with waves of grief sweeping over us, it’s time to act. Together, we will find well-being in body, mind, and spirit.
how are you really feeling?
There’s a plethora of reasons why our collective mental health during COVID-19 is at its wit’s end. Again, we’ve never done this before. This unprecedented situation has led to unprecedented consequences.
Take your relationships, for example. You’ve either been stuck with the same people for going-on two months 24/7, or you’ve been isolated from seeing your loved ones in the same physical space. Especially if you value touch, this is the worst-case scenario.
Perhaps you’re one of so many who have lost their jobs, and now you have unstructured days full of seemingly endless time. Or maybe you’ve transitioned to work remotely, which you’ve never done before, and the format of self-discipline and Zoom calls is weighing on your shoulders.
Even though it’s felt like a long time that we’ve been in quarantine, this is still a huge change in your past routine. There are new protocols and responsibilities and news channels blaring out the grim statistics… We seem to have so much extra time on our hands, and yet our mental plates are piled high with anxiety.
The moment someone tells you to stay calm, that’s the last thing you’ll do. Such a request sounds ignorant of how frantic and panicked you feel, detached from the complicated swirl of emotions sinking you deep.
It’s scientifically proven that anxiety is contagious. If we see everyone and everything around us freaking out, we’ll probably do the same. It’s an evolutionary survival technique, but now it’s just a pain in the behind.
If your mental health during COVID-19 has become chronically anxious, know that your time and attention are precious commodities. While staying informed, distance yourself from too much social media and news that only adds to the worry.
When you feel your chest tightening or your shoulders tensing, bring yourself back to the present moment: become conscious of where you are and what you’re doing. Name the things that are next to you. Notice your breath. As cliche as it has become, mindfulness heals.
you’re not alone.
It’s more than valid to feel alone and isolated right now. That, or you’re about to throw a chair at the family or roommates you’ve spent quarantine with.
If you relied upon seeing loved ones on outings and scheduled events, transition to online platforms. It’s truly innovative and inspiring to see how resilient people have become to build community on Zoom and Facebook.
Make the conscious effort to stay as connected as possible. Contact the people that truly make you feel loved and uplifted, even if that means disconnecting from “bad influences.”
As tempting as it is to rely entirely on social media, don’t take it too far. Too much of something is never ideal. Not only may you fall victim to misinformation, but it doesn’t feel great to constantly see the “101 things you should be accomplishing during quarantine” or “here’s how to lose the weight you’ve been gaining from your increased snacking.”
find greater meaning.
I had to throw in some spirituality because this can really make a difference for your mental health during COVID-19.
We have access to so many more resources now than before. You could attend a worship service or live-streaming ritual from anywhere in the world. Endless hours of content is coming out that can fuel your spiritual studies, and online communities are popping up to stay connected.
While there’s ignorance in relying upon “thoughts and prayers” when so many people are struggling on the front lines, spiritual practices can help you slow down and intentionally make time for self-care. What forms of prayer and ritual do you resonate with? How can you incorporate that into your day?
Perhaps spiritual practice can help you find more structure in your day, something that’s so difficult right now. Even something as simple as daily gratitude can make a remarkable difference.
fall back on what works.
You probably already know what activities make you feel better. Just because life looks different doesn’t mean those things aren’t impossible.
Your mental health during COVID-19 is still your mental health. What’s different now is that we really need to prioritize and consciously engage in our healthy habits. Don’t cut off your favorite hobbies cold turkey. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Keep exercising and moving your body, just not at the gym. Still meditate, just with more loving-kindness toward yourself. Don’t forgo your sleeping patterns, and turn that alarm clock back on. Rather than putting off your doctor and therapist appointments indefinitely, ask if telemedicine is available. (And refill and deliver your prescriptions!)
strong mental health during COVID-19.
If I can leave you on any note, it’s this: let yourself feel. Give yourself the patience and grace you deserve. We cannot expect ourselves to continue business as usual when, hello, things are anything but usual.
When will this all end? Is this our new normal? Our mental health during COVID-19 may improve with some answers we’ll likely not receive anytime soon. However, all we have is this moment. Right here, right now, a temporary space of existence. Consider what matters most right now.
As much as we limit our exposure to the coronavirus, we’re mentally and emotionally exposed to new or worsening symptoms. Please be gentle with yourself. Ask for help when you need it. And know that you’re stronger than you believe. We’ve got this.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie