The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered our lives in the past couple of months. During these unprecedented times of uncertainty and change, we are likely finding ourselves feeling more stressed, anxious, and downhearted than we have felt before, with little knowledge of and experience with how to handle a challenge of this magnitude. While the pandemic and all the accompanying life changes that we are currently experiencing may be unlike anything many of us have previously encountered, there are a number of measures that we can take in our daily lives – many of which that you may already practice – which can help us better cope with the current situation. Here are some tips on how to take care of your mental health while dealing with the current crisis.
1. Realize that the stress you are feeling is normal
If you have been beating yourself up on how you have been handling the crisis, or you are worrying about the increase in your stress and anxiety levels lately, don’t. In an article published in Psychology Today, Dr. Shainna Ali, a mental health clinician, explains how stress is a natural response to anything that disturbs our “equilibrium” such as when we are faced with a big change or a crisis/dangerous situation. Acknowledging and accepting that our stress is normal and that, like yourself, most people around the world are likely experiencing it in response to the pandemic can go a long way in quelling any anxiety or worry that you may be feeling about your stress response and your ability to cope.
2. Practice healthy habits and self-care
One of the simplest and most important steps towards a healthier mind and body is off course taking care of the essentials, i.e. eating healthy, getting enough sleep, finding safe ways to exercise everyday, staying connected (albeit virtually) with friends and loved ones, writing down all your worries in a journal, and practicing meditation, mindfulness, yoga, or deep-breathing exercises to curb anxiety. Also, while it may be tempting to constantly reach for your phone or television remote for the latest news updates, try to reach a balance between staying informed and avoiding over-consumption of news which may do little to ease worry. We have more self-care tips in our Spring 2020 Newsletter on coping with the pandemic that may be helpful.
3. Learn ways to better manage worry and negative thoughts
In an article published in Independent, Dr. Michael Sinclair advises taking a closer look at our thoughts to determine “what is really there” or whether it is just a story that our mind is telling us. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can be particularly helpful in learning to recognize such “stories” or faulty thoughts and re-framing our thoughts to better match the reality. For example, if you are worrying that “you’ll definitely get sick from the virus”, it might be helpful to think about what precautions you are taking to keep yourself healthy (for example, frequent hand-washing, practicing physical distancing etc.) and that you are able to lower your risk of getting sick by following the safety measures and by taking better care of yourself.
4. Focus on what you can control and let go of what you cannot
Many of us experience anxiety when we feel like we are losing control over our lives or when we feel like we do not have enough control over a specific situation. Times of uncertainty, such as what we are currently facing, can be particularly disorienting and anxiety-provoking. During such times, it is helpful to try and manage the parts of your daily life that you can do something about while letting go of those things that are outside of your realm of control. In the Psychology Today article, for instance, Dr. Ali advises taking steps to manage what you can with regard to the Coronavirus (such as by following the safety measures, taking better care of yourself) while realizing that you cannot—nor should you try to—control everything. Surrendering to this simple fact can do wonders for alleviating anxiety, and it can help us live in the present moment without feeling the need to constantly try and anticipate or predict the future.
Remember to take some time out of your daily life to tend to your mental and physical health during this challenging time. If you require further support, contact your Employee and Family Assistance Program to access counselling services or call Crisis Services Canada (1-833-456-4566) if you are in crisis or distress.
Ali, S. (March 2020). Coping with Coronavirus Stress. Retrieved from www.psychologytoday.com
Gallagher, S. (April 2020). Coronavirus tips: How to curb your anxiety about COVID-19 virus according to psychologists. Retrieved from www.independent.co.uk.