As a recovering germaphobe I have been struggling a bit the past few weeks to keep my anxiety under control with the news about coronavirus (COVID-19). I have also been worried, as we all are about how this will impact the most vulnerable. As a mother I worry for my children. As a wife, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, cousin, and friend I worry about all those I love. I worry about the future of my family’s finances. I worry about my clients, and how this will impact the emotional health of those who already have underlying conditions like depression and anxiety. I worry about those who will go without food, children who won’t be safe, and others who will lose any sense of security because of financial burden. I worry about those who are already in the struggle of their lives and now just had added stress put on them. Our most vulnerable populations are struggling to make it day by day already. This is more than many can handle.
The Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health
We are facing quite a bit of the unknown right now. This causes people to become fearful and to act in ways they wouldn’t normally act. The coping skills most of us use: time with friends, going out to the movies, and going out to public places/events in general is not really an option right now. Entertainment distractions are being limited, so it gives us a lot more time to think, which can easily turn to ruminating. I will admit I’ve done my fair share of ruminating over the past couple of weeks. Telling myself not to worry, while simultaneously worrying.
As a mental health professional, I am extremely concerned about the impact on the mental health of people through this time. Being isolated, being worried, stressed, and possibly depressed because of all the events going on now is bad for our overall health as mental health directly impacts our physical health. This can also affect our ability to fight this virus. I want to share some of the things I’m discussing with my clients and that I’m doing myself to help boost mental health and overall wellbeing. Also know, many therapists are working through ways to get certified and be able to ethically do therapy using telehealth methods. You are not alone, and we can all get through this together.
Tip for Staying Healthy
Some things you might find helpful, and ways you can keep your body healthy:
- Get enough sleep. Sleep is so important for a healthy body.
- Utilize meditation/mindfulness to reduce anxiety. The Insight Timer app is a free option. You can get access to tons of free guided meditations.
- Try to eat healthy. I know it’s hard when you are eating on a budget but try to make balanced choices about what you eat right now as much as you can.
- Drink plenty of water. We want to be hydrated.
- Get fresh air and sunshine when you can. Social distancing doesn’t mean we can’t go outside. Go outside and wave at your neighbors. Take your dog for a walk. Even on cloudy days taking a short walk can help you feel better.
- Use your phone. Call a friend. Reach out to loved ones. Just because you can’t physically be with people, doesn’t mean you can’t FaceTime or even make a phone call.
- Use good hygiene practices. You know, wash your hands. Disinfect surfaces. Avoid harsh cleaners if you have sensitive lungs. Honestly, you don’t need to expose yourself to asthma inducing cleaners to disinfect surfaces. In mass cleaning it’s easier to use bleach, but at home you can use other cleaners that won’t impact your lung health. This is a virus that impacts our respiratory systems. We need to keep them strong.
- Take your medications as prescribed. Stopping meds right now could cause a domino effect with your health. We need you to be healthy.
- Get moving. Sitting and binging Netflix for weeks at a time is going to negatively impact your health.
- A glass of wine is okay if you choose it, but don’t drink all the bottles of wine to cope. You need to be hydrated and healthy right now. You don’t want to use alcohol or drugs to cope with stress or fear right now.
- Read some good books. Stimulate your mind.
- Clean your house or organize.
- Help others. Think about others. When we tap into doing compassionate things for others it can get us out of our own head. It can help us put things into perspective. Don’t hoard things. Share with neighbors, check on neighbors. Don’t barge in, but make a call, send a text, or see if those you know are getting basic needs met. Offer kind words.
- You can use essential oils to support emotional health. For example, lavender is calming. Citrus oils like lemon, orange, and lime can be uplifting to your mood. If you choose to use essential oils, make sure you are using real oils and not toxic synthetic oils.
- If your spiritual or religious beliefs are comforting to you, lean on those beliefs right now. If prayer is helpful do more of it.
- Listen to some uplifting podcasts. You might learn something.
- Try to find ways to laugh. Look for joy. Laugh with others. Tell some funny dad jokes or watch a funny movie. Laughter is good for your body.
- Validate your feelings. Don’t try to ignore what your emotions are telling you right now. Once you recognize the feeling, identify it, and then, allow it to pass. Don’t settle in to sad or upsetting feelings. You can allow them to come as they do, and then try some of the other things to reduce sad or anxious feelings if they make you uncomfortable.
- Find reputable sources for information. Go to the CDC website. Listen to state leaders for updates. Share only valid information. We all have a responsibility to be good stewards for information right now.
- Finally, be patient. This will be hard. We don’t know how long this will go on. Many of us are having significant changes happen in our lives. Patience will go a long way right now. Be patient with others. Be kind. Be the good.
We’re Here to Help if You Need Us
I hope this was helpful. I hope you all stay well. I hope you all come out of this with some new effective coping skills. If you feel like you are struggling with your mental health or you feel you need help, reach out to a friend or family member or call Central Arkansas Group Counseling in Benton or North Little Rock to schedule an appointment. You are not alone. Stay well friends.