Tips for good mental health in the COVID-19 pandemic
COVID-19 has completely changed our daily routines and way of life. Although this is a temporary interruption of our normal routines, it does not make it any easier to cope.
In these challenging times, we should be thoughtful about how to best preserve our mental health. Here are the top 6 tips to get through this crisis and stay mentally strong:
1. Keep a daily routine
Life is so much more difficult without a routine. Without structure, you risk losing purpose and meaning to the day. When we don’t occupy our minds with productive activities, our minds fill the void with anxiety and fear. Part of your routing should be carefully scheduling your sleep so that you go to bed and wake up on a regular schedule (many experts say 7-8 hours is optimal). Don’t stay all day in your pajamas even if you don’t have to leave the house. A daily structure gives you a feeling of security and normalcy. Settling into a more normal pattern that relieves you of having to figure out each day individually.
2. Limit your news intake
The news is gloom and doom during these COVID-19 days. Although the situation is serious, keep in mind that news channels make money by engaging our deepest fears. The more of a reaction they can instigate, the more they believe they will engage the viewer. If you don’t put a limit to your exposure to the bad news and endless discussions about the virus, you will find yourself compulsively indulging in the grim updates. Limit watching the news to once per day for no more than 30 minutes.
3. Find sources of joy and keep your mind active
Being restricted from activities and entertainment outside of the home does not mean that you cannot indulge in other sources of joy. Pick up a hobby, start learning a language, reorganize the home or catch up on reading. We have a consumer culture that focuses on entertainment and food as sources of joy. Let’s use this pandemic to discover new sources of joy that can sustain us long after the pandemic has resolved.
4. Get plenty of exercise
In psychology, “sublimation” is the act of taking negative emotion and energy and converting it into productive and healthy activities. One of the best ways to sublimate away negative feelings is by exercising. Release that energy by taking a daily walk or working out. You will feel much better if you do.
5. Stay connected to your support system
Social isolation is very detrimental to mental health. Instead of “social distancing” lets do “physical distancing.” This means that we keep ourselves at a safe distance from others but connect in other ways. Luckily, we have technology like video conferencing that allows us to check in with friends and family. Make a concerted effort to connect with others, even if you are not in the same physical space.
6. Reframe this experience
So much of how we feel depends on how we look at our situation. Although it may take a while to get back to normal, let’s not forget that the COVID-19 pandemic will not be around forever and the world will move on. Despite the horrors of this pandemic, we must not dismiss all the positive ways it will impact society in the long run. For example:
- It forces us to consider what is most important in life, what truly makes us happy.
- It gives families an opportunity to stay home and spend time together in ways they had never before imagined.
- It will help us prepare for any future disasters
- It has encouraged innovation like new ways of doing business
- In an era where Americans are so divided politically, we are reminded about what we have in common and how we are all in this together.
- It has ushered in the age of telemedicine and telepsychiatry. The entire world is opening its eyes to this new mode of healthcare delivery. We are realizing that we have an amazing healthcare safety net in the form of technology. So let’s start using it!
*As always, if you or a family member has a serious or life-threatening condition seek help immediately.