By: Alexa Bandala, KidsFirst’s Communications Specialist
“COVID-19: Here’s today’s update and why you should be freaking out.” That seems to be a recurring theme in the media since this new Coronavirus emerged. Uncertain times can cause many people to be stressed.
When a significant unexpected or negative event happens, our “fight-or-flight-or freeze” response inevitably kicks into gear. We can begin to spiral, have racing thoughts, and obsessively overthink. This overthinking then disrupts our sleep, inserts itself into our relationships, and makes it very difficult to function on a basic level. We tend to focus on the negative “what ifs.”
Here is the great news: You are not alone, your anxiety is valid and normal, and most importantly, there is a way to alleviate the stress you are experiencing. Here are some ways to take care of your mental health and retain some peace of mind during difficult times such as this.
Reading or hearing important news updates a couple times a day is ok. However, according to KidsFirst’s clinical supervisor, Lindsay Henry, MSW, LCSW, we should NOT have the news on 24/7. “Media is increasing people’s symptoms of anxiety,” Lindsay states. “Stay informed, but find a balance.”
Remember, just because we are stuck at home in quarantine, doesn’t mean you have to stay disconnected from your loved ones. Make sure to FaceTime and have phone calls with friends and family, especially when you are feeling particularly isolated. We all crave human connection, and limiting physical touch doesn’t mean we have to avoid each other altogether.
Take Care of Your Body
Take a walk outside! Do some at-home exercises. Eat nutritious meals. Drink some green tea, which is full of antioxidants. Use this time to nourish and energize yourself. However, you can definitely enjoy a fun dessert or snack as well, that doesn’t exactly fall in the “healthy” column. Balance is key!
Take Care of Your Mind
There are ways to be productive while you’re at home, but do not feel obligated. Having plenty of rest is just as important. Develop some healthy coping strategies (ie. Yoga, mindfulness, meditation, breathing exercises, and grounding exercises)
Familiar patterns are also important for our mental state. According to Lindsay, “People lose sight of this when working at home, but keep some kind of structure throughout the day.” Keeping structure will fill your days with a semblance of normalcy, which we all need when our normal schedules are all turned around.
Take Care of Your Soul
Get creative! This is your time to delve into music, art, and DIY projects. Read a book. Sing a song. Learn that instrument you’ve been meaning to take lessons for. Start learning how to crochet. Take up some free cooking classes. Use this free time to fulfill yourself with a new creative endeavor.
Take Care of Someone Else
If you’re in the position to assist, taking care of others can ease your mind immensely. Check out if any elderly or medically vulnerable people are in need of grocery or medicine deliveries! Donate to a charity that is in desperate need of resources. Help a friend who is in need of some distraction. Either locally or nationwide, there are always people who are in need of some help.
Write Your Feelings Down
Keep a journal. If you are having very negative thoughts, write them down on an index card or post-it note,and then proceed to rip the paper up and throw the pieces away. This can be very symbolic and helps release and resolve negative thoughts.
Easier said than done, right? However, it is possible to reframe your thoughts to more positive ones. It all ties into Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Lindsay informs, “ CBT is the idea that your behavior influences your thoughts and feelings, and vice versa.” Take a negative thought and try to find some positive perspective to combat it. This reframing strategy will help to put you at ease. “When you’re down and on edge, change your environment. Be out in nature, breath fresh air… this will help you see things differently,” Lindsay says.
Even though it may seem tough to do, the benefits of staying calm in a crisis are immeasurable. It also helps boost your immune system, which in turn makes you less susceptible to illness.
Remember to practice kindness and understanding with others, especially with your loved ones. People need compassion now more than ever.