With COVID-19, there is a current state of uncertainty spreading through society. It can be very easy to get sucked into a state of panic and anxiety. In times such as these, it is more important than ever to ensure that you are engaging in self-care. Below are some tips about how we can promote mental wellbeing during this time.
What is in my control?
It is highly likely that in the coming weeks we will all be exposed to the repercussions of widespread illness and fear. This means disruption to services, social distancing, economic disruption and financial difficulties, difficulty accessing everyday needs such as food, and a healthcare system struggling to meet demand. it can be easy to become overwhelmed and frustrated with the state of things. In these circumstances, it is important to bring your thoughts back to what you can control. We cannot control the illness itself, we cannot control the economy or the behaviour of others. What we can control is what we do in this moment, and how we react.
Grounding and mindfulness
When we are feeling anxious, our thoughts are focused on a future that we cannot control, rather than on the present moment where there is currently no immediate danger. This can impact how we engage with the present moment. When you are feeling overwhelmed and find your thoughts stuck on worries about the future, you can ground yourself by consciously directing your attention to the following:
- 5 things you can see
- 4 things you can touch
- 3 things you can hear
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can touch
By directing our attention to our senses, we can ground ourselves in the present moment.
Another way to direct your attention to the present is to engage in deep breathing. When we start to panic, this is generally started by beginning to breathe more quickly and shallowly. By slowing down and deepening our breathing, we can slow down this physiological process. BreatheEasy is a great free phone app that can be used to aid to guide your breathing.
Be curious about news
Currently, we are experiencing an overwhelm of news and information. It is important to always receive news with curiosity and not believe everything that we are seeing. It is important to get your news from credible sources such as government and health websites rather than social media as this is not a regulated medium.
As well as this, while it is important to remain up to date, it is also advisable to limit your exposure to the news in these times. We do not need to be constantly researching for new updates. Checking once a day will likely give you the necessary updates and also give you the space to focus your attention on other things.
Maintaining routine as much as possible
Social distancing and self-isolation means that many of us are thrown out of our regular routine e.g., working from home, limited access to the gym. While this limits your ability to engage in your regular routine, it is important to keep this as much as possible as this can have a positive impact on mental health. Continue to exercise in a safe way, e.g., home workouts if your gym is closed (or engaging in the recommended hygiene practices if attending the gym), walking outside (while maintaining recommended social distancing), continue your regular work hours (even though a Netflix marathon may be tempting!), wake up and go to bed at the same time each day.
Connect with others
Along these lines, it is important to maintain your contact with others. This does not need to be face-to-face if you are in self-quarantine, but ensure you are speaking to people over the phone or messaging. It is important to maintain this contact as isolation and loneliness can be very detrimental to mental health. If you are not in self-isolation but know those who are, or there are people in your life who are vulnerable (e.g., the elderly), ensure you are contacting them regularly via phone.
Also, try to talk about regular day-to-day things to distract from COVID-19. I don’t know about you, but practically every conversation I have currently is COVID-19 related, and it is always refreshing to have a distraction from this.
When things are out of our control, it is important to reconnect with our values. As long as we are acting in line with our values, then we can continue to lead a happy life. When noticing you are feeling affected by the panic surrounding the current situation, ask yourself how your current actions, whether it be sitting and ruminating on the state of things or considering panic buying (we have all thought of it!), ask yourself if this sits with your values. If we continue to engage in behaviours that are in line with our values and what we truly want for ourselves, then this will have a positive impact on our mindset. In times of self-isolation/quarantine, it may require some creativity to continue to live by our values. For example, if you have the value of “connecting with others”, this may require some compromise of connecting over the phone rather than in person.
Take care of each other. We will get through this.
*Please be sure to stay up to date with the latest government recommendations and adjust the above accordingly.