Coping with COVID-19 with Mental Health Practices
The onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic has unfortunately affected the economy, livelihood as well as the physical and mental health of many across the globe. From being retrenched to facing financial constraints and not being able to be with family, everyone is dealt a difficult hand. Furthermore, with social distancing in place to curb the spread of the virus, it can feel very lonely and thence take a toll on mental health. In this article, we dole out helpful practices to deal with stress in a healthy manner and give you some peace of mind.
P/S: Your feelings are validated and you’re not alone.
Stick to a routine
Keeping to a daily routine given the current circumstances is probably the best practice for your mental health. If you have a daily routine in place, maintain it and if you don’t, you can create a new one which should include going to sleep and waking up at similar times each day, exercising regularly, putting aside specific times to work and relax, eating healthy, regular meals and maintaining personal hygiene. Following a routine can give one a sense of purpose and motivation everyday, which in turn, elevates mood and wellbeing.
Another method to improve your mental wellbeing is to keep yourself occupied, especially when you’re self-isolating. This also serves as the perfect time to learn a new skill to not only up your ante, but increase your sense of purpose and boost self-esteem. Some fun activities you can consider taking up include baking, cooking, signing up for an online course or learning a new language. Prioritising yourself by picking up a new interest keeps your mind sharp and active while filling up your day.
Take breaks from the news and social media
News and social media can be quite overwhelming at present, especially when there’s so many happening in the world. Consider taking a social media sabbatical for a bit and give yourself a break from all the negativity and overload of information. Take as long as you want to and when you finally return online, focus on information from credible sources. You don’t have to take in everything produced by social media and news portals.
Declutter your home and mind
A clutter-free space reflects a clutter-free mind. Carve out some time from your day to clean your home or space. It can be a means of productivity and give you a sense of control. In fact, research has shown that cleaning not only offers a sense of control in the face of uncertainty, but also offers catharsis from traumatic stress. It goes without saying that you don’t want to become OCD about cleaning but you can make some time everyday to reorganise, toss and donate items that you don’t have use for to create an orderly living home.
Staying active or exercising regularly, if not daily, is a great outlet that improves physical health and mental health. This is backed by research, which presented that regular physical activity reduces anxiety and depression across all age groups and can be beneficial in reducing age-related cognitive decline. There are various ways to workout while staying safe, be it at home or at an outdoor area you can use. High-intensity interval training also known as HIIT, yoga and stretching are some exercises that don’t require equipment and can be done indoor or outdoors. In addition, cardio exercises such as jogging, walking or cycling are great endorphin and mood boosters.
The art of mindfulness is being conscious of the present moment, observing your feelings, your breath and bodily sensations, moment by moment. It has been found that practising mindfulness improves mental wellbeing by helping you become fully engaged in activities and create a better capacity to deal with adversity. There are more ways than one to practise mindfulness but the main goal is to achieve a state of alertness and focused relaxation. You can either follow an app through guided exercises or attempt basic mindful meditation on your own. These techniques can be employed during periods of anxiety and stress or routinely like before bed and when you wake up. Evidently, in a study amongst the residents of Wuhan, China, during the height of COVID-19 pandemic, results showed that those who practised mindfulness developed reduced levels of anxiety and less impacted sleep compared to those in the control conditions.
Practising gratitude may be the last thing you want to do in times like this, especially if you’ve been directly affected directly by the pandemic. However, this practice has been shown to be hugely beneficial to mental health. For example, in one of the first key studies on the subject, researchers found in one key study on the subject that writing down five things they were grateful for once a week was exponentially linked to improved wellbeing. There’s also a reason why gratitude is a central tenet of most religions and philosophies around the world — it brings solace to the mind, body and soul. Granted, life is a challenge at the moment, but consider jotting down some of the things that make you happy and that you’re grateful for such as your family or having food on the table.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you’re feeling your lowest during this pandemic or you are developing anxiety or depressive symptoms, please know that you’re not alone and you should seek professional help. We may be confined to our homes but support is still available online, via video or telephone consultations.