Why it's so important to look after your mental health throughout this pandemic
The Re-Opening Waiting Game
It's beginning to feel like the "end" of COVID-19 will never arrive. The surging, flattening, and re-surging of Coronavirus has created a roller coaster of emotions that often leave us feeling like we've reverted back to square one (or worse). It's no wonder why some of us have been feeling drained, moody, hopeless, and unable to think straight.
Fears and concerns surrounding this virus are becoming increasingly common (1), as many of us are worried about our health and the health and well-being of our loved ones. This level of uncertainty has really put a damper on our emotions and has strained our mental health (1). Social and physical distancing, economic uncertainty, and the onslaught of bad news has left us feeling isolated, anxious, depressed and unsure of how to cope with these feelings, and left wondering when our lives will return back to normal.
Fortunately, there are tons of things we can do to mitigate the negative impacts many of us are experiencing. Keep reading for some tips and advice on trying to reach some level of zen through these trying times.
How COVID-19 Can Impact Mental Health
The rise and spread of COVID-19 has subjected us to a whole new lifestyle, one that many of us have had difficulties adjusting to. Some are grieving the loss of loved ones or economic stability, while others are grieving the social connection we had pre-COVID-19. Around half of all US adults have recently reported that COVID-19 has negatively impacted their mental health (1).
From front-line workers to non-essential workers, the level of stress, anxiety, and depression is negatively impacting mental and physical well-being. Health care workers and grocery store workers, along with others, are faced with choosing whether to keep working and increase the risk of contracting the virus or leaving their jobs and losing their income (2). On the other hand, many non-essential workers who are losing their jobs are not only losing their income, but are faced with increased rates of depression, anxiety, distress, and low self-esteem, which can lead to higher rates of substance abuse and suicide (1). Shelter-in-place orders, business and school closures and travel restrictions are fueling the impacts of loneliness and social isolation, and for many, financial distress (1).
How Mental Health and Physical Health are Intertwined
Mental health is just as critical to our well-being as our physical health, as the two are inextricably linked (3). Have you ever been so stressed you get a stomach ache or headache? Yeah, us too.Social isolation and loneliness are public health concerns, as the latter is associated with reduced lifespan and is a risk factor for mental illness (1), an increased risk of a heart attack (4) , and suicide (1). Anxiety, stress, and depression can physically manifest itself as heart disease, asthma, gut problems and dermatitis, among a list of other health concerns (5,6,7,8). Stress can also cause shortness of breath, trigger asthma symptoms, and can flare up your eczema too (6,7). Taking care of your mental health is a critical component in staying healthy.
Be Proactive About Your Mental Health
With so much uncertainty, isolation, and fear surrounding COVID-19, we have to remind ourselves to pay attention to our mental health and to what our bodies are telling us. In addition to the typical things people think when they hear about ways to enhance your mental well-being like meditation, yoga, exercise, and eating healthy, here are a few other strategies to boost your mood and achieve better mental health:
- Make a list of things that you are happy or grateful for
- Enjoy a good laugh- log onto YouTube and search "popular comedy or "funny videos"
- Make it a point to unplug from social media/news one hour per day
- Try out those new adult coloring books
- Set up a routine or structure for yourself to help keep priorities in alignment
- Call an older family member to check in once a week
- Set up a weekly virtual happy hour or yoga session with friends
- Go for a socially-distant hike or nature walk
- Connect virtually with faith-based or community based organizations
- Be kind to yourself and be okay with not feeling like an overachiever
- Practice this mindfulness exercise:
- Stand in a quiet place and think of:
- Five things you can see
- Four things you can touch
- Three things you can hear
- Two things you can smell
- One thing you can taste
You can find additional resources below for you or your loved ones to assist with navigating with mental health emergencies:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Lifeline Crisis Chat
- SAMHSA's National Helpline : 1-800-662-HELP (4357) and TTY 1-800-487-4889
- SAMHSA's Treatment Services Locator Website
- National Domestic Violence Hotline : 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522