It feels like the world is falling down around us, If you turn on any American news outlet, it is as if we are all going to die if we leave our homes. But for so many of us including myself, we simply don’t have a choice when it comes to interacting with others.
In times of uncertainty, it is easy to panic. It sometimes feels like you can’t even breathe because now you know that you can’t return home for while with border closings abound. You think to yourself, “how could I have done things differently?” But the thing is you couldn’t, all you could do is watch the trends and plan accordingly.
With the onset of the pandemic, it is hard to believe in anything anymore. Who cares about self-care or any other type of emotional health nonsense? What does it matter, if you have to be scared about an economic recession, separation from loved ones, possible food shortages and, apparently, a lack of toilet paper in the US?
Well, this is why in times of uncertainty you need to be able to trust and have a belief in yourself. No one is able to predict a future and even though there has not been a pandemic in over a hundred years that doesn’t mean that hardship won’t hit your life at one time or another. You need the mental fortitude to keep going and to make sound decisions.
If you make a decision in the midst of panic, you will most likely be making an impulsive one that you may regret later.
This is how you create your mental health toolkit when it feels like the world is falling apart because of COVID-19. You won’t believe how much easier it is than what it seems.
The Reality of Social Distancing
Social Distancing doesn’t mean you lose all of your friends and your family. It means that you need to not be near the elderly or the immune-compromised (people who are more prone to getting sick) physically at this time. It means that with everyone else that you need to stand at least six feet away from when you talk and that you should avoid gatherings of ten people or more.
You have a phone for a reason and it is not to scroll on Facebook or play Candy Crush, it is to be used to connect with those you love through a call or through video chat. You can still stay connected to those around you, even though, in this time of crisis, it will be different from what you did before.
I encourage you to call those around especially if they’re not permitted to leave the house due to age or health reasons.
Self-Care (Yeah, I said it!)
In times of crisis, we must fall into our self-care habits also known as our coping skills. Through these coping skills, we are able to find our footing when the world around us seems to be turned upside down and inside out.
What does this mean?
Well, number one, acknowledge that there are things outside your control and then write down what you are in control of. Every time you feel like you are spinning with uncertainty go back to that list to ground yourself.
Then realize all the advice you were told to stay healthy when you were younger and ignored back then, is a really good idea to follow about now. So eat healthy! (Eating all the bread you panic bought at the grocery store is not eating healthy.) Make sure to get a full night’s sleep and, finally exercise.
Oh, they closed down the gym that you haven’t gone to in 3 months. Never fear, there is an app for that!
By doing these tasks along with washing your hands for at least 20 seconds and sanitizing your surfaces, and standing six feet away from those you need to interact with will help you stay healthy and is a great environment for positive mental health.
A Social Media Hiatus
It is really easy to think that the world is falling apart when you see all the memes are telling you so. Take a break from social media.
Social media really isn’t going to give you much more information that you couldn’t get from the news or the CDC. Start messaging your friends and family that you want to make sure is safe and start limiting your time on social media. I would say get rid of the app on the phone and start using a computer only when you want to check your favorite influencer’s latest post.
Being reminded to wash your hands 8 million times is not helpful when you only need to be told seven.
The Anti-24 hour News Stream
Today, the news especially televised news has become more for entertainment value than for getting solid information. If you have ever watched the news and there is dramatic music in the background. That is for a purpose, it is to raise your anxiety.
If your anxiety is high right now, it is probably best just to read the news instead of watch for the sake of your mental health. Set a time for yourself during the day when you will keep up with current events but make sure to give yourself an end time. A journalist may need to be plugged in all the time but if you are not one that doesn’t mean you need to be.
The CDC also offers to email you updates on COVID-19. They do not update you every 5 seconds. Plus it is a great way to get accurate information on how you need to prepare and how you need to take care of yourself. I highly recommend going to the CDC first for information on COVID-19 in the United States.
It’s Ok to Have Fun
While yes there is social distancing and recommendations that you shouldn’t go outside unless necessary that doesn’t mean you are going into mourning. You can have fun! And should have fun!
Right now a lot of museums and even the opera are starting to stream on the internet for FREE. Take advantage of that! Only in a pandemic would a museum in Berlin decide to give you free admission.
Books, music, podcasts, videogames, talking on the phone or through your computer that all still exists!
If you continue to feel overwhelmed my colleagues and I are here for you. Insurances now are increasingly providing coverage for telehealth so that clients can see their therapists. Telehealth is essentially a HIPAA (federal health privacy law) secure video chat where you can talk to a therapist online in the comfort of wherever you are.
Many doctors are also using telehealth to see patients. If you are concerned about COVID-19, you should call your doctor and/or current therapist to see if they offer telehealth at this time.
It is totally valid to be very nervous during this time and it is important to prepare. But it is just as important to care for your mental health as well and by doing that placing boundaries for yourself in order to create stability. Have trust in yourself that you are doing all that you can do to protect yourself and your family at this time.
And By the Way!
My name is Tara. I am a therapist who provides online counseling services in the state of Illinois. This blog post is not therapy and it should not be used as a substitute for therapy. If you would like to talk more, you can schedule a free 15-minute consultation, click here!