Since 1949, the month of May has been observed as Mental Health Month in the United States. Many national organizations spotlight Mental Health Month to raise awareness about the importance of mental health, as my company does. They are working to stop the stigma associated with mental health disorders which are wide and varied. During this unprecedented time, due to the coronavirus pandemic, taking care of our mental health is more important than ever before. Here are some coping tips you can use to improve your mental health while staying at home.
1. Re-evaluate “I am stuck inside” to re-frame it as “I am staying safe inside to help flatten the curve”
Working From Home
Speaking for myself, that email offering employees within my company the choice to work-from-home which came down on Monday, March 9th was a godsend. For a person with a pre-existing health condition, I was more than happy to do this. Requesting and having it approved was a quick and painless process. With this forethought, I began working from home a week earlier than the rest of the employees within my company were mandated to do so. The statewide mandate did not come down until the evening of Sunday, March 22nd for the state of New York.
Use this opportunity to focus your attention on that long To-Do list of yours, as I did. Checking off one item per day can lead to a more positive outlook on life. Approaching this time thinking you are trapped or stuck will only cause you to feel more stressed. Take this chance to slow down, take a deep breath and focus on yourself for a change. Yes, we know it is much easier to say than to follow thru on. Take it from one who definitely knows how it can be!
Unlike my dad who was like a broken record uttering this refrain constantly, “When will this end? Why do I have to wear this thing?” (Unable to breathe, he was referring to the face mask we have to put on whenever we head outside for any reason.) For myself, unpacking from our recent move into a new home was first on my list of things to do. The decision to work on this dormant blog came next. One of my former event planning partners began working on her Talking Taiwan podcast in earnest. Putting the extra hours to good use, we both became very productive in our own individual pursuits.
2. Turn off news notifications on your phone
These days we all have smart phones next to us 24/7. Who doesn’t have one attached to their hip while on the go nowadays? The temptation to check it at every ping you hear can sometimes be distracting and become overwhelming. Some of my friends and co-workers feel this way and openly mention it. For people like them, perhaps it is time to turn off notifications for the news apps or remove them altogether. If they wish to stay informed, they can set aside half an hour each morning and evening to log onto the internet. The HR Lead within my company mentioned this during one our first weekly company-wide meetings we held thru Microsoft Teams.
3. Mute people sharing updates or misinformation on social media platforms
Both Facebook and Twitter have a mute option. If someone you follow is sharing updates which makes you feel uncomfortable or sharing misinformation, then you can do this. I have done this myself. Muting someone doesn’t mean you have to unfollow them. However, it does mean you don’t see their posts for a specified period of time. On Facebook, it is 30 days. You have the option to re-mute them if you wish when they are again appearing within your newsfeed. Not to worry, they won’t be notified that you have done this. Some people are actually deleting their social media profiles to avoid the bombardment of coronavirus updates! A few of my friends mentioned they were going to so this! This gal even jokingly said to one such friend who moves frequently, switching phones and its number constantly, “Now, how am I going to reach you?”
4. Equip yourself with information from well-known, trusted sources
If you wish to be updated with the latest Coronavirus information, then make sure you turn to a trustworthy source for that information. While the temptation is to turn to social media for the latest breaking news, receiving information from a reliable source is essential. Both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the CDC have online pages set up to report the latest statistics and provide guidance. To provide us with tips on coping, these were amongst the links my company sent out to its employees. However, I was already checking these sources prior their email regarding it!
5. A home kept in a helter-skelter way can lend itself to chaos
With all the uncertainly happening outside your home, keep the inside organized, predictable and clean. Try not to eat in bed or work on the sofa. Follow old habits maintained over the years by eating at the kitchen table and working at your desk. Deviating from the norm complicates your routine and can make the day feel longer than it should. Furthermore, cluttering up your home can cause claustrophobia to set in. A great reason to keep things tidy if I ever heard of one!
After staying within a hoarder’s paradise to thoroughly clean it out, I can attest to what it feels like to live within a cluttered environment. It is definitely not a fun feeling! Afterwards, it was as if we had given the place a brand new lease on life! There was so much room we didn’t know what to do with it all…joke!
6. Distract yourself with the fun things you enjoy doing
With the extra hours you gain, why not do something special with them? For instance, perhaps you can begin journaling your thoughts and feelings during this historic time period to reflect upon later. It would be like a time capsule to be opened at some future date! Or you might wish to begin a virtual volunteer project to show your gratitude and appreciation towards our frontline workers. Plans are in the works for me to do something along these lines.
Taking an hour out of your day to go for a pleasant, social distancing hike or walk in the countryside is just what the doctor ordered. Or you might prefer to find somewhere quiet to sit with a book instead. For me, wishing to stay in to avoid it all, choosing the latter was a no-brainer. Trial Marriage Husband: Need To Work Hard, a 174 chapter online novel, was addictive reading and finished all too soon. There are many free online courses which you can take advantage of as well. Learning something new is a great way to stimulate the dormant brain cells and tune out those anxiety-ridden thoughts. As for myself, I decided to take the well-known Science of Well-Being Course via Coursera.
7. Have fears? Discuss them with someone you trust
If you are feeling anxious or worried about the coronavirus situation, then it might be helpful to get someone else’s point of view. Find somewhere quiet where you can sit down to chat openly and honestly about your feelings and concerns. It is easy to become overwhelmed with our own negative thought processes. Speaking to someone you trust about them can help break this vicious cycle.
Have you ever tried to enforce social distancing rules on your parents? This is not something to be recommended to anyone! Hence, yours truly had to speak with some healthcare professionals to see what could be done about this. The elderly who have many ailments are at high risk for catching the coronavirus. This is not going to happen on my watch!
8. Stay Connected
Being under lockdown means we can’t spend much time outside of our homes. However, we don’t have to become total hermits either! We can stay connected to friends and family over the internet, phone, and social media apps. This is where Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, etc. can really help us. To cope with what’s happening, you can organize virtual happy hours, dining events, celebrations, etc. Companies, large and small, are pivoting to having their work-related meetings held virtually as well. My company transitioned from using Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams for ours.
By no means does this give the right to unsavory people to take advantage of you. Social catfishes are more prevalent than ever before on social media platforms and even dating sites. They are preying on people’s sympathy and vulnerability to empty their victim’s bank accounts or wallets. Announcing their love for you early on is NOT a good sign. This will soon be followed by requests for money or items they can sell quickly. Once they think they have you hooked, they will begin to try and reel you in! Take it from one who came across a few of them this year but didn’t fall victim to it! All this gal can say is, “Shame on them for trying to scam people out of their hard earned money at a time like this!”
9. Have a healthy nutritious diet while indulging cravings whenever possible (an oxymoron, I know!)
Be sure to eat balanced meals which keep you healthy and improve your body’s immune system. However, indulging those cravings is fine as well.. Why not have that ice cream sundae, that extra bowl of mac and cheese or another glass of red wine? Just don’t overdue it and gain the Quarantine 15, or possibly 30! “Everything in moderation,” was coined for just this purpose.
Within my pandemic household, the task of cooking mostly falls upon my shoulders. Balanced meals with less starches, processed foods and sweets are the name of the game due to a diabetic in the house. Lots of veggies, lean meats, whole grains, etc. The rest of us satisfy our cravings whenever they come upon us.
How to shop for groceries left us in a quandary as well. After much thought and debate over which option might be safer, we went with ordering via Instacart from our local grocery stores. Similar to countless others, it was the first time we had ordered online and had it delivered thru contactless delivery via this method! Due to a massive surge in the use of these delivery services, sometimes there were no available time slots. We had to check on an hourly basis, in the wee hours of the morning, etc. for one! Sometimes it could take up to five days before our grocery items would be delivered. However, in the BIG Apple, some of our friends were in a much tighter bind. It is taking weeks for delivery of their groceries!
Another way of becoming more sustainable during this time is to grow veggies indoors with just sunlight and water. Growing up, we had an outdoor vegetable garden and grew some veggies indoors too. This is just one of the ways of becoming more self-sufficient and economical since groceries are getting more expensive nowadays.
Restaurants (Pick-Up or Delivery)
If you decide to order your meals from a local business, whenever possible, opt for local pick-up or in-house delivery over third-party delivery apps. App commissions and fees take a huge chunk of the profit margin!
10. Speak with your GP or a mental health professional
Some health services have cancelled face-to-face appointments unless it’s an emergency. If this happens, your GP or mental health team should let you know. You can speak with them to find out if there are any other ways they can help. Or delve into possible ways you can help yourself.
If you find yourself trying to cope with extended periods of anxiety or stress, then speak with your doctor. Many GPs now offer telephone consultations thru TeleHealth or a similar service. Check with your GP to see if this is available where you live. Further, the company you work for might also have services which can help during this unprecedented time. Mine does! An email is periodically circulated reminding us that we have this option and how to utilize it.
Alas, not all in-person doctor’s appts. are cancelled! This gal tried to request for a TeleHealth appt. but was told it was not available for those specific types of appts.! Small town living is sometimes good but not in this instance. Whereas, the medical practice frequented by her in the Big Apple has been sending emails on their TeleHealth appt. availability! To take this in context, New York City is the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States!
This is not an exhaustive list of mental health coping tips during lockdown. It is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are some other resources out there for you. If you have another way of coping with it which is not listed, please let us know within the Comments section.