Published at 4:30 p.m. on March 20, 2020
In the time of COVID-19, day-to-day life might look a lot different from the usual. From cancelled events to mandatory lockdowns to resource insecurity, there’s a lot that can affect our mental health and wellbeing. Consider these tips to help protect and maintain your wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s okay to feel strong emotions regarding the impacts of COVID-19
Emotions are part of the human experience. We are supposed to have feelings, and feelings aren’t good or bad—they may simply be more or less comfortable. In times like these, we are likely experiencing a mix of emotions, from fear, anxiety, and uncertainty, to sadness and disappointment. Experiencing sadness or disappointment when something we had planned to do is no longer an option speaks to the fact that the event mattered to us—and that’s a good thing. That shows we are invested in the interactions we have planned.
What matters is how we choose to respond
So, what do we do with that sense of disappointment and sadness? There are optimal and suboptimal ways of responding to unforeseen circumstances. It’s important to find healthy outlets for channeling our emotions.
- Start with how you talk about it. Say, “I feel really disappointed,” instead of “I’m disappointed.” This language reinforces that an emotion like disappointment is a feeling, not a permanent condition.
- Learn from it. Ask yourself, “What is one thing I can learn from this? What is something positive I can take from this?”
- Focus on what you do have in your life. Whether that’s clean water, toilet paper, loved ones, your own health, etc., remember that even in the most difficult of times, there are aspects of life to be grateful for.
- Share your feelings of disappointment with another person.
- Get outside of your own head. You might do this in a variety of ways, i.e. by helping someone out in a small way, exercising, or coming up with an alternative to a cancelled or postponed event.
- Ask yourself, what’s one small step I can take to feel better?
How to deal with isolation, quarantine, and social distancing
Whether you consider yourself extraverted or introverted, humans are social beings, and the current social climate can be difficult for many of us. The good news is that humans are also inventive solution seekers. There are a variety of ways to stay connected to each other, such as live online exercise classes, FaceTime or Zoom calls, waving to neighbors on walks, and more. Many things are being offered online now, so you might have an opportunity to explore something that you might not have done otherwise.
During a pandemic, it’s not uncommon for individuals to experience a heightened sense of anxiety, even those who may not have experienced anxiety previously. Here are some additional strategies to help deal with unexpected changes and events like COVID-19:
- Separate what is in your control from what is not. Focus on the things you can do, like washing your hands, drinking water, maintaining a set wake-up and bed time, or limiting your news consumption.
- Do what helps you feel safe. This will be different for everyone, and it’s important not to compare yourself to others.
- Get outside in nature—even if you are avoiding crowds. It can feel good to get fresh air, and exercise helps both your physical and mental health.
- Challenge yourself to stay in the present. When you find yourself worrying about something that hasn’t happened, gently bring yourself back to the present moment. Notice the sights, sounds, tastes and other sensory experiences in your immediate moment and name them. Engaging in mindfulness activities is one way to help stay grounded when things feel beyond your control.
- Stay connected. Reach out to trusted friends if you need more support. If you are feeling particularly anxious or are struggling with your mental health, reach out to a mental health professional for guidance. You don’t have to be alone with your worry.
Remember, we are in this together, and help is available. If you’re feeling alone and struggling, you can reach out to The Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
See additional wellbeing resources at avma.org/Wellbeing.