10 Tips for Taking Care of Your Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic
We’ve all had to quickly adjust our lives because of the COVID-19 pandemic. All of a sudden there is a great deal of uncertainty. There could be so many things weighing on your mind - your and other people’s health, job security, finances, securing groceries and medicine, boredom, and isolation, to name a few.
You might be feeling scared, irritable, confused, angry, stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, and worried. All of those emotions are normal.
How can you cope and take care of your mental health when everything is up in the air and could change so quickly?
Here are 10 tips that you might find helpful:
1. Distance physically, but not socially
We’ve been asked to practice social distancing to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing does not mean that you need to break off all your social contacts - just that you need to distance from other people physically.
It’s crucial for your mental health to stay connected with the people in your life. There are many apps for free video calls, such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.
2. Stay informed - through credible sources
When you’re poring over the news, it’s easy to feel hopeless. It’s essential to keep in mind that there is a lot of inaccurate information circulating about COVID-19. Be very cautious and critical about the information you might read, especially on discussion boards and social media.
Knowing the facts of COVID-19 and learning what you can do to stay safe and healthy can reduce your anxiety because you will feel you have some power over your situation. It’s also important to stay up-to-date on the latest developments, new guidelines, and potential restrictions.
Reliable sources include The World Health Organization, Health Canada, and Alberta Health Services.
3. Set limits and take breaks from all electronics
It's not good for your wellbeing to spend hours and hours on your devices. If you find it challenging to step away from your phone, you can try scheduling an electronics break into your day. You can set up an alarm to remind yourself.
And, while it’s important to stay informed, do set limits for yourself. For example, you could decide to check the news for 20 minutes at 9 AM and 4 PM. After your time is up, try to focus on something else.
4. Plan your days and try to have fun
The days could become a blur, especially if you aren’t working. Creating a daily to-do list or a schedule will give you a sense of purpose and control. Do make those lists and schedules reasonable and achievable - most of us aren’t feeling overly productive at the moment.
Try to do activities that you usually enjoy or pick up new hobbies if possible. Go outside for fresh air, read a book, or bake. If you need ideas, check out this list that we compiled.
What are some fun activities that make you smile or laugh? Give yourself permission to laugh. It immediately makes everything look a bit better. Laughter also decreases stress and anxiety.
5. Be physically active
You might not feel like exercising, but give it a try. Physical activity improves your mood and overall health and reduces stress and anxiety. Gyms are closed, but there are plenty of exercise videos for all fitness levels on YouTube. You could also go for a walk.
6. Eat and drink as healthy as possible
Many of us reach for comfort foods in stressful situations, but often those foods aren’t good for our overall health and wellbeing. Grocery store shelves might be bare at times, but do your best at finding as many healthy foods as possible.
If you cannot get fresh fruit and vegetables, try to look for frozen ones instead. Also, drink more water and limit pop, coffee, and alcohol.
7. Get enough sleep
We all know that sleep improves our mood and health. Try to go to bed and get up around the same time each day. To fall asleep quicker, don’t use your phone or watch TV in bed. If something is on your mind and it’s keeping you from falling asleep, try writing it down.
8. Do mindfulness exercises
If you haven’t tried mindfulness before, now is a great time. Mindfulness reduces - you guessed it - anxiety and stress, and improves health. Some of the free mindfulness apps include Headspace and Calm. All you need to do is find a quiet spot, 10 minutes of your time, and follow the instructions on these guided apps to get started.
9. Challenge your negative thoughts
Negative thoughts can feed anxiety and stress. Self-defeating, negative thoughts can be so strong that you believe that they are actually true.
To challenge your thoughts, start with writing them down. The next step is to ask yourself questions such as:
- Is this true?
- Has this thing that I’m worried about happened before? How did I cope?
- How helpful it is to keep thinking this way?
Now try to come up with more balanced and realistic thoughts.
10. Aim to think positively
You may feel like there isn’t much positive in your life, but if you pause to think, you can probably come up with something, no matter how small it may seem. Mental health therapists recommend keeping a gratefulness journal for a reason. It reduces stress, improves self-esteem, and fosters resilience.
What if you need more support?
Tough situations are a part of life. We are all collectively going through an unimaginable, challenging situation. It is hitting some of us harder than others. Do know that you are not going through this alone, and help is available.
If you continue to struggle, consider talking with a mental health therapist. Anyone can access our counselling - just call, email, or reach out on our live chat to get started. You can also attend our anxiety and depression support groups.
Our Overcoming Anxiety and Living with Depression classes can help take care of your mental health as well.