At the present moment, we are all dealing with COVID-19 and are faced with uncertainty. Many people are also experiencing varying levels of fear. Both uncertainty and fear can produce strong emotions that can be hard to deal with. Additionally, everyone is affected by the virus in different ways. Some people catch the virus, some do not. Some people have lost their jobs, others are working overtime. Some people believe their freedom is being impaired, while others believe that temporary shutdowns are necessary for survival. With so many different factors that can influence our emotions and stress levels, it is important to recognize that our mental health is at risk.
Simply acknowledging your mental health is at risk and looking for ways to manage this risk is the first step to taking care of yourself. However with so much going on, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed or completely unsure about what to do or how to improve your mental state. To make things easier, we’ve listed a few things that you can do to benefit your mental health through this trying time:
Social distancing does not mean complete isolation. In times of great stress or emotional turmoil, it is important to work on maintaining connections with your support system. While you may not be able to be with them in person, there are a variety of ways that you can remain in contact with them. While it is easy to simply let yourself slide into loneliness, try challenging yourself by picking up the phone or arranging an online video conference to talk to a friend or family member. If you’re not feeling up to that, try texting or even writing a letter. By reaching out to the people you care about, you can reaffirm to yourself that you are not alone.
Take Breaks from Pandemic News
Although there are various other things going on, the majority of news right now is focused on COVID-19. Unfortunately, constantly listening to or reading news about COVID-19 can increase your anxiety and stress levels, as well as feelings of hopelessness. Therefore, it is important to limit the amount of time you spend on websites or channels that have a constant stream of pandemic news. Stay informed, but not obsessed.
All around us, the natural world is coming to life as spring leads us into summer. Getting some fresh air and sunlight is an easy way to improve your mood and lift your spirits. Even on rainy days, you can sit outside under a shelter and listen to the sound of the rain. If you don’t have a place to sit outside, try sitting beside an open window.
Continue With or Begin Treatment
If you were receiving psychological and/or psychiatric treatment before this period, then it is important to continue with your treatment as much as possible. Many mental health professionals have found ways to utilize video conferencing and other social distancing methods to continue patient treatment. If you find yourself feeling stuck or if your symptoms are negatively impacting your daily routine, then you should schedule an appointment with a mental health professional to discuss these concerns. They can then help you determine the best way to manage your mental health.
Just as it is important to frequently wash our hands and maintain a six foot distance between each other, it is just as important to make sure we stay connected, go outside, take breaks from pandemic news, and continue or seek treatment if needed. As we weather the storm that is COVID-19, we must remember to protect our mental health as well as our physical health. Times are tough right now, but so are we.
Dr. Miller is trained in Adult, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She is also trained in Anesthesia and Pain Management. Because of her broad experience, Dr. Miller is uniquely qualified to treat psychological trauma, depression and anxiety that can occur as a result of injury or disability. For more information, schedule a consultation at NJ Family Psychiatry & Therapy.