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19 Ways to Support Your Mental Health During COVID-19

Forgo tone deafness, and show kindness, perspective, and insight instead.

 Lazar Gugleta/Unsplash
Source: Lazar Gugleta/Unsplash

1. Don’t allow COVID-19 to distract you from your mental health issues. We all have mental health, and 1 in 4 of us suffers from a mental health condition. Or as my grad school professor wisely said, “It’s not us therapists versus you, the clients. We’re all in this together and we’re all on the spectrum at one time or another.”

Journal, ask the difficult questions, face your reality, stand up to your fears, call a therapist, and practice mindful attention to the here-and-now.

2. Have compassion for the panic-buyers. Many of us enjoy a good laugh at the toilet paper memes, but maybe the only thing standing between Lisa and another panic attack is the fact she’s able to grab six jumbo rolls of Charmin.

3. Reach out to a vulnerable neighbor, even if by phone. Ask if s/he needs a can of tuna or a canister of disinfectant wipes.

4. Check in on family. Even if you haven’t spoken since the Independence Day fiasco, compassion and kindness never go out of fashion. Loneliness and isolation are huge stressors on our immune systems. And if there's one thing we all need, it's healthy antibodies.

5. Ask for help. To quote Michael Jordan, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” and some other insightful being, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.”

6. Talk about the facts. For up-to-date news, listen to members of the medical profession, not politicians and Facebook. Speak to children and teens in age-appropriate language and know they will model their stress response to yours.

7. Play. One of the quickest ways to reverse anxiety, worries, fears, and anger is to practice spontaneity and whimsy. Despite the mind-boggling TMZ footage of Memorial Day weekend, you can have fun, while playing it safe. Dance in your living room, or make silly faces in the mirror or grab your hiking boots and head out into nature.

8. Practice online yoga. YouTube is an amazing platform for all things home workout. Google search the "Yoga with Adrienne" channel to get the downward-facing dogs barking.

9. Execute on your side hustle, dream gig, new job. Time on your hands coupled with limited social interaction is ripe for thinking and doing outside the box.

10. Check in with the BIG “C.B.T.” (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy). Our thoughts, feelings, and actions are connected. We all have a daily choice: practice peace or practice stress. How you react to the threat of a pandemic is indicative of your level of emotional intelligence and happiness. Especially if you do number 11…

11. Read Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.

12. Relish the downtime. Considering how often we bow in silent prayer to the almighty iPhone, there’s never been a better time to slow the mind and body. Yes, the pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home guidelines are lasting way longer than many of us believed, but we can practice meditation and other mindfulness activities to combat stress, boredom and feelings of hopelessness (even if others are recklessly partying like there's no coronavirus).

13. Pay it forward. If your housekeeper, sitter, dog walker, gardener or other service providers are unable to work, consider paying them anyway. An eye-opening story from the book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America recounts an overworked, stressed-out single mother who comes home and smacks her kid after she spent hours restocking shelves at Target. Talk about an empathic tale regarding the plights of the working poor.

14. Embrace vulnerability. Nothing like a crisis to highlight what you’re made of. If others around you are more calm and composed, so be it—you don’t have to follow suit. You are where you are for a reason.

15. Make sleep a priority. Not having to wake up at 6:00 a.m. to get the kids ready for school has its perks. Although many parents have relaxed schedules due to the ever-increasing lockdown orders, you can create a bedtime and wake-up schedule to optimize at least eight hours of quality sleep. One thing is certain, everyone will face the uncertainty with more feelings of calm and being in control.

16. Do the responsible things. As the CDC advises, wash your hands for 20 seconds with hot water, resist touching your face, wear protective gear, cover your mouth when coughing, follow stay at home orders. Drink plenty of water.

17. Ask, “Do I really need more toilet paper, water, or hand sanitizer?” If not, what are viable or DIY substitutes? Consider at-risk populations and leave the extra canned goods and diapers for others if you have a surplus at home.

18. Thank the front-liners: Members of the healthcare community: doctors, nurses, PAs, janitors, cafeteria workers, housekeepers and office staff; grocers; restaurateurs; animal shelter volunteers, and the multitudes of intrepid souls putting humanity, compassion, and efficiency first.

19. Be grateful you’re reading this right now and not hooked up to a ventilator fighting for your life.

Copyright 2020 Linda Esposito, LCSW. All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the author.

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