The world is full of news about COVID-19. I have been wary to weigh-in on a healthcare topic outside of mental illness and also concerned about taking up information bandwidth in a time when people are absorbing information from every source they can.
However, the mental health ramifications of COVID-19 are beginning to hit and it’s important to address those head on. In times of difficulty, it can be essential to get guidance from voices of the past that have undergone worse tragedies and terrors – Dr. Victor Frankl, the Holocaust Survivor, psychiatrist, and author wrote: “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing – your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”
There are a couple of steps that you can take to improve your response to this situation and the mental health challenges that come with it:
The first step is to seek-out trustworthy information about COVID-19 – anxiety, stress, and depression feed on misinformation. Make sure you’re going directly to legitimate sources – here are three that I recommend:
Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center – Johns Hopkins experts in global public health, infectious disease, and emergency preparedness have been at the forefront of the international response to COVID-19. This website is a resource to help advance the understanding of the virus, inform the public, and brief policymakers in order to guide a response, improve care, and save lives.
Harvard Coronavirus Resource Center – Harvard Medical School remains at the forefront of scientific innovation and medical knowledge; the school’s resource center is another trustworthy option when you’re looking for information and guidance.
World Health Organization’s Coronavirus Mythbusters – While it is important to know where to get good information about the condition, it is also important to know where to go to figure out what isn’t accurate. This website is a great resource for that.
The second step is to work on your mental health regimen – public health measures can be socially isolating which is the polar opposite of what is recommended for maintaining your mental health.
The following points are some suggestions for how you can fill your time, maintain your balance, and quell your worries:
1. In the case where social isolation may be higher than usual, it is more important than ever to make sure that you are working on your mental health. Keep up your regular mental health care, including therapy appointments and prescribed medications – with relaxed Federal regulations, TeleHealth (such as FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, etc.) and even phone calls are valid treatment options throughout the country.
2. Try to keep a daily routine, even if it is different than usual – set a schedule and stick with it as much as possible.
3. Keep up with regular exercise – there are many free workout plans you can do with little or no equipment (here’s an example)
4. Get outside as much as possible while practicing social distancing. A hike in nature, a walk down your street, or just relaxing in your yard will all do wonders for your state of mind.
5. Explore meditation and Yoga to help maintain health and wellness (resource).
6. Be careful about how much media content you consume. It’s important to stay informed, but the 24-hour news channels and social media can be overwhelming & detrimental to your mental health.
7. Keep your mind busy – If you end up spending more time at home, try to find new books to read or maybe take an online course.
8. Likewise, you could take this chance to look in to a hobby or creative outlet you’ve been putting off — immersing yourself in drawing, painting, photography, writing, or a musical instrument will work wonders to take your mind off the problems of the outside world.
9. Check-in with friends and family members on the phone/FaceTime, etc. Staying connected is imperative to maintaining balance and a sense of normalcy.
Finding the positives in something that on the surface is so jarring and disruptive might seem impossible, but each of us can make the choice to focus on growth and positive change amidst this temporary upheaval.
Please remember that help is out there, now, and throughout all the hard times in your life.
Together, we will get through this to realize what’s been important all along, and how very lucky we are to have each other.
Be well and stay connected.
Kentucky Mental Health Care