Even if you're not one of the 36 percent of Americans whose mental health has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, it's important to be proactive when it comes to maintaining a positive emotional state during these turbulent times.1 And with so many areas still under shelter-in-place orders, many of the typical stress relievers—attending an exercise class or going to the gym, spending a night out at a restaurant with friends, or going to a concert—are no longer an option. Read on for some tips and tricks for maintaining your mental health both during and after the pandemic.
Take a Break from the News
While it's important to remain informed about things happening around you, the COVID-19 saturation of state, national, and international news can often be a source of added stress. It's okay to take a break from the news or to just check certain news sources at certain times (for example, your local nightly news) to avoid being overwhelmed by COVID-19 coverage.
Look at Ways You Can Help Others
Helping others through volunteering or the donation of money or items can distract you from your own stresses while brightening someone else's life. Whether you opt to donate blood, purchase take-out from a local restaurant you'd like to support, or make fabric masks to donate to a local hospital, you'll boost your endorphins and know you're helping others in your community.2
Focus on Your Health
Not only can taking steps to boost your physical health improve your odds of an uneventful recovery if you do contract COVID-19, but it can help boost your mental health as well. Just a few of the things you can do to reduce stress and maintain a positive attitude during this time include:
- Taking time each day to meditate, practice deep breathing exercises, or work on stretching;
- Eating healthy meals that include plenty of fruits and vegetables;
- Getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep per night; and
Avoiding depressants like alcohol and some illicit drugs. Focusing on your physical health for at least a few minutes a day can help you reset and clear your mind of negative thoughts.
Connect with Loved Ones
In today's high-tech society, it's easier than ever to socially distance without emotionally distancing. Make a regular date to check up with family members or other loved ones through a video-chatting app like Zoom, Facetime, or Skype; schedule an online game night or virtual happy hour with friends; or even send an old-fashioned letter to a friend you haven't spoken to in a while. Reaching out when you feel low can help you avoid the mental effects of social isolation and help you feel more connected to others in your life.
If you're struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues that can't be resolved through behavioral modifications alone, consider scheduling an online appointment with a therapist or psychiatrist. These teletherapy appointments can help you talk through the feelings that are bothering you and learn coping strategies to deal with them in the future. In some cases, your tele-therapist may even be able to prescribe an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication to help you get over a mental health hurdle.
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