Apr 1, 2020

Mental Health & COVID-19: A Guide to Staying Healthy and Connected

During these uncertain times, with heightened emotions of fear and images of diseases due to COVID-19, online and television is primarily focused on this topic. Of course, our survival instincts are on overdrive, and many people are contributing to this. Our smartphones buzz with notifications despite avoiding televised news. Then we have social media, with a plethora of people commenting on fear, panic, and worse case scenarios, and we need to shift away from all of these devices. On Facebook alone, you can feel your heart beat faster, and this strengthens our fear. We are conditioned and expected to live in fear, and this fear manifests as uncertainty.

We can all agree that life as we knew it has been quite the adjustment for all. Self-care is needed now more than ever and looks different for everyone. Whether it be exercising in your bedroom, cooking food you purchased in preparation, reading, or binge-watching Netflix, show yourself and others compassion, and take that extra “me” time right now.

Uncertainty is difficult because we as humans, are conditioned to watch the news, read newspapers, and google worst case scenarios. Uncertainty is living in limbo. We worry for family and friends afar and the toll COVID-19 has taken in uprooting everyone, across the globe.

The changes in our nation currently have us living in a state of isolation, which for many, wreaks havoc on our mental state. With the addition of social distancing and no gatherings at this point, and for good cause, we lose our structure that we have set in place. Our habits, jobs (or schools), emotions, financial security are all in this state of limbo. This virus is taking a toll on an increasing number of people around the globe, and mental health must be addressed now more than ever. The connections of all of our interpreted losses and anguish surrounding COVID-19 can keep us at night, causing us to replay the question, what’s next? Because there is no clear answer, we are forced to create a “new normal.”

We are here for you at Mindful Care and anticipate your mental health needs now more than ever, as we feel trapped inside our own homes day after day. We would like to share some self-care and wellness recommendations for you, your families, colleagues, and friends that are positive ways to cope.

We understand that physical connections feel lost due to virtual and social distancing (remaining 6 feet away from others outside of our homes), but it is essential to continue communicating as you would otherwise via phone and video chats.

Take each day as it comes and concentrate on what you can control. Mindfulness can be a great practice to learn and incorporate into every day, whether practiced formally or informally. https://positivepsychology.com/wp-content/uploads/3-Self-Compassion-Exercises-Pack.pdf. Calm, Simple Habit, and Headspace are waiving fees on the app store at this time.

For guidelines on ways to prevent the spread (#1 being EVERYONE who is a non-essential worker to STAY HOME for 2 weeks) and for detailed information on how to protect yourself, you can reference this site: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html. Finally, by embracing good mental hygiene, and asking for help when needed, we will not only protect ourselves, but others.

YOU HAVE THE POWER TO MAINTAIN CONTROL DESPITE UNCERTAINTY. WAKE UP AND TELL YOURSELF, “TODAY, I REFUSE TO STRESS MYSELF OUT OVER THINGS OUT OF MY CONTROL AND THAT I MYSELF CANNOT CHANGE.”

COPING WITH ISOLATION AND PROTECTING YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

  • Routine, routine, and more routine. This will aid in managing anxiety and help you adapt to these changes quickly in our current reality. Have a physical workspace and separate area for “head space.” Working remotely for the first time, is now common amongst the nation. Set a daily schedule to wake up, plan out your day, and take breaks to enhance clarity. List your happy distractions you engaged in at home prior to COVID-19 and practice them! Occasional zone outs are a necessary indulgence. Download this pdf- a daily planner to track productivity and increase satisfaction. Https://davidseah.com/pub/downloads/pceo/etp/etp01-2011-3hus-c1.pdf

  • Stay off news channels and turn off news notifications on your smart phones, tablets, etc. We know COVID-19 is here, just follow the CDC guidelines above!

  • If prescribed medications by us or other clinicians, set reminders to take them as directed. This is part of your routine. Download the app: Medisafe and medication management if you need a reminder.

  • Walgreens amongst other delivery services are offering next day free shipping or drive through pickups.

  • Journaling is essential in everyday life, and science has proven dramatic reductions in stress, anxiety, trauma, and depression, or just a tool for a safe outlet to process emotions on paper. Recommended ones: 52 lists for calm, Practice you- a journal, A year of positive thinking, The quiet journal- Susan Cain, A year of positive thinking, Life balance- A journal of self-discovery, It’s your weirdness that makes you wonderful, The relaxation and stress reduction workbook, and You are here. Read Coping skills by Faith Harper, a quick pocket read.

  • Download the app Scribd, free for 30 days, with a large library of unlimited books, audiobooks, magazine, and documents.

  • Learn a new language, Duolingo is free of charge!

  • Exercise! Exercise offers many health benefits as we all know, but stress reduction can be attained by just 15-30 minutes a day. Many apps and platforms on smart TVs are free during this isolation time: down dog includes free services in the app store with a handful of popular fitness apps: yoga for all skillsets, HIIT, barre, and more. Gold’s gym is offering free access to its app Goldamp and Planet Fitness has live evening streaming free of charge amongst many more companies.

  • List the things in life you have been meaning to simplify and choose one a week. This will even help you create a physical space (a new workstation for example or study station at home). This is the best time to declutter! If distractions occur during work, or journaling, or you just need to block out everything around you: download the darknoise app being offered free of charge during this time.

  • And don’t forget, we are open via telepsychiatry. At Mindful, join us virtually for our weekly group meetings, MINDFIT, where members have the luxury of being in their safest space (home), and listen and discuss feelings amongst others in the group. This is how connections are solidified and a community is built through sharing one another’s emotions during this time. We offer four separate meeting times to accommodate your schedule. Other options include virtual forums, virtual book clubs, and even virtual co-working spaces. Social distancing does not equate to loneliness. Unity is strength. At this time, we are living in uncharted territory in this nation, with no knowledge for how long we will remain in some sort of quarantine.

  • Kindness towards yourself and others is needed now more than ever. Join me as a Raktivist by visiting https://www.randomactsofkindness.org. You can spread kindness while maintaining your social distancing and free pdfs and resources are available: practicing mindfulness, exercise via the YMCA virtually, and other ideas you can sort through.

  • AND REMEMBER, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. WATCH THIS VIDEO FROM THE MUSICAL DEAR EVAN HANSEN OF HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE ACROSS THE GLOBE COMING TOGETHER TO SING THE THEME SONG, “YOU ARE NOT ALONE.”

Mindful Care offers telepsychiatry appointments for patients in IL, NJ and NY