In my previous article, I discussed the potential negative effects that this corona virus pandemic could have on our mental health now that our daily lives have been so dramatically affected by it. My hope is to have more discussion about it, put some interventions into place, and hopefully prevent this from becoming an even worse situation than it already is.
So, what can we all do now?
FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL
We cannot control that the corona virus exists. Or that we have no idea when or if our lives will ever return to the way they were before.
I could list all of the things that are out of our control right now. But I know that this list would not only be extremely long, and that doing so is counter to what I am hoping to do here: focus on what IS in your control and what you CAN do right now.
It is so easy to focus on the negative and ruminate on all of those things that you cannot control or do any longer. However, that is not helpful.
Think about it. If all you do is focus on things that you can do absolutely nothing about, then you will feel that you have to little control over you life. Over time, you will start to feel trapped in a situation and tell yourself that no matter what you do, it does not matter. This is what is called “learned helplessness”. When any of us get to this point, we become hopeless about our situation and give up on doing anything.
Basically, we lose our motivation and do nothing. We see no available options to get out of this situation, adding to feelings of depression.
If you, instead focus on those things you do have control over, then you can stave off depression and have a different experience during this time. Those who feel a higher sense of control tend to have lower levels of psychological distress and decreased levels of depression and anxiety.
This is very relevant to what many of us our facing right now. You could focus on the fact that this pandemic is keeping you at home because your kids’ school is closed for an indeterminate amount of time and have no idea when the next time you’ll be able to go out in public without fear of getting too close to another person. If all you did was focus on these things, and nothing else, then you would most likely start to feel trapped and hopeless about your situation and lose motivation to do anything.
Or, you could, instead, focus on what parts of this situation you have control over. Perhaps you now get to control the morning routine because you are working from home and don’t need to contend with a long commute. You control if you want to dress up in a corporate suit or dress down in more comfortable clothes. Maybe you are in control of when you do your work and decide to see this as an opportunity to spend more quality time with your family and do your work when your kids are napping or asleep.
KEEP A ROUTINE
I know, despite your daily life barely resembling anything close to what it used to, there can be some things about all of this you may be enjoying.
It can initially feel so good to not have to get up, exhausted, after hitting snooze for the 5th time, only to rush through your morning, hoping you get the kids and yourself where you need to be on time. And what could be better than to have the ability to sleep in, stay in sweats all day and shower whenever you want?
However, we do best when we stick to a routine. We are habitual creatures. And when we do things like stay up one night binge watching Netflix until 2 AM, waking up at 10 AM, and then going to bed another night at 10 PM and waking up at 6 AM, never quite having consistent schedules for meal times or, well, anything…we are not doing ourselves any favors.
The best thing you can do right now is stick to a consistent schedule and routine every day. In a world that is chaotic and unpredictable right now, having a daily schedule that is routine and predictable helps us feel stable and grounded.
It is also helpful to have some part of our “normal” life integrated into this “new normal” we are now living. If we continue to stick to our normal routine amidst all of this chaos, it can help us feel more “normal”.
So, keep your normal sleep and wake times. Keep your normal morning routines. If you used to get up and shower, get dressed and then eat breakfast, then do that. For women, if you always wore makeup and do your hair, make sure you do those things. You may not be going anywhere, but doing those things have been part of your normal, daily lives, and continuing to do those things helps keep you and your life feel normal when everything else does not.
Trust me on this, too. If you keep to your routine and to what you are used to as close as possible, once this is all over and you need to return to your job and daily life, the transition will not be such a shock. Imagine how hard it will be to go back to your “old normal” if your “new normal” turns into a life where each day rarely, if ever, resembles the next.
Don’t stay confined to your 4 walls. If you are in one of the areas in this country where there is a stay at home order, don’t forget that there is still a whole-wide world out there.
Moderate exercise has been shown to improve mood, so it really is important to keep moving. So get out there and take a walk, get in a hike or a quick run.
What could be better than combing that with some fresh air and some sunshine? After all, soaking up the rays helps with your Vitamin D levels, which helps regulate mood and staves off depression.
Just make sure you’re sticking to the guidelines about staying 6 feet apart from others so your venture out and about keeps you safe and healthy.
Just because you aren’t able to throw a party or go to dinner at your favorite restaurant doesn’t mean you can’t still keep up with all the important people in your life. Thankfully, we live in the day and age when there are plenty of ways we can communicate with one another.
Texting, group chats, Facetime, Snapchat, Facebook, Skype, Netflix party….just to name a few. I know the internet and phone are just not the same as actually having in -person, physical contact with other people. But what is the alternative? Even if you are one of the fortunate ones who has loved ones with you in your home, after some time, you will probably miss those with whom you used to have contact: your parents, siblings, best friends?
None of us knows when life will get back to normal. But until it does, find ways to maintain your relationships and stay social. After all, we are social beings and are not meant to be isolated and alone.
Seeking the support of others can be one of the best things you can do. Talking to friends and family can be helpful. However, they aren’t professionals. And while they can be well-meaning and want the best for you, they don’t have the knowledge and training to help if you’re struggling with a major mental illness like depression, anxiety or having suicidal thoughts.
Good thing for you, we are in a day and time when reaching out for help has never been so easy. Just because you are stuck at home doesn’t mean you can’t get professional help. I now offer sessions over the phone or via video.
This is a stressful time of uncertainty and unlike anything any of us has ever experienced. Unfortunately have no idea how long this is all going to last. Remember, we are all in this together.
My hope is that this corona virus pandemic and the measures we are all taking to try and stay physically healthy does not come at the cost of our mental health. Please take care of yourselves and try to do some of the things I mentioned above.
And, if you need help, it is there. Call for help: (925) 788-8917 or book an initial session on my website:www.freedomtowellness.com