Ideas for Keeping Your Mental Health Protected During COVID-19

Everyone reacts to stressors differently. COVID-19 certainly comes with many reasons to be filled with anxiety and fears. The good news is that there are several things you can do to minimize your stress and make the most out of your time at home.

Here are some methods to help you cope with stress, limit your anxiety/fears, and enjoy your time at home.

1. Use the precautions that have been recommended so you are confident you are doing all you can to minimize your risk. No social gatherings/stay home, if you feel unwell stay home, wash hands frequently for 20 seconds, do not touch your face, disinfect common areas, use gloves and masks as needed (using caution to not cross-contaminate), get in and out of the grocery/retail stores quickly, keep 6’ distance from others whenever out, call your doctor if you feel unwell before going to a doctor or ER (unless an actual emergency), cover your cough/sneeze, and so on.

2. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting. Limit your exposure to news and the topic of COVID-19 to 30 minutes daily in order to obtain necessary information. Avoid social media with toxic interactions and information. Also be aware of what you put onto social media, ask yourself if this is a necessary and helpful post?

3. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Don’t forget many stores offer online ordering with curbside pick up so you don’t even have to go in the stores. Or there are services like Instacart where they deliver the groceries to your door.

4. Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy, especially those you normally wouldn’t have the time to partake in.

5. Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling. Use Zoom, Google Hangouts, Facetime, or any other virtual call apps to talk with friends and family-most are free and easy to set up. You can just chat, play games such as trivia, charades or Pictionary, do a themed call such as 80’s or black tie, or have a cocktail hour. Be creative and have fun with it. Don’t forget to include your kids and let them chat with their friends too.

6. Do a “worry drop.” Write out all your fears in a journal until your anxiety has dropped by half.

7. Make a daily list of what is going well and remember the things that are going well.

8. Reach out and check on at least one person each day who is a loved one, friend or acquaintance.

9. Create a sense of normalcy and routine in your day.

10. Take a moment each day to focus on the big picture.

11. Accept that some days you may not be “okay” and roll with your emotional wave.

“The whole meaning of anxiety is that it is uncertain, which means that it always includes the possibility that the best will happen,” Belling says. “Try to remember that anxiety is a blend of fear and hope, and see if you can keep the hope part in mind too.”

Catherine Belling, Ph.D.

12. Allow yourself and your loved ones to have their own emotional process.

13. Get outside, even in your yard, and enjoy time with loved ones. Going for a walk or jog is fine. Just keep the 6’ rule in mind and avoid high traffic trails/areas.

14. Organize your home and declutter. After all, we are often guilty of saying “if I only had time to do this” and now you have time! You’ll feel accomplished!

15. Find online self-care and spirituality support (yoga classes, meditation app, group meditation, remote religious services, etc.) Also focus on getting good sleep.

16. Talk with a therapist on a remote phone session. Get a referral for a therapist if you feel that you are needing emotional support at this time. Stay connected to your support system.

17. Have quiet time in your home daily in order to give each other emotional and physical space.

18. Engage in a hobby (reading, crafts, something sports-related, etc.) Maybe there is something you always wanted to learn such as how to knit, a new language, how to do sign language, how to paint. Look up YouTube video tutorials and get started!

19. Think about a way to support community members through service of any form. Especially essential workers. Put up thank you signs in your windows, on your lawn, send thank you cards, and send gift cards or meals.

20. Support local businesses: shop online from local retailers, get takeout food, buy gift cards for future use (or send them to essential workers), etc.

21. Watch stupid TV… binge watch a show, or 2, or 3! Have fun with it and do a Zoom call with friends to watch an episode together or do a recap and chat about the show.

22. Create some form of structure for your children who are home from school.

23. Do not send unproductive posts, emails, or texts of panic and alarm to others.

24. Don’t forget to laugh — humor can be the best medicine.

Ultimately you want to find opportunities to amplify positive and hopeful stories and positive images of what is happening in the world. Allow yourself to celebrate small wins and give yourself some grace. It is okay to feel how you are feeling right now.

For more resources: visit Mental Health America

Sources: Psychology Today: Caring for Our Mental Health During COVID-19 by Sarah A. Benton MS, LMHC, LPC, AADC

Mental Health America: Mental Health And COVID-19 – Information And Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)