The past couple of weeks have been difficult for just about everyone. Hearing news about the number of deaths related to COVID-19 rising and hospitals being flooded with patients while running dangerously low on personal protective equipment is scary. And stay-at-home orders, while absolutely vital to slow the spread of the virus and protect those who may be compromised, don’t help with the increased levels of anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsions, and other mental illness related symptoms. During a time like this, when the world is hurting and everything seems dark, it becomes that much more important to focus on one’s mental health. For that reason, here is a list of tips to help.

1. Let Your Mind Rest

With all other activities and extra responsibilities being put to the side for the time being, whether it be sports or music lessons or even after school jobs for some, it can be easy for all of us to feel pressure to be as productive as physically possible. And while it’s true that these next few weeks (maybe months) are an opportune time to get ahead of the curve and take care of business, it’s also a time for rest and self care. Do not allow expectations of yourself to become unrealistic. It’s alright to miss a zoom meeting every now and then or to sleep in a little later than usual. As long as that doesn’t become a habit, cutting yourself some slack is more than okay. In fact, it might be essential.

2. Don’t Isolate Yourself

Part of the reason this time has been tough for so many is that seeing close friends, teachers, students, coworkers, and even some family members isn’t exactly encouraged. And while staying at home unless for essential business is the right thing to do, it is understandably upsetting. However, that shouldn’t keep us from interacting with loved ones in other ways. We are unbelievably lucky to have technology that allows us to stay in touch. Call up friends or family and have a conversation with them. Utilize face time so that it feels like there’s a real person behind the screen. Actually leave your room and spend time with those you are at home with. Being around those that care for you is one of the best ways to combat negative feelings.

3. Keep a Schedule

Being out of school or working from home can be tricky. Not being forced to sit at a desk or have specific time allotted to certain tasks allows for lethargy and makes work seem daunting. It is easy to allow responsibilities to pile up until they appear unmanageable. That is why it’s so vital to keep a schedule, even when stuck at home. Making sure to get a sufficient amount of good sleep and waking up early to start the day helps alleviate any stress of falling behind. Try writing down all the tasks for the day and assigning a few minutes or hours to each of them. Do a little bit of work each day so that it’s not all left for the weekend, right before teachers or bosses or whoever else starts doling out assignments for the next week.

4. Get Ready in the Mornings

Part of feeling good internally is taking care of yourself externally. Now that it’s suggested to spend time with only immediate family, it may seem useless to get out of pajamas. However, giving yourself the opportunity to make yourself feel good, whether that means fixing your hair, putting on a full face of makeup for an online class, or choosing a comfortable outfit, goes a long way. It allows for confidence and a sense of preparation and productivity.

5. Do Things That Are Good For Your Body

Physical health has a direct impact on mental health and vice versa. Eating healthy options allows for nourishment of the brain. Exercising releases endorphins and is a great way to reduce stress. Getting sunlight by going outside, whether it be just sitting in the backyard for a bit or going for a walk (while keeping a six foot distance from others, of course), triggers the creation of serotonin. Developing these healthy habits can go a long way when it comes to dealing with mental illness.

6. Limit Your Media Consumption

Watching the news and scrolling through Twitter or Instagram isn’t a crime. It’s good to stay informed and have the latest updates, but spending hours at a time on social media or staring at the television is not beneficial for anyone. There is no doubt that the situation in which we are all in is serious. Yes, this is a pandemic and it’s a benevolent thing to care. But worrying at the expense of your well-being simply isn’t worth it. Listening to the death tolls and reporters stressing that the worst is yet to come doesn’t necessarily make anxiety or feelings of helplessness any better. It is an unfortunate reality and we can’t help but want to fix the pain others are going through, but focusing only on that pain will lead to burn out and desperation. Instead, check your phone for a couple minutes throughout the day or watch the news to get your updates so that you may be aware of recent changes in regulations. Then continue on with the rest of the day. Fixating on and sitting in bad news is no way to better the situation. Also, keep in mind that pain is not comparable. Of course it is great to recognize privilege, but your struggle is just as valid as anyone else’s.

7. Help Others

Similarly to being around those that care for you, caring for others is an amazing way to feel better. Right now kindness and togetherness is how those of us who cannot offer medical expertise or money can better the situation. And while, of course, helping those around you isn’t the cure or absolute solution to achieving stable mental health, it does lift spirits. If you do decide to get take out, order from small business that may be struggling at this time. When stocking up at the grocery store until the next (carefully planned and quick) trip, be considerate of those who also need the basics (basically, don’t hoard). Show gratitude to essential workers that are risking their lives for us. Be respectful of the guidelines and rules that have been put in place. Staying at home and social distancing is how we save lives. It’s how we take care of each other. And taking care of each other really can cheer us up.

8. Don’t Be Afraid to Reach Out

Of course, this is not an all inclusive list and there are instances in which getting sunlight and keeping a schedule just isn’t enough. If you feel like you are in danger, please make it known to someone or have a consultation with your healthcare provider. The most important thing is that you stay safe, happy, healthy, and alive. Below are a few free hotlines that you can contact if you are experiencing these feelings:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
  • Crisis Text Line – Text HOME to 741741
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233
  • Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline – 1-800-422-4453
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

Hopefully, this list has provided some comfort or useful advice. Again, if your mental health is placing you in danger, reach out to someone. As we spend more time away from one another, dealing with the effects of COVID-19, always remember that you are not in this alone. You are loved. Be good to yourselves and others.

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