The world is smack in the middle of a distressing time in history.
Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) infection rates are surging by the day. Economies are at an all-time low. Governments are scrambling for ways to curb the novel pandemic while trying to sustain the livelihoods of their constituents. Many businesses are closing shops, and people across the globe are losing their jobs.
Anywhere we look, we are reminded of how the coronavirus has disrupted our lives. During these challenging times, stress can come at us from all directions. Fear and anxiety can sneak up on anyone, adults and children included.
While the implementation of public health measures like social distancing may be necessary to lower the spread of the infection, these can also make people feel lonely and disconnected.
What You’re Feeling is Valid
Experiencing unpleasant emotions during this global pandemic is entirely normal. You are not alone. All of us are taking the brunt of this crisis as it impacts our mental and emotional well-being.
Acceptance of the situation, paying attention to your emotions, and caring for your mental health is vital in these times. Exploring ways to take care of your inner well-being also allows you to help your family and friends to learn from your experience and help them deal with their struggles.
Before you take steps to manage your mental health, it’s important to acknowledge the ways stress can make a dent on your thought and behavioral patterns.
How Distressing Situations Can Affect Our Lives
The Center for Disease Prevention and Control highlights what pandemic-related stress can cause in people’s psyche and behavior:
- Worry and fear over one’s health, job/financial status, and vital support services
- Sleep problems
- Difficulty concentrating
- A shift in eating and sleeping habits
- Worsening of existing chronic health conditions and mental health issues
- Development of unhealthy coping mechanisms (e.g. frequent use of drug, alcohol, and other substances)
You may also experience changes in your behavior, including constant cleaning and disinfection of household items and surfaces for fear of viral spread; or instinctively checking websites for the latest updates.
People who are holed up in their homes while adhering to home quarantine measures may be prone to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
We All React Differently to Stress
Every individual has different coping mechanisms when putting through stressful circumstances. However, the CDC says that certain people may react more strongly to crisis times.
These people include:
- People who are at greater risk of chronic illnesses caused by Covid-19 (e.g. elderly individuals aged 65 and older and those with existing health conditions)
- Infants and children
- People looking after other family members
- Frontline workers (e.g. healthcare providers, retail clerks, and police)
- People with depression and other existing mental health conditions
- People who live alone
Working From Home Presents Challenges, Too
Many workers have been forced to work from the comforts of their home during the pandemic to prevent the risk of infection.
Although the work-from-home set-up may provide a new level of comfort and flexibility to some, remote work also poses unique challenges to our mental health.
Many employers don’t approve of remote work due to the possibility that without a physical supervisor, employees will slack off. However, work-from-home workers tend to overwork.
This is likely to happen when it gets harder to draw the line between work and personal life when you’re juggling both under one roof.
Too much work can be exhausting. Constantly thinking about tasks and deadlines even while you’re eating, washing dishes, tucking the kids to sleep, or watering the plants may take an incremental toll on your well-being.
At some point, you may feel overwhelmed by the demands of both domestic and work tasks at the same time. And some people may feel the need to work beyond their 8-hour shift as a receipt to show their co-workers that they’re being productive despite the change in work set-up.
Considering all the noise rising to the surface because of this pandemic, it’s important to take a step back and recalibrate your mindset and emotions. You may not have control over the development of the coronavirus situation outside, but you have direct power over your thoughts, feelings, and response.
How to Take Care of Your Inner Well-being in This Pandemic
Self-care should be everyone’s priority regardless of the roles they play in their homes, companies, and communities. As you take decisive actions to better care for your mental and emotional health, here are some tips you can follow to stay sane amid the noise.
- Stay informed (but limit your consumption of information). Being in the know is crucial in making informed decisions during this pandemic. Watch out for the latest news and updates in your community so you can stay informed about safety precautions you need to follow. However, too much information can lead to stress. Constant monitoring of news as they unfold can contribute to anxiety. Step away from news sources if you begin feeling overwhelmed. Consider minimizing your media consumption daily. Try limiting it to 30 minutes every day. Be mindful of what you share on social media to avoid causing unnecessary panic in others. Get your news from credible sources like legitimate news outlets and public health agencies.
- Focus on things under your control. Things like how long the pandemic lasts, the future of our communities after the virus subsides, and the behavior of others are all beyond us. Sometimes, we may find ourselves obsessing over possible answers and predicting future outcomes. But focusing on things we can’t control can fuel fear and anxiety. Every time you catch yourself in a loop of unpleasant thoughts, try to shift your attention to the things over which you have direct influence. You can’t control the rate of infection in your city, but you can certainly lower your risk. You can: 1. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. 2. Stay home and avoid crowds and gatherings. 3. Maintain a 6-feet distance from others when you’re outside for a grocery run. 4. Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands or when in public places. Get adequate sleep. 5. Eat healthily.
- Pen down your thoughts and feelings. It’s normal to be concerned about a lot of things around us. Journaling about your inmost thoughts, including your worries, can help ease your anxiety. Grab a pen and paper. Jot down the things you worry about that the pandemic is causing. Take a pause when you start getting overwhelmed. Next, identify potential solutions to these concerns. These don’t have to be perfect. Write down anything that’s at the top of your mind. Determine those that are under your control and focus on how you can realize them.Once you’ve weighed your options, create a concrete plan of action.
- Connect with your loved ones. Stay connected with your family and friends, wherever they may be and through any means possible. Talking out your concerns to your loved ones can help you process them and put them in perspective. Make sure to spend quality time with them regularly, as this can significantly boost your mood.
- Look after your body and spirit. There are plenty of ways to manage stress every day, including eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and exercise.
Below are other effective ways to protect your body and spirit during the pandemic:
- Practice self-compassion. Be kinder to yourself; avoid beating yourself up for feeling depressed or anxious. Rest as much as you can and don’t push yourself to work harder if you don’t feel well.
- Create a routine. Set specific schedules for work/school, meal times, and sleep. Establishing a routine and sticking to it helps enforce a clear and healthy boundary between your career/academic and personal life.
- Carve out time for your hobbies. Make crafts, read a book, watch your favorite sitcom, learn a new recipe, or play with the kids. Make time for anything that takes your mind off work/school.
- Go outside. Get some sun and fresh air. Take a stroll around the neighborhood. Just make sure to observe social distancing and other precautionary measures set by your local authorities.
- Stay active. Exercise helps relieve stress, anxiety, and boost your mood. Search for fitness videos or apps that offer guided exercises and classes online. There are also exercises you can perform without any equipment like bodyweight workouts and yoga.
- Dabble in relaxation practice. Relaxation techniques are also helpful in preventing stressors from throwing your nervous system off balance. Meditation, deep breathing, and yoga help you calm your mind and relax your muscles. If you want to get started with yoga and meditation, you can explore downloading yoga apps so you can bring the practice with you anywhere on your mobile device.