I know I can’t be the only person here who has some form of mental illness. This pandemic, along with the isolation that comes with it and the uncertainty of everything, is taking its toll on my mental health. I thought I would share some tips here that I’ve gathered from around the web to help stem the anxiety, loneliness, and depression that can come with the need to self-isolate and distance yourself socially.
Maintain a Schedule
Many resources say that maintaining a schedule or routine can help your brain see a sense of normalcy. When your brain sees normalcy, it is less likely to react anxiously or adversely.
In an online resource, the University of Alabama at Birmingham noted maintaining day-to-day normal activities can help during uncertain times.
By practicing consistency, those affected are more willing to benefit from the normalcy a schedule can provide.
Limit Media Intake
Social media will be the bane of my existence, honestly. I talked a little bit about the dangers of false claims and misinformation, and how social media plays a large role in that, in my most recent YouTube video and podcast episode. You can become stuck in a scrolling cycle, and most of the news out there right now has a lot to do with COVID-19, statistics, deaths, and infections. That can be harmful to someone with mental illness, especially if they also get stuck in a cycle of worry.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends those worried about the coronavirus or its impacts take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories, including social media.
Know You’re Not Alone
Social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation. We live an age now where we have access to social means of communication at the tips of our fingers (just remember to sanitize your phones, people) and can reach out to friends and family without having to leave our homes. Don’t let your social distancing isolate turn into social isolation.
Therapist Teri Murphy uses the social media platform Instagram to provide mental health access to those who may feel worried about the virus. Using the hashtag #AskATherapist, Murphy answers questions from those seeking advice on how to cope with anxiety.
It is common to feel lost right now, and I definitely feel it, too. If you need support, don’t feel afraid to ask. You’re not alone and your feelings are valid. You shouldn’t feel lost or alone while you have access to support. This support also doesn’t have to come from a professional. Maybe you just need someone to tell you that everything will be okay. Maybe you just need someone to talk to. Reach out to those you trust - just don’t leave the house while you do it.
Many universities, such as University of Montevallo and Jacksonville State University, are providing individual consultation with the student body by phone.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness released tips on its website Friday for those with mental illness. These tips include asking for accommodations for therapy sessions and prescribed medications. NAMI recommends asking health care providers about online or electronic therapy sessions and gaining access to a 90-day supply for prescribed medications as opposed to a 60- or 30-day supply.
Experts who wrote for Forbes Magazine have said you should curb the fear by practicing gratitude and taking part in “old school” ways of socializing with those you live with. These include calling and playing board games.
Curb the fear of not knowing with gratitude and appreciation for what currently exists in your life and the opportunities made available to you thus far. Affirm and write a list of what is good right now and what you hope things will be like in 3, 6 and 12 months’ time, regardless of the uncertainty.
Take advantage of the additional time afforded to you, by spending quality time with loved ones. Resorting to ‘old school’ methods of socializing like making a call rather than texting, or playing a board game, rather than being on a device.
Stay Positive and Media Aware
Going back to what I said about social media, those experts at Forbes also brought up some good points. Just because the pandemic is happening doesn’t give us the right to be negative about the situation and toward others. We’re seeing a lot of selfishness in the world right now, and that needs to be reigned in and turned into positivity and selflessness.
You also need to be aware of the media you consume. If the news is overwhelming you, don’t be afraid to turn it off. Don’t get your news from social media - including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Get your information from reputable sources like the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and the health authority for your area.
Turn CORONA Into a Positive Acronym
This particular section from the Forbes article focuses more on being positive for the children, but I think it can apply to anyone regardless of age.
C - remain Calm . We function best when we aren’t anxious or stressed out. We can think more clearly and plan better.
O- be Open . Be honest with yourself and your children. If you have children, make sure that you speak with them honestly in an age-appropriate manner and separate fact from feeling.
R - be Responsive . Respond to your needs and the needs of your children as quickly as possible. This is especially important if you are working from home to reduce frustration and ensure that your needs, as well as theirs, are being met.
O - be Organized. Plan your day and make sure everyone in your house is included. Plan activities, downtime, lunchtime - however you need to do it to make you feel in control.
N - Negotiate. You are allowed to negotiate with your child and yourself, you just have to be realistic, fair and consistent . If you’re struggling with something yourself, give yourself a negotiation! For example, if you’re struggling to keep up with your work or you’re losing focus, say you will finish the current task - or work for a certain amount of time - and then you’ll take a break. The same can be applied to children, especially the young ones. They don’t understand the idea that yes, mommy might be at home, but she’s still working (I understand this one 100%). So, it’s okay to negotiate with them! Tell them, for example, after you take that phone call or at a specific time, you’ll be taking a break and you can play a game together or do something else fun that they’ll enjoy. Remember, their routine and schedule has been thrown off just as much as yours.
A - be Active . Find ways to fit some active activity in your day. This one applies even if you don’t have children. It isn’t good to sit at home all day doing nothing - or sitting behind a computer screen working. Take a break every hour or so and just get up and walk around. Stretch your legs, back, sides, and keep your body moving.
Boost the Immune System
Stress and anxiety aren’t good for the immune system, and we need to boost our immune system in any way we can right now. Do your best to stay calm, take your vitamins (if you want), make sure you’re taking your medication, and maybe give meditation and mindfulness a try! It’s been said that meditation can help reduce stress and boost the immune system. You’re stuck at home, anyway, so why not give it a shot?
Tips for Anxious Parents from the Forbes Experts
- Talk to your children about COVID-19, but stick to the facts. In my home, my daughter calls it the sickness and understands that a lot of people are getting sick. She also understands that a lot of things are closed right now to keep the sickness from spreading.
- Keep active. This helps boost the immune system and also keeps your body healthy.
- Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news about the pandemic.
- Stay healthy; eat well-balanced meals, get plenty of sleep and don’t forget to take deep breaths.
- Talk to people you trust about your concerns and feelings.
- Plan the day ahead the night before, choosing 2-3 things you would like to achieve the following day. (Be flexible when choosing and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t achieve it, remember it can always be set the next day)
Tips for Supporting Children from the Forbes Experts
- Create a routine; ensuring children get up and go to bed at the same time
- Timetable physical activities as well as nature related
- Factor in space, clearing your living room or hallway to make more room
- Use recommended nursery/school programs
- Reinforce designated break, nap and snack times
- Connect with family and friends; this creates an atmosphere of doing and giving. End the evening checking in with elderly and vulnerable family members during these uncertain times
- Download educational games that will help support your child’s development (manage their time on Ipads/ phones)
Music is Powerful
As witchy people, we know that music can be a powerful tool for us to use during our rituals. Music can also be a powerful tool in our homes, in general, to uplift our spirits and bring a peaceful mindset. Play some music in the background of your day. Use Pandora, Amazon Music, or whatever you have at your disposal. There are also a lot of free music resources available on YouTube that have songs that are hours long. This one is my favorite and I actually purchased the track through BandCamp.
I know by now we’re all tired of hearing about the pandemic, but I felt like we needed a bit of uplifting information about how to protect our minds from getting too fuzzy and muddled with information. I hope you’re all staying well and safe, and I pray for the health and wellbeing of each of you.