Caring for Your Mental Health in a Pandemic

Living with anxiety can make every day feel as though the world is about to end. Our bodies can make up imagined scenarios. They can also add stress to things that most would consider mundane. Sometimes we find ourselves ruminating over incidents in the past or paralyzed with fear of things looming in the future. Most of us who live with anxiety don’t need a scary event to feel a sense of doom. Often our bodies react before we even know what the danger is.

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But what happens when there is an actual reason for that sense of doom? Many of us, whether we live with anxiety or not, are learning the answer to that question thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. Some may fear for their health or the health of their loved ones. Many individuals are feeling fear and anxiety over the loss of a job or a drastic decrease in income. Others may be locked in a house with people who are triggering or even abusive to them. The change in schedule brought on by mandatory quarantines can be enough to cause some to feel fear or anxiety.

There are many ways that you take care of your mental health in a pandemic and tackle or ease the increased anxiety you may be feeling from COVID-19. These methods of handling anxiety are simple but powerful steps that you can take to calm your mind and find peace. It’s important to try each method to decide which one works best and is most sustainable for you rather than picking one and trying to force yourself to stick to it. As with anything, even improving your mental health a little has to be an enjoyable activity. All these tactics are less effective when they become a chore.

Related: Don’t Let Depression Get You Down ( Tips for Checking Your Mood) 

Using grounding exercises to improve mental health in a pandemic
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Using Grounding to Deal With Anxiety

The sudden change of staying in your home throughout the day can be enough to disrupt anyone’s life. For many of us, there is now the added stress of becoming a teacher, therapist, and many other duties. It’s not unexpected for many parents to begin to feel like things are getting out of control.

Grounding can be a great way to feel more in control of your life and care for your mental health in a pandemic. 
A few minutes of a grounding exercise each day is often all you need. It will help to clear your thoughts and feel in charge of things once again. It also gives you a minute to breathe and remind yourself that this pandemic will pass and that the stress you feel is only temporary.

There are many different grounding exercises that you can choose from. It is important to take the time to find one that works best for you and your lifestyle. A great example of a grounding exercise is going for a walk. Soaking in a warm bath, or even deep breathing exercises are other great options.

You can adapt many activities you are already doing to be a grounding exercise. Infusing intention into any activity that you do daily can help you to feel grounded without making any drastic changes. For example, your morning coffee could be a grounding exercise. Take time to enjoy the taste of the coffee. Think about your goals for the day. Consider what you may be grateful for that morning. It’s important that you take the time to tailor your grounding to your lifestyle. You can think of it kind of like “mindfully doing everyday things”.

Related: Getting Grounded as a Mom with Mental Illness ( Tips on Dealing with Anxiety and Stress) 

Using meditation to improve mental health in a pandemic
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Taking a Break from Stress with Meditation

There is no doubt that we are living through unprecedented times. It is important to realize the stress that this global pandemic is causing everyone. No matter what this quarantine may mean for you, it is important to find a break from the heaviness of it all from time to time.

Now, some will say “Oh I do that. I’m already halfway through the Netflix catalog”. I will agree with you that television and movies can be a great distraction. I often enjoy episodes of the Office or Golden Girls when my anxiety starts to get out of control.

Using a distraction isn’t always a great way to handle anxiety. It can be a temporary fix, but underneath it, all your body is still holding the tension and stress on pause. Once you stop the distraction the anxiety and stress often come back with a vengeance. Not to mention that anything with commercials comes with constant reminders of the pandemic anyway.

Meditation can be a great way to take a break from the stress of the world around you. It allows your mind and body to release the tension of the day and focus on, well, nothing. Don’t get discouraged by the idea of “nothing”. As a mom with ADHD and a full schedule I thought I could never find “nothing”. It turns out it’s nowhere near as hard as it sounds. In the end, though it took a little work, it was one of the best things I’ve done for myself!

There are many different forms of meditation that you can choose from to find one that works best for you. Some prefer guided meditations. They find them easier to follow along with and a little less unnerving than sitting in silence. Others enjoy the stillness of using something like nature sounds or meditation chimes. My favorite type of meditation right now uses binaural beats to make music. There are tons of great Spotify playlists and YouTube videos with binaural beats.

Related: The Best Apps to Learn Meditation to Treat Chronic Pain and Anxiety 

Sticking to a schedule can help improve mental health in a pandemic
Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Structure Your Day to Keep Anxiety Away

For some of us, life in quarantine can cause our schedules to change quite a bit. Some find themselves spending a lot of time on the couch, filling their days with more naps than usual. Others find themselves unable to sleep and stay up all hours of the night. More often than not, particularly as the quarantine drags on, time gets filled with a whole lot of nothing. Things like scrolling Facebook or watching too much TV begin to take over as ideas to fill time run out.

Research has shown that the further we get from our usual schedule the more likely we are to feel stress and anxiety. By sticking to some kind of schedule we can help ease the stress of the pandemic. In a way, it tricks our brains into thinking everything is business as usual rather than chaos.

It can be beneficial to get up at a certain time each day. Giving yourself a set bedtime each day is also a good idea. For families with kids, it can be helpful to set times for school, play, and so on.

Related: Five Quick Ways to Clear Negative Energy in the New Year 

self care is a great way to improve your mental health in a pandemic

Focusing on Your Needs

Adding a new hobby you’ve been wanting to try can be a good way to fill extra time in your day. It’s important to not stress yourself out over this though. If all you can manage during the day is a few episodes of Tiger King then that is enough.

Using your free time to learn a new skill can be a lot of fun. It shouldn’t be something that adds to the distress that this pandemic is causing. This time shouldn’t be about competition or comparison. It also shouldn’t be about finding a way to “side hustle” your way through.

Now, if you find yourself needing extra money and you have a skill you can use by all means go ahead. You should never feel inadequate though if you don’t find a way to be productive or profitable in your time.

There is no denying that this pandemic is a traumatic experience. Even during this trying time, it is important to do things to keep yourself healthy and in a good place mentally. Your mental health is every bit as important as your physical health. This can mean taking a few extra minutes for a face mask or painting your nails. It can mean reading a book you’ve been putting off or even listening to your favorite band.

Related: Five Quick Ways to Spring Clean Your Life ( with Free Printable Water Tracker) 

maintaining sleep health to improve mental health in a pandemic

Maintaining Sleep Health in a Pandemic

There is no doubt that pandemic anxiety is making us sleepless. The lack of structure in our lives can cause us to stay up all night or sleep in too late. Other times the shear stress of the unknown can cause sleepless nights.

It is important to find ways to improve your sleep health during this pandemic. It can be beneficial to all areas of your life, but it is a proven way to reduce stress and anxiety. When our brains aren’t well-rested they are less able to adapt, deal with stress, and ward off anxiety.

Having a set bedtime can be a great way to start improving your sleep health during this pandemic. Decreasing or stopping the use of cellphones at a certain time can make a huge difference in your sleep. Most phones and tablets offer a bedtime mode. With this mode activated the screen will go black and white at a certain time. This helps to reduce the blue light that reaches our eyes as we scroll before falling asleep.

Setting up a routine that you follow each night before bed can also be a great way to improve your sleep health. Doing things each night such as reading, a warm shower, or even meditation can be a great start. If you can stick to a regular bedtime routine your brain will begin to associate this routine with sleep. It helps the brain know when to start shutting down for maintenance each night, so to speak.
caring for mental health in a pandemic
All of these tips are great ways to help you improve mental health in a pandemic or at any time. As with any mental health tips, it is important to be mindful and find the ones that work for you. Coping skills can be incredibly helpful, but aren’t a one size fits all approach.
Some may enjoy things like mantras or gratefulness exercises while others feel like an idiot repeating things in a mirror. Certain people may find refuge in meditation while others cringe at the idea of sitting still that long.
It may be helpful to try one or two per week and keep a journal to track how you feel. This will help you determine what is working and what isn’t. It can also be a great way to help tailor any of these methods to better fit your life.

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