With the ever evolving situation of the novel Coronavirus, it can be hard to feel any sense of security, safety or wellbeing. This is a time filled with fear and worry for our loved ones, the world and our future. As someone who regularly manages depression and anxiety, I know first hand how hard this situation can hit someone who is already sensitive to emotional struggles when things get a bit overwhelming.
Now is the time, more than ever to take care of ourselves, not just physically and medically, but also mentally and emotionally. Here are 5 strategies to practice self care in the midst of this crisis:
Healthy Habits and Routines
With things shutting down, and workplaces changing policies, you may find you’re now working from home, or spending a lot more time alone. Try to build and maintain routines as best you can. Continue to wake up at the same time, have you’re morning meal, practice your daily hygiene and self care to help alleviate the feeling chaos and disorder this ordeal can cause.
Also, sunshine is not canceled. Spend a few minutes a day taking in the daylight and the warmth. Not only is it mood boosting, but sunlight can help boost your bodies natural defenses. No, it may not kill the virus, but a strong body and spirit can fight it.
A common coping mechanism may be to distract yourself with work. This can be effective, but don’t let it keep you from eating regular meals, interacting with your support system, or managing your other responsibilities. Keep water nearby to help you stay hydrated, and take breaks to move your body and stretch.
Another thing to remember is to avoid true isolation. Yes, we should keep our distance to keep each other safe, but hearing the voice of a loved one, seeing their face in Facetime, Skype, or Facebook Messenger, can help soothe stress and redirect thoughts away from doom and fear. This is especially important for those of us with a preexisting mental health condition as isolation can severely worsen symptoms.
One resource that is still available while drop in centers and social facilities close their doors, is the “SethLine” provided by 9Muses Art center. This is a Warm listening line for anyone to call and simply connect with another human being. If you’re feeling like you have no one to talk to, feeling overwhelmed, or just want to vent, Sethline listeners will talk with you and empathize with you through this. They’ve extended they regular hours to be available from 10am to 10pm Mon-Fri, and 12pm-5pm on Sat, as a service for our community.
Be conscious of what you’re eating. Avoid empty calories, such as chips and cookies, which are typically craved during stressful times. These kinds of foods can worsen anxiety because of blood sugar spikes and crashes. Also if possible minimize caffeine. Try less in a day, or green tea as an alternative since it also has calming properties. Nourishing your body with good quality food can help to maintain a more stable emotional state in the midst of this.
Another form of distraction can be social media. Many articles have already mentioned how social media-free days can help alleviate depression and anxiety, but now more than ever, we need to evaluate what content we consume on a daily basis. Limit yourself to only a few minutes of scrolling, choose to follow things that are factual and uplifting, and allow yourself updates about the situation only a couple times per day. Listening to the news all day and hearing the commentary on the state of the virus can ramp up feelings of fear and unrest. Take a step back, remember to look to credible news sources for the facts about what’s happening. The CDC’s website is frequently refreshed with the most up to date information about the virus and how to best handle prevention, exposure, and emergencies.
And though laughter is always good for reducing negative feelings, be aware that memes can often downplay the seriousness of the reality. Work to find the balance between being present in this time, while also not giving in to hysteria and paranoia. The best way to stay safe is to remain calm and informed.
Rest and Hope
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed even with efforts to take care of yourself, know that it’s ok to feel that way. We’re all facing this and it’s an unprecedented event in our lifetime. We’re all doing our best to see this through the best we can, so be gentle with yourself and others. Take the days moment by moment if you have to, writing small to do lists and take breaks between tasks. Sometimes having more time than usual to get things done can be disorienting. But allowing yourself moments of rest can help keep you grounded and motivated as this thing disrupts our sense of normal.
Most of all, don’t lose hope. The future is uncertain right now but, as it is with anything in life, hope is vital to having success and recovery from any crisis.