7 Mental Health Tips for Coping with COVID-19

In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, we are facing a lot of change. As humans, we want concrete facts, plans, and certainty. But a lot is unknown in the world right now, and the changes being implemented around the country — including in the state of Ohio — to prevent the spread of disease are upending many of the routines and services to which people are accustomed. There is also increased worry about personal health and the health of loved ones. In times like these, feelings of stress, anxiety, and hopelessness can run more rampant than the virus itself.

People in recovery are especially affected when routines are changed and support meetings, appointments, and services are canceled.

Here are Adams Recovery Center’s suggestions for coping and creating a sense of normalcy during this time.

Do What You Can to Help

It is important for all of us to do our part and follow the guidelines encouraged by the WHO, CDC, physicians, and public health officials. That means being conscious of basic hygiene habits, such as proper, frequent hand-washing for 20 seconds and covering coughs and sneezes with tissues or the insides of our elbows. Small things can make a huge impact on everyone around us! Social distancing is also vital. Stay home as much as possible and limit interaction with those outside of your immediate household. By doing these things, we can all help limit the spread of the virus.

Maintain Routine

Though it is difficult to continue life completely as normal, it is important to adhere to a routine as much as possible. Continue your normal wake/sleep patterns, daily household chores and tasks, and other healthy habits. Eat healthfully and drink plenty of water. Though some of your habits might need modifications, that does not mean you cannot continue them. For instance, if your gym is closed, look into at-home workouts. Sober support meetings may be canceled, but many are hosting online meetings, forums, and videos. It might take some extra effort, but it’s crucial to stick with the healthy habits that support good mental health.

Limit Media Consumption

In times of crisis, it is easy to become wrapped up in news and media coverage. Though it’s understandable to want current information, seeking constant updates can lead to increased stress and anxiety. Social media can also contribute to this, especially when rumors and posts are shared with no basis in fact or reality. It is important to evaluate how media consumption makes you feel and what modifications you might need to make. It is absolutely okay to stop watching the news and to take a break from social media (and even delete the apps from your phone). You can stay informed by periodically checking official sources at set times once or twice a day rather than becoming overwhelmed by a constant influx of information and opinion.

Get Outside (Responsibly!)

One current advantage is that the weather is improving, and spring is right at our doorstep. Going outside to take a break and get some fresh air can have a huge impact on mental health and overall well-being. Taking a walk, going for a run, taking a hike, or just sitting out in the sunshine all help us reset and decompress. Right now, it is important to avoid crowded areas, but time outside in open spaces is safe, healthy, and encouraged.

Maintain Connections with Loved Ones — with Boundaries!

Connecting with support systems over phone calls, video chats, and text messaging is an effective way to maintain relationships while practicing social distancing. Just because we cannot physically be with our loved ones does not mean we cannot still spend quality time with them. Spending time talking to those we care about provides healthy outlets and support. Of course, it is important to set boundaries in these conversations. If people want to focus excessively on discussing the virus and you find that distressing, make sure you communicate that is not something you wish to discuss right now. There is nothing wrong or selfish about this request. It is also important to communicate your desire for social distancing to those who choose to ignore the recommendation and get together. Each interaction increases the risk of exposure for both you and your loved ones, so holding firm to your boundaries is important.

Practice Gratitude

When everything feels like it’s going wrong, take time to practice gratitude and recognize the brighter moments in life. This will be easier on some days than on others, but even a simple acknowledgment of “I woke up healthy today” or “I have a safe roof over my head” can shift our perspectives and alleviate stress. Try making a daily list of ten things for which you are grateful. This could even be a meaningful family activity in which everyone shares and discusses their lists. Gratitude practice has been shown to encourage positive thinking and help maintain a proper perspective on life.

Communicate When You Need Help

Even if you follow the suggestions above, you might still feel anxious and overwhelmed. If you do, then reach out to your support system and let them know how you are feeling. If that is not enough, there are professionals available who can help walk you through this. You can utilize the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) to see what services are available in your area, or look into telecommunication apps and services to talk with a professional via text or video chats.

The coming days and weeks will be challenging for all of us. But if we follow the guidelines and stick to our healthy habits, we’ll get through this … together!