In addition to the threat to our physical health, The Covid-19 epidemic is presenting a danger to the mental health of everyone forced to practice extreme social distancing. Those who are already dealing with managing chronic mental health issues such as depression, generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, addiction, and autism may find maintaining the isolation and restrictions are causing an increase in their symptoms. However, we are all human, and the stress of trying to understand and stop the spread of this virus is creating emotional challenges for everyone.
Wearing protective gear and keeping appropriate physical distance from others when you go outside the home is essential and can provide a much-needed sense of control to protect yourself from infection. Going outside the home within your state’s guidelines also offers the opportunity to receive much-needed sunlight, fresh air, and exercise, all of which support emotional well-being.
If you live with others, setting the boundaries you need to avoid feeling resentful or claustrophobic is essential. The honeymoon period of hanging out together 24/7 might be ending soon, if it hasn’t already. Before you become angry or stressed out by forced closeness, consider setting reasonable boundaries with your family or roommates. Stay in touch with your feelings and communicate the limits or changes you need to keep the rules of engagement positive for everyone. It is a challenge to do this, because personality types differ, as do intimacy and communication needs. However, it can be accomplished with a healthy balance between the ” I matter” vs. “They matter” mentality.
Whether you live alone or with others, some coping strategies to lessen the emotional strain are;
- Stay connected to people by text, email, face-time, social media platforms, and phone calls throughout the day.
- Express your feelings about the restrictions being imposed to fight the spread of the virus. Share what strategies you are using to cope. Ask others how they are getting by to get ideas for yourself. Also talk about other topics unrelated to Covid- 19. Doing so reminds us that despite the changes we are experiencing, other aspects of life are still happening, and they are still essential to acknowledge and value.
- Ask for help if you need it. Knowing there are still ways people can be there for you helps lower anxiety.
- If you take medication, make sure you continue to stay consistent with taking it as prescribed.
- Do not watch the news all day. Watch enough to be informed. Too much exposure to repetitive, concerning information can be overwhelming and cause heightened anxiety. Watch a comedy, read or view intellectually challenging material, watch tv shows from your childhood, etc.
- If you are in therapy, stay in contact with your therapist. The emotional support is crucial, and the continuation of your prior therapy goals are still relevant to pursue. If your therapist is unavailable and you need immediate support, call a local mental health hotline. In a mental health crisis, go to the nearest emergency room.
- Create a routine to help structure your day. Include time for projects related to your home, your work, creativity, hobbies, and exercise. Do not stay in pajamas all day.
- Try out new activities for challenges to your brain.
- Start a journal to record your experience of social isolation. Write about fears, losses, and discoveries during the epidemic. Include writing about your goals for when this crisis is over.
- Offer help to someone. Becoming too self-absorbed heightens anxiety. Helping others gives purpose and raises self-esteem.
- Remember this crisis will be resolved. Information on how to stop the spread of the virus and how to treat those infected is occurring daily. The medical experts are making headway. We will get through this difficult time by working together. The result with be a renewed appreciation for each other and all that life has to offer.