As borders close, nations declare emergencies, and economies grind to a halt, the panic surrounding COVID-19 is becoming increasingly heightened. You’ve likely read all about the importance of hand washing, social distancing, and healthy eating during a global pandemic. But what hasn’t received as much attention is the importance of caring for your mental health — so let’s discuss a few ways you can keep your mind calm during anxiety-inducing events.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 U.S. adults experiences a mental health condition annually. That’s about 47.6 million people that are affected every year. Add the looming threat of a global pandemic and it’s not only a recipe for heightened anxiety, isolation, and depression — it’s a rational response. Your brain is warning you of a very real threat, even though you might not be as much at risk as others. But remember, you’re not alone in this. Your friends, family, and coworkers are likely experiencing bouts of anxiety as well. Reach out to them regularly — a solid community is more important than ever.
Staying calm is much easier said than done, but there are a few tried-and-true practices that can help lessen anxious thoughts and feelings. Start by writing a list of things that you know work for you during stressful situations. This could be journaling, reading, exercising, meditating, listening to music or a podcast. Whenever you feel your heart rate increasing and your anxiety on high alert, go through your list and practice whatever is available to you at that moment.
If you feel yourself having a panic attack, Healthline.com offers several tips for riding it out, including deep breathing, closing your eyes, light exercise, and using muscle relaxation techniques.
Prepare, but don’t panic. Before you go on with your search, ask yourself what you are looking to get out of it. It’s important to stay informed, but some people are far more affected by what they read than others, so set boundaries for yourself before you dive into the news and know when you’re nearing them. Additionally, make sure you’re limiting your search to reliable sources like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Knowing when to unplug is key. One way to do this is simply to give yourself a time limit on search engines and social media channels. Once you reach that time limit, pick up a book, call a friend, or step outside for some fresh air.
Across the country, health officials are asking people to self-quarantine. That’s why many major events like SXSW and Coachella are being canceled or rescheduled. But self-quarantine doesn’t mean you have to lose touch with the outside world. Call your friends and family, communicate with your coworkers, send your grandparents an email. Staying in touch and socializing is important for your mental health, especially in a time where Vox predicts COVID-19 could trigger a “loneliness epidemic.”
If you have a therapist, now is a good time to reach out about scheduling a (remote) appointment. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, feeling stressed about COVID-19 is perfectly normal, but do remember tips to keep your mental health in tip-top shape.