6 Tips On How To Protect Your Mental Health During The Coronavirus Pandemic
The outbreak of the coronavirus has set the entire world into a state of uncertainty. With constant ‘breaking news’ updates, the 21-day national shut down and rising numbers of infected people, it’s understandable why many of us are feeling anxious and stressed out.
“It is important to note that increased levels of stress, concern and anxiety are normal reactions to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic exacerbates feelings of uncertainty and makes one acutely aware of the wellbeing of themselves, their children, family, and the community at large,” says counselling Psychologist and SACAP (South African College of Applied Psychology) Head of Teaching and Learning, Lauren Martin.
Protecting your mental health
Right now, we’re all being encouraged to move more while in isolation but just as we’re getting in some much-needed movement, we need to exercise our minds- and Industrial Psychologist and SACAP Management and Leadership Academic Programme Developer, Ashley Motene, agrees. “During this time, your psychological and emotional wellbeing needs as much protection as your physical health if you want to maintain optimal work performance,” she says.
So whether you’re feeling anxious, scared, angry or completely helpless, know that you are not alone — we’re all in this together. We encourage you to take a deep breath, do some mindful movements and follow these expert tips on how to improve your emotional and mental wellbeing.
Limit your screen time
“While trying to remain informed about what the best way forward is in all possible scenarios, misinformation, information overload and social media can promote a downward spiral,” says Lauren. Try to keep your social media time to a few minutes a day, and when you are online, try to interact with accounts that bring you joy and won’t be adding to your stress.
Get info from reliable sources
It’s great to stay clued up on what is happening but there’s just so much happening all the time. And when you add in the misinformation, it can be difficult to discern what is fact and what is a WhatsApp chain message. Lauren advises reducing your social media presence and only referring to reputable resources to remain updated on relevant and correct information.
Often when we need self-care the most, we tend to not prioritise it. And right now, we could all use a little bit of extra me-time as we try to adjust to the changes in our lives, as well as the worldwide changes. “Having an outlet and recharge moment built into our routines is important. When you feel least like doing it, this is when you should. This could be exercise, healthier eating, routine sleep, mindfulness exercises, religious acts — whatever your preference, make it a priority,” she says. If you’re not exactly sure what self-care entails, try out #WH21daychallenge. Each day, you’ll have a workout or mindful exercise to complete.
Stay in contact with loved ones
Missing human interaction? Well, there’s an app for that, in fact, there’s many. While you may not be able to physically spend time with your loved ones in person, it’s important that we stay connected — virtually at least. Keeping in touch with family and friends will also help give you a sense of normalcy and also provide support for when you’re struggling. Apps like Houseparty (you can play team games on here) and Marco Polo allow you to have digital get-togethers, it will almost feel like your bestie is right next to you!
Finding a routine
“Routine for both you and your children is needed when there has been a significant change in regular routine. Trying to balance life responsibilities with children is challenging — changing how you approach this mentally gives rise to many rewarding opportunities,” explains Lauren.
If you’re working from home, having a routine can definitely make the transition from office to home a lot easier. That doesn’t necessarily mean putting on your full business suit but it could mean at least making sure you get out of your pyjamas. Ashley also advises the following:
- Allow yourself time to adjust and identify the excitement in this the new normal way of working more virtually or differently as your organisation tries to stay afloat.
- Give yourself grace on the days that are harder or less controllable even if, as a mom, you need to have Paw Patrol or Baby Shark as a muted backdrop to your Zoom work meetings.
- Be without fear of perceived collegial judgment when working unseen but also offer help or request support from your team members ahead of deadlines
- Find space every day to de-stress, exhale and nurture your mental or emotional wellbeing.
Learn to let go
It’s human nature to want to control reduce and minimize discomfort. However, with the pandemic, there is no certainty or predictability and therefore controlling discomfort is not possible. In fact, trying to control the discomfort often brings more discomforts as we are stuck in our heads, focused on our thoughts and trying to control how we feel, Lauren explains.
Instead, she advises that we learn to acknowledge our discomforts without needing to change them or control them, allows us the headspace to focus on anything and everything else. She says that this allows having the headspace to focus on what is in our control like our behaviours, reaching our goals, spending quality family time, self-care.
If you or a loved one is struggling with anxiety and depression, you can contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group on 011 234 4837 or the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567