SALT LAKE CITY – Infectious disease outbreaks, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, can be frightening and can affect our mental health more than we think. While it is important to stay informed and help get advice from trusted sources, there are also many things we can do on our own to support and manage our well-being during these times.
Everyone can agree that the coronavirus pandemic was a stressful time. While many try to follow standard protocols to reduce the spread of the virus, such as wearing masks and social distancing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say these recommendations may be the very things that lead to feelings of depression, isolation, loneliness and anxiety. .
Here are some steps you can take to keep your mental health on track during this time.
Cultivate a daily routine
When life and its circumstances are unstable, having a daily routine is one of the best ways to stabilize and help us feel grounded, according to Dr. Gladys Pearson, director of the Research Center for Musculoskeletal Science and Sports Medicine. This doesn̵
Know where and how to get treatment
Knowingly, we may know we are healthy. But subconsciously, we may experience underlying underlying anxiety about when or if we (or someone we love) get sick. Not to mention, if there is any uncertainty about where and how to get treatment, it can add further stress to everything else. If you or a loved one falls ill, be sure to bookmark some of these resources to stay up to date:
- Coronavirus.utah.gov: Here you can find information on everything COVID-19 – from mental health resources, to general (factual) information, to all updates – in the state of Utah.
- Valley Behavioral Health Telehealth: This Salt Lake County-based behavioral health company currently offers remote therapy by phone and drug delivery via ValleyRX. Regardless of whether COVID-19 is related or not, this is an important resource for providing you and your loved ones with any kind of mental health help.
- 211utah.org: Here you can link to helpful resources regarding mental health, substance use, and emergency childcare services.
- CDC: The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is one of the best resources for real updates on COVID-19. Both a local and national resource, check the CDC for any updates or questions.
- WHO: The World Health Organization is another reliable, valid and accurate resource for all COVID-19 updates.
Make sure you bookmark these resources or post them on your fridge so you never feel unsure where to get support.
Isolate yourself, but stay connected
Taking care of your mental health while staying at home is of prime importance. Many of us spend a lot more time at home and many of our normal social activities are no longer available. While isolating yourself (especially if symptoms occur) is of the utmost importance, the UK’s Mental Health Foundation says it is equally important to stay in touch with our friends and loved ones to avoid depression and loneliness. If you ever feel alone, contact us. You’re probably doing the person on the other side a huge favor too.
Get creative with the way you connect
While most of us are familiar with today’s most common connection methods – social media, phone calls, video chat tools like Zoom and Skype – it can get a little mundane after a while. During these times of isolation, we can actually enjoy ourselves by connecting in new and creative ways.
Try some new ways to connect to keep things fun and fresh:
- To write letters. Go back in time to how our grandparents used to connect. Try writing notes or letters and send them by post or drop them on your friends’ doorstep.
- Drive-by. For birthdays, parties, or just for fun, many people do “drive-by”, in which you walk past a person’s house to visit it from afar.
- Digital parties. Throw a digital party, whether for a birthday, sports game or even to cook dinner together. The digital age has arrived and we can now host and attend parties through video chat platforms such as Zoom, which can accommodate up to 100 people with the basic version.
- Online workouts. There are many yoga and fitness instructors offering classes via Zoom or Instagram and Facebook Live. In this format, you will be able to train together with your teacher and friends as if you were with them in real life.
Actively manage your well-being
It is impossible to pour from an empty cup. Therefore, be sure to actively work to keep your cup full. This means getting a good night’s sleep, drinking plenty of water, eating healthy foods, and exercising. Luckily for us Utahites, we have access to beautiful secluded areas for hiking, biking, running, and resting in a hammock between a couple of trees. If you’re feeling down, isolated, or stressed out, going out into the beautiful Wasatch Mountains will almost guarantee to get you back to feeling good.
Stick to reliable sources for the facts and limit time on social media
What we consume and how we consume it greatly affects our outlook. Do your best to avoid speculation and seek reliable sources on the outbreak.
It’s okay to feel overwhelmed as we read all the negative news these days. If you have experienced trauma or mental health problems in the past, suffer from a long-term physical health condition, or fall into one of the other groups that makes you more vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus, be aware of the sources of information you choose to consume. With all the extra time we have in and at home, it can also be very tempting to scroll through social media without thinking, where we can fall victim to the consumption of inaccurate and distorted information. Try using a social media monitoring app, such as Moment, which will monitor and limit the time spent on your accounts.
Know that this will pass
Remember that change is the only constant. Awareness expert Steven Aitchison said, “Emotional pain is not something that should be hidden and should never be talked about. There is truth in your pain, there is growth in your pain, but only if it is first brought out.”
Awareness is the first step. As licensed clinical social worker Allison Abrams states in an article for Psychology Today, don’t be afraid to embrace your shadows, acknowledge the existence of your pain, because only then can the healing process begin. If you need additional support, specialized therapists are available.
Stay grounded, stay strong, and take care of your mental health during this time.