Millions of people are currently facing mental health challenges due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. According to a recent survey report from the Centers for Disease Control, adults in the United States were found to have adverse COVID-19 related mental health conditions. The same report found that out of 5470 respondents, a whopping 40.9% exhibited symptoms of anxiety disorder, trauma-related behavior, depressive disorder, suicidal thoughts, and substance abuse. These numbers are significantly higher from the 2019 reports, showing just how much the current outbreak has affected people’s mental health.
With no signs of slowing the coronavirus pandemic anytime soon, it is essential that we do what can to improve our mental health and maintain our well-being. While there are no guaranteed ways to eliminate mental health challenges at this time, even little things we do can help to improve the way we think and feel about ourselves.
Here are a few tips to start conditioning our mental health for the better:
1. Learn to manage your expectations
With most of us stuck at home due to quarantine measures being in effect, you might feel an adjustment period once you start feeling unproductive. Even with work-from-home settings, people are experiencing unprecedented productivity, and that is perfectly alright.
The pandemic brings a lot of cognitive and emotional load to everyone, and recognizing that is the first step you should take to improve your mental health. Acknowledge that at least in the short term, you will have trouble producing at a level you’re used to. You might have difficulty concentrating or coming up with ideas you were so used to before, and that is okay. Distractions and low motivation are common during a pandemic.
It will take time before you completely adapt to the new normal, so try not to be too hard on yourself. Set realistic goals and do what you can to achieve them without pressuring or overexerting yourself.
2. Learn to control your stress triggers.
It is quite easy to get stressed just by watching the news and seeing how the situation has worsened in some areas. To improve your mental health, you need to try to avoid getting unnecessary stressful thoughts. One of the best practices in managing distress is to calmly identify what thoughts or sensations led to those feelings. These thoughts (worrying about the future, stressing out about not being able to concentrate) and feelings (worry, sadness, frustration) can feed into negative emotions and bring you into a state of anguish and discomfort if not handled properly.
Once you start to feel the symptoms of distress, try to break through by reducing components of what is stressing you out. For instance, you can force yourself to remember happy thoughts to combat the negative ideas in your head. If you have physical symptoms such as jitters and an upset stomach, try to regain control by taking in deep breaths.
3. Carry on with your routines.
Sticking to a routine can help manage anxiety. Try to create a new routine that can better suit the current reality. By following a consistent program of activities, you are putting yourself in a good place by adjusting to the new normal.
Some routines that you did before the pandemic might not be possible anymore because of lockdown rules. Replace them with more comfortable activities, preferably those that make you happy, to increase your positive experiences on a daily basis. However, if your previous routine included medical assistance such as ketamine treatment or targeted therapy, it is best to consult with medical professionals on how to continue in these trying times.
4. Maintain connections with other people.
With most of the world put in isolation by quarantine protocols, it’s easy to feel alone. However, technology has allowed several options to stay connected during the pandemic. You can use a dozen apps to video message people and even set up virtual meetings. Keep connected with friends and family to maintain a sense of relationship. No matter how introverted you are, a sense of connection is necessary to maintain a healthy mind and body.
It is important to build a strong foundation for your mental health, and you can do that by making sure you exercise, eat healthy food, practice good sleeping habits, and avoid indulgences like alcohol, at least in the meantime. Doing these things will significantly lower your stress levels and help you to better regulate your thoughts and feelings.
Look at and process the things around you one day at a time to avoid overwhelming yourself. Focus on things you can control to give you a better focus. By embracing healthy habits and putting in the effort to maintain your well-being, you are helping yourself get better.