Tips to Manage Your Mental Health During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Mask wearing, temperature checks, disinfectant wipes flying off the shelves like they’re going out of style, the list of health and sanitation measures put in place to combat the spread of the coronavirus seems to go on and on!
While more and more people continue to return to work as states reopen, the way we go about our lives is far from what it was just a few months ago. Once mundane tasks as simple as grabbing a loaf of whole grain from the bread aisle have since become riskier endeavors that require planning and contemplation. How many people are around? Is everyone wearing a mask? Should I circle back once more people have cleared out?
These kinds of inner dialogues help us avoid getting sick, but the constant thoughts surrounding the sheer number of steps we can take to avoid the coronavirus can be mentally exhausting. In fact, in a recent survey conducted by Healthline, 49% of those surveyed showed some sign of depression compared to a typical average of 37%, up from about a third of respondents to half. As we continue to adjust to our new ways of living and working, it’s important to think about ways to keep tabs on both your physical and mental health.
Trying to get a read on your mental health can be challenging, even in the best of times. When we’re feeling mentally drained, those symptoms can show up in ways that seem fairly unremarkable. Are you constantly tired at work? Has your appetite changed? Are you finding yourself easily irritated? It might be worth to take some time to reflect on how your feeling. An important step in any mental wellness journey is trying to understand what could be causing you to feel unwell.
Common Factors Putting a Strain on Mental Health
Social distancing and sheltering in place are some of the most effective tools we have for combatting the spread of the virus, but social interaction is also important to our mental well-being. A recent survey of people sheltering in place showed that 47% of respondents are experiencing negative mental health effects. While it’s still imperative that you avoid in-person contact with people outside of your home as much as possible to get the coronavirus under control, try to make time for friends and family through digital tools, such as video calling, if you have access. Social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation.
More than 51 million people have filed for unemployment benefits since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and many industries—including restaurants, airlines, and hospitality and tourism—are still feeling the aftershocks of the virus as fewer people are traveling and many restaurants still have closed dining rooms or limited capacity mandates. As a result of the slowdown in business, millions of people have been laid off or furloughed, and job loss and fear of job loss are associated with increased depression, anxiety, and distress.
If you’ve been laid off and are looking for work, IHC has over a hundred open positions available now!
Burnout from Work & the Coronavirus
Many people who have been working throughout the pandemic have moved to a work-from-home setup. Though this has helped limit people’s interactions with others outside of their homes, maintaining a balance between work and home life can be challenging when your office is suddenly in your living room. Without a physical separation of home and work, some people are finding it difficult to keep the two separate.
For those still commuting to a workplace, they may find themselves working longer hours or picking up extra shifts to compensate for all the changes that have come with the coronavirus.
Another lesser-known source of burnout is tied directly to the virus itself and is being referred to as decision fatigue. With news surrounding the virus constantly changing, many people are finding themselves having to make wide ranges of decisions, like how best to keep yourself and your family safe and what to make for dinner. It’s this constant juggling of choices involved with living and working in a pandemic and those involved with day-to-day life in general that can lead to mental and emotional exhaustion.
Activities & Resources to Improve Mental Health While Working During the Pandemic
Exercise, Diet, & Sleep
The three baseline components for maintaining good mental health are exercise, proper diet, and adequate sleep, and this is still true during the pandemic.
First up is exercise, which can provide an immediate boost to your mood and reduce stress. In addition to the immediate benefits, physical activity that follows a consistent routine can also help sharpen your focus and improve your sleep. Here are the CDC’s recommendations for different amounts of physical activity. There is no one-size-fits-all option, so make sure you find the right balance that works for you.
Did you know that a healthy, well-balanced diet is another key factor in improving your mental health in addition to your physical health? Recent research suggests that many chronic diseases, including mental illness, are tied to inflammation. That’s why it’s important to balance out your diet with anti-inflammatory foods, including whole grains, lean proteins (fish, poultry, and nuts) and fats (think extra virgin olive oil), and lots of fruits and vegetables. This combination of food groups is known as the Mediterranean diet and is recommended by health experts to help maintain a healthy mind and body.
Whether or not you had problems sleeping before the pandemic, working to improve your quality of sleep can have a positive impact on your mental and emotional well-being. When it comes to getting restful, restorative sleep, consistency is key, and creating a routine helps train your body to prepare for bed on a consistent schedule, helping to ensure that you’re getting the right amount of sleep. Most people require 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Doing so can help improve your mental health in the following ways:
Boost Immune System
Heighten Brain Function
Mindful Wellness Activities
When it comes to maintaining your mental health, it’s important to seek out activities that bring you joy and help you destress. There has been a lot of discussion online about how Isaac Newton discovered calculus and William Shakespeare wrote “King Lear” while in quarantine. If you find that this pressure to be extra productive in quarantine is adding more stress rather than driving you to find joy in new activities, try to keep in mind that staying home and doing nothing is what you’re supposed to be doing to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, and that’s a big deal! Focusing on hobbies and tasks that reduce stress and make you feel happy will help you achieve a better state of well-being, which can help you be more productive in the long run at work or home.
External Resources for Mental Health Support
No matter how mindful you are of your mental health and the actions you take to maintain it, sometimes you might need help from a professional resource. People everywhere are being challenged when it comes to their mental health amid the global pandemic, and there are many resources available to help people maintain a healthy state of mental well-being as we work to defeat the virus. Here are a few free or low-cost resources currently available:
- Open Path Collective – A one-time membership fee of $59 to join Open Path. Then it’s between $30-60/session for individual therapy (or $30-$80/ session for couples or family therapy). These rates are comparable to standard insurance co-pays.
- Department of Health and Human Services– The National Helpline is available at 1-800-662-4357
- Psychology Today – Offers an array of support groups that you can request to join as well as a database to find therapists or teletherapy options.
There are so many things that require our attention and focus these days that it’s easy to put your mental health on the backburner. However, just as we’re taking steps and precautions to keep ourselves from getting sick physically, it’s important to take steps to ensure that you’re keeping your mental health in check too. If you find yourself struggling with being isolated during quarantine, stressing about your finances, or feeling burnt out from everything 2020 has thrown your way, know you’re not alone and that there are simple activities and resources available to help you manage your mental health during these challenging times.
If you’re looking for work, IHC has over a hundred open positions available now!