Advice From A Clinical Psychologist On How To Care For Your Mental Health During A Pandemic!
There are so many angles we could cover related to the pandemic and mental health is certainly one of them, I talked to Clinical Psychologist Dr. Ana Bodnar about trying to stay sane during these times.
Part of keeping ourselves safe during the coronavirus outbreak requires social distancing. I encourage people to keep themselves safe; however, I’m also concerned about some of the psychological impact of social distance for longer than a few days. It appears that we may have to maintain social distance for some time.
While maintaining social distance, people can have very different responses. Some appreciate the peace and quiet, if their homes provide that. Some people who live with others who are quite energetic can find themselves getting tired or annoyed. Others could experience loneliness, depression and/or anxiety.
All of these responses are normal responses to an abnormal situation. Below are some steps you can take toward healthy self-care in this challenging time.
1/ Reach out — know that others are also experiencing stress and strain. If people talk about their stress and strain, it’s important that you don’t try to make them feel better. People will feel more connected with you if you validate them, saying something like, “yes, it’s a rough time.” For more about responding to other people’s stress, you can watch the cartoon called Empathy by Brene Brown on Youtube. You can also talk about your own feelings. Research shows clearly that talking about stress decreases physical measures of stress. It’s best to use some form of video chat for more connection, but telephone and email are also good.
2/ Exercise. Walk outside. Try to go outside every day. Do some stretches, yoga exercises, Qigong or any movement that fits for you. Lots of studios are having online classes, and there is a lot on youtube as well.
3/ Exercise your creativity. If there a creative activity that you have already been engaged with, spend more time with this or start something new. You can explore writing. For example, the morning pages from the artist’s way.
For those of you who like singing you can check out online singing with Choir, Choir, Choir. They are having regular online gatherings.
4/ Practice positive psychology. We now have many studies that show again and again that gratitude, forgiveness, and being present in nature improve both mental and physical health. Find things you’re grateful for, big or small, and actually feel the gratitude. 5/ Breathe. If you’re anxious about coronavirus, as most people are, realize that some level of anxiety is normal, and exhale from your lower belly. There is very useful information here about breathing to alleviate You may think you already know how to breathe, but if you go to instituteforclarity.com there’s a video that will teach you how to breathe in a way to alleviate your anxiety.
6/Meditate. This is a great time to learn to meditate. You can find good apps for this. These are some possibilities:
For Mindfulness practices, you can see: http://www.freemindfulness.org (they have a variety of practices. The body scan is a good entry point)
7/ If there is something you have been wanting to learn, this might be a good time. Perhaps a new language? Here is one free online resource: https://www.duolingo.com/learn
What are you doing to take care of your mental health? I am trying all of the above.