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Caring for Your Emotional and Mental Health During Extraordinary Times

May 5, 2020

The changes we are enduring to combat COVID-19 in our communities are certainly extraordinary. Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. There are many new experiences that can be upsetting, such as:

  • The experience of monitoring yourself, or being monitored by others for symptoms of COVID like taking your temperature
  • The challenges of securing groceries and personal care items
  • Being a caregiver for a loved one
  • Uncertainty about the future 
  • Loneliness, feeling cut off from the world and from loved ones 
  • Boredom and frustration because you are unable to work or engage in regular day-to-day activities 

HERE ARE SOME SUGGESTIONS TO HELP LIFT YOUR MOOD:

Take a Break from the News

Take breaks from the news, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting. Look up some recipes to eat well-balanced meals and make time for regular exercise. Getting plenty of sleep and taking time to unwind is important. Now’s the time to find some other activities you enjoy.

Stay Connected with Others

Reaching out to people you love is one of the best ways to feel good during social distancing, quarantine, and isolation. You can:

  • Phone, email, text message, and use social media to connect with friends, family, and others.
  • Talk “face to face” with friends and loved ones using video chat tools.
  • Read a book to a grandchild or family friend over the phone or via video chat.
  • Share memories (and clean out a closet at the same time). Take out that box of photos that you’ve been meaning to sort through. Then, get in touch with the people in the photographs and reminisce about your shared experiences.
  • Volunteer to help sew fabric facemasks for health care workers and others. Learn how>
Keep Calm and Carry on …at Home

Peter Bolo, MD, chairman and medical director of the department of psychiatry for Atlantic Health System at Overlook Medical Center offers the following advice:

“Having some fear and anxiety over coronavirus is perfectly normal. But if anxiety begins to impede your ability to care for yourself or others, it’s a problem. We can help.”

 

  • Meet your basic needs. Create a new daily schedule. Prioritize healthy eating. Drink lots of water. And aim for seven to nine hours of sleep. Naps are great!
  • Prioritize your health. Manage any current medical conditions. It will help you feel better and will offer greater protection if you get sick.
  • Stay intentionally calm. An occasional outburst is OK. But staying composed most of the time will benefit you and others. Some apps have brief meditation exercises to help you self-soothe.
  • Get outdoors. Walk, hike, or bike.
  • Use uplifting words. Remind loved ones you appreciate them.
  • Get creative. “Any major crisis is an opportunity for creativity,” Dr. Bolo says. Turn handwashing into a 20-second “spa” for your hands. Sing your favorite oldie but goodie and pick a new song each day. Create a playlist of your special songs. Ask your children or grandchildren for help!
  • Manage your mental health. People with pre-existing mental health conditions should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms. You are not alone in this. Ask your health care provider about teletherapy or mental health services online.
  • Provide self-care. Pay attention to emerging symptoms. Think about what would feel soothing to you and incorporate it into your daily routine.