Annie Dries, PsyD, LP
Staying Mentally Well During the Coronavirus Situation
Although life is anything but normal, we can work to achieve a sense of normalcy during this time. For some who have a job that requires them to continue to go into work, the daily schedule has not changed much. For others, adjustments have been made to work at home, jobs have been terminated or maybe put on hiatus. Some of you now have children at home as schools are closed and may be balancing this with working from home.
It is uncertain how long we will be asked to shelter in place. Here are my recommendations to help you stay mentally well and make the best out of our current situation:
1. Develop a schedule. This is especially important for children. Your day does not have to be planned out in great detail. Simply commit to a time to wake up and a time to go to bed and then add in the items that you will be sure to do every day. Having a plan for the day helps us all to feel that we have a purpose even though life has changed. It can help those who are feeling depressed be more hopeful and those who are anxious to feel a sense of control.
2. Get enough sleep but don't sleep all day. Get to bed at a reasonable time, establish a wake up time, and avoid napping if you don’t get a great night’s sleep.
3. Do these things every day. These things will make you feel more accomplished and in control:
Exercise, meditate, take a walk, or go for a bike ride
Eat something nutritious (just one thing at least)
Complete chores, a project around the house, or schoolwork
4. Focus on the things you can do during this time. Maybe there are some things you normally would not get to do or enjoy that are now possible. Take advantage of this opportunity!
5. Take stock of the people and influences in your life. If you find yourself feeling anxious or hopeless after listening to a newscast or going on social media, this is probably something that would be good to avoid. Seek out the positive people and influences in your life that help you to feel happy, confident and in control.
6. Try to avoid drinking alcohol in excess. I know; now you think I am no fun. Alcohol is a depressant and will leave you feeling worse tomorrow if you have too much today. We know that it lowers inhibition and can lead to conflict, especially in times of high stress. If you really feel like you need a drink, don’t go by the its 5 o’clock somewhere mantra. Try to delay having it and decide on a time that you will wait until. Don’t drink on an empty stomach. If you feel the need to have more than one drink, space them out by drinking a full glass of water in between. This will slow you down a little and you will be thankful for the extra hydration tomorrow.
7. For those who are in less than ideal living/family situations, my heart is with you. Try to get some space when you can, go out for walks if you are able, try not to engage if possible. If you find yourself becoming angry, take a step back and remove yourself from the situation. Take some deep breaths and choose inaction rather than a reaction that will leave you feeling guilt and regret afterward.
8. For parents or caregivers, it can be hard right now to always keep your cool. Remember that it is better to give children a little extra screen time than to have interactions with them when you are not in a good mental space. Your child will not remember the day you let them watch movies all day but they will remember verbal or physical abuse.
9. Lastly, I encourage every person to take some time to examine the positives of this situation. This may be more challenging for some than others, but I believe we can all find at least a couple of good things. Maybe you realized that you have a friend you really can count on for emotional support or maybe you are seeing the strength in yourself to be making it through difficult times. Maybe you have been able to get some projects done around the house that you never seemed to have time for or maybe you finally finished reading a book or putting together a challenging puzzle. Maybe you are simply enjoying extra time with loved ones. We will likely never see an event like this in our lifetimes. Life has slowed for most of us. Let’s try to appreciate the positives and make the best of this time.
Please see below for hotlines for those struggling with addiction, victims of domestic violence, those feeling suicidal and those who need emotional support during this time.
Substance Abuse National Hotline: 1-800-662-4357
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Optum Free Emotional Support Hotline: 1-866-342-6892
Annie Dries is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with a private practice in Colleyville, TX