Changing the entire landscape of life as we know it, the COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to various stressors that might feel new and unfamiliar to most. The long bouts of lockdown, the numerous new restrictions and limitations, and the sudden change in work and school dynamics have shaken our collective sense of normalcy. Factor in the rising death toll due to COVID-19 infections, and it’s easy to see how mental health has been placed under fire since the start of the global health crisis.
According to statistics, over 93% of countries worldwide have experienced a disruption or a total halt of mental health services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But because stress, anxiety, and isolation are on the rise, those most affected by the pandemic are in search of ways to manage mental health in the absence of corresponding services.
If you’re one of them, then you might want to consider these tips on managing mental health during COVD-19.
Exhaust All Avenues for Communication
Loneliness and social isolation are some of the biggest mental health challenges exacerbated by the pandemic. Statistics have found that up to 40% of adults in Europe, USA, and China experience isolation and loneliness as a result of the present global situation, forcing health experts to tag the problem as a ‘behavioral epidemic.’
The problem with isolation is that it can significantly impact daily functioning, with its most prominent effects on sleep patterns, appetite, and motivation. Even more alarming, prolonged isolation can induce depressive symptoms which may result in full-blown clinical depression in the long run.
While travel restrictions and limited outdoor opportunities can make it tough to physically meet with loved ones, there are countless digital applications at your disposal. From video calls to instant messaging, there are numerous ways to stay connected in order to curb feelings of isolation and loneliness.
In places where social distancing and sanitation protocol are the only restrictions in place, then it’s still possible to enjoy the company of family, friends, and neighbors as long as distance is maintained.
Watch Your Diet
While most people associate a healthy diet with physical well-being, watching what you eat has undoubted effects on your mental health as well. Studies have found that indulging in poor food choices – especially those rich in fat – can significantly reduce your mind’s capacity to combat stress and anxiety.
Unfortunately, stress also gives rise to various unhealthy cravings, urging individuals to respond to the unpleasant experience by indulging in high-fat, high-carb foods. So then it becomes an unhealthy, vicious cycle of stress and poor eating habits that feed into one another.
Starting off with a proper diet should improve your mind’s ability to combat stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Eat whole, plant-based food by buying local produce, or grow your own. It also helps to make sure that you don’t make poor food choices available in your pantry, including:
- Refined carbohydrates
- High fat foods
- Red meats
- Refined sugars
- Junk food
Unwanted weight gain can have a significant impact on a person’s self-esteem and mental health. Because the pandemic has forced individuals to stay indoors and adapt a sedentary lifestyle, weight gain is becoming a major issue affecting confidence, self-worth, and overall happiness.
But more than weight gain, the simple lack of movement can also have effects on mental health. Studies have found that exercise can significantly improve feelings of wellness as physical movement encourages the release of various hormones that trigger the pleasure response.
Exercise and physical exertion are also known to produce a range of benefits that work to enhance mood, bolster the immune response, control and manage weight, improve energy levels, and curb stress and anxiety.
The internet is a bountiful resource for workout guides and routines, letting you engage in healthy exercise from the comfort of your home, regardless of how limited your indoor space might be. It also helps to simply stand up from your desk, walk around, and stretch in between long bouts of work in order to engage the muscles.
Retain Your Routines
It’s easy to lose sight of self care when you’re holed up at home with no reason to get dressed or cleaned up. But it might work in your interest to fix yourself up in the morning regardless of whether or not you’re going out for work. Strong evidence supports the idea that simply showering, brushing your hair, and dressing up to go out can positively impact your mental health.
These ‘getting ready routines’ are associated with our sense of normal. And because a lot of the anxiety that people feel during the pandemic is the result of not knowing what comes next, continuing routines like this can keep us grounded and feeling ‘on top’ of our present situation.
Experts recommend waking up at the same time you did pre-pandemic, getting showered and dressed even if you’re not going out, and eating your meals at the same time you used to. Although they might seem unimportant, these established routines can help you feel more in control and may even boost your productivity.
Make Time for Self Care
Self-care is defined as the intentional engagement in activities that promote feelings of well-being. During trying times, self-care tends to take a backseat under the premise that it’s not quite as important as other areas of everyday life. But studies have found that individuals who make time for self-care are better equipped to deal with stress and anxiety, and cope more readily with changing and challenging situations.
Everyone has different preferences when it comes to self-care, and what works for one person might not work for everyone else. But even then, there are certain self-care activities that stand out as the most effective choices:
- Retail therapy – E-commerce makes it possible for us to enjoy the benefits of retail therapy without having to leave our homes. As long as spending doesn’t exceed what you’re financially capable to support, then indulging now and then in an online shopping spree should help you cope with stress and anxiety.
- Movie night – Online streaming platforms provide a wealth of options for entertainment. Make time to unwind and relax by finding a flick or a series you want to watch. Others go the extra mile by hosting watch parties that let you view a movie or show online with friends.
- Relax – There’s no better way to care for yourself than by simply giving yourself some unoccupied time to relax and unwind. Run a hot bath, light a few scented candles, and disconnect from your stress by actively pursuing calm and relaxation. Seek time every week to relax to clear up your mental bandwidth and recharge for the upcoming week.
Find a Hobby
With travel restrictions in place and various bars, restaurants, gyms, and other recreational businesses closing down, people are turning to other opportunities to spend their extra time and engage their interests. Hobbies can be a healthy way to explore your skills and support your mental health.
Of course, finding a hobby relies mostly on what piques your interest. However some of the most common – and perhaps the healthiest – hobbies you might consider trying include:
- Gardening – There’s something about caring for plants that has a significant impact on the state of a person’s mental health. Studies have discovered that gardening has therapeutic benefits that improve mood, reduce stress, and limit the risk for various mental health conditions. Gardening has been found to be so effective in well-being in fact that it’s one of the most common interventions used in clinical therapy and rehabilitation for those with existing mental health conditions.
- Reading – Reading stimulates creativity, prompts critical thinking, and improves memory, among the many other benefits that it provides. While nothing beats reading straight from a book, the internet also provides alternatives in the form of ebooks for easier access to those who want instant gratification.
- Playing an instrument – Musical talent isn’t always apparent. Sometimes, you need to explore an instrument before you discover any inherent skill you have. But even if you’re not naturally gifted, anyone can learn to play an instrument. Music has been used for centuries as a therapeutic medium, and is known for its benefits for mood. But other than that, music also provides an avenue for creative and emotional expression, which may be particularly helpful for individuals experiencing isolation.
Rolling With the Changes
The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed life as we know it, resulting in widespread stress, anxiety, loneliness, worry, and even panic. But as has been proven time and time again, human resilience knows no limits and fights to cope with ever changing situations regardless of how tough they might be.
While you might feel overwhelmed by the way the pandemic has altered your life, there are ways to cope. Managing mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most important and effective ways to optimize wellness on a holistic scale. And by caring for your mind, you give yourself the motivation to take on the present situation with grit.
How Lighthouse Can Help
Addressing your relationship with drugs or alcohol can be a very eye-opening experience. Addiction can develop under the surface, and many may not even realize the extent of their use. If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol and are ready to take the first step towards your sober future today, Lighthouse Recovery can help find the program for you. With an array of options, from sober living to an intensive outpatient program, the caring professionals will work alongside you to find the care that can help you achieve your specific goals in recovery. Each program can be further personalized to address the coping skills, grounding mechanisms, and life skills that are most pertinent to each individual.