Without the freedom to socialize and go to work as we could mere weeks ago, focusing on our mental health and developing some simple habits now is more important than ever.
There are a few key ways to maintain a sense of calm, according to Dr. Laura L. Fuller, a clinical associate professor at the University of Iowa Department of Psychiatry.
A licensed psychologist, Fuller said in addition to following the everyday basics of maintaining mental health we should also establish what we each individually would consider our “new normal.”
“This is unprecedented,” she said about the spread of coronavirus. “Figuring out our new normal and what that means for our lives, work, family, community, is a work in progress.”
Also, if you’re caring for others, including kids or the elderly, it’s important to show them how you handle the stress to set an example, she said. Hopefully, this will set off a “chain of wellness.”
What you can do
- Wash your hands, exercise, meditate, do yoga, eat healthy meals, listen to your favorite music and get enough sleep.
- Keep up your connections with family and friends, either virtually or at a distance of at least 6 feet.
- Keep a routine for yourself and the people you provide care for.
- Limit your exposure to news stories and social media. Use social media or the internet to stay in contact with loved ones or for positive entertainment such as a virtual tour of a museum.
- For kids: Explain in simple terms what is happening without giving too much information. Let them pick the activities they like to do at home. Have dance parties on Zoom. Children can call grandparents or write letters to family members.
If someone is showing signs that they may be experiencing severe mental health challenges, Fuller said it is always good to ask if they are OK and if they need help.
Signs of stress
- Someone may show fear, worry or preoccupation, in addition to experiencing changes in sleep or eating patterns.
- People with chronic health problems may experience worsened symptoms.
- Someone undergoing stress might increase their use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
If you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others call 911. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. (TTY 1-800-846-8517). Source: Centers for Disease Control Prevention.