We have been hearing about COVID-19 in the news daily – hourly, in fact. This virus is having devastating effects on our health, the health of our loved ones, and those all around the world.
One thing that hasn’t received as much attention is the effect it is having on our mental health. If you already suffer from anxiety, it may be heightened. You may be worried about you or a loved one contracting this virus, leaving the house, or losing your job.
How can you put your mind at ease? Start with these tips.
Don’t overload your brain with news.
In fact, the World Health Organization has recommended minimizing how much you are “watching, reading or listening to news about COVID-19 [if it] causes you to feel anxious or distressed.” Make sure that you are only getting your information from trusted sources such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Take advantage of telehealth services.
Many counselors have moved to online platforms during this time – I encourage you to seek them out. First, it is important to know what this anxiety is, but it is also helpful to talk to someone about how you are feeling and learn some tools to manage your anxiety.
Use technology to connect with your loved ones.
We’ve all been asked to engage in social distancing practices and to remain home, except for necessities. For many people this may feel isolating. If you miss your friends and family, try to connect with them virtually. You can set up Zoom or FaceTime chats. Houseparty is a great free app that you can use to video chat with your loved ones and, as an added bonus, you can play games with them through the app while you are talking!
Being with family all day, every day is not always a happy experience for everyone and it is important that those feelings are not minimized. If you find yourself in a difficult home situation, try to engage in whatever self-care activities that you can. Instead of going to the gym, try walking outside. Instead of going to the movies, you can watch a movie at home while you video chat with a friend who is watching it at their house. For some people, being out of their typical routine is anxiety-provoking in itself. Try to establish a new routine and stick to it each day to create a new sense of normalcy.
There’s one final point I want to make, and this one might be the most important of all:
Give yourself permission to grieve all of the things you’ve lost.
Our society is incredibly focused on “happiness” and “how to be happy.” One thing that I don’t think has been talked about is the harm that can come from feeling pressure to stay positive. We need to create a safe space for people to share their hurt, grief, and loss. Recently, I have had several students tell me that they are “selfishly” upset to be missing spring formals, graduation parties, or hanging out with their friends during their senior year. My reply to them is that is not selfish.
Yes, we all recognize that this virus is terrible and we hope that it doesn’t affect our family and friends, but the reality is that this is affecting more than just our health. People are losing their jobs, having to move out of the dorms at short notice, having all of their classes moved online unexpectedly, celebrating birthdays without their friends, canceling weddings, missing sports tournaments, and so much more. While some of those situations may seem more upsetting than others, it is our own experience of this loss that it is important.
So to everyone (myself included) who has lost something, it is perfectly OK to be mad about all of these things! Give yourself permission to feel sad. Let’s just hope that if we all do our part with and practice social distancing, that things will get better. And, let’s hope that we will be stronger because of it, and know that we will all get through this together.