A survey done in June 2020 found that 40% of adults confirmed struggling with mental health issues or substance use. This large number is no surprise given the challenges people have had to face since the pandemic started. We have all had to grapple with a lot of uncertainty and fears during this period. Fluctuations in infection rates, lockdowns, and other restrictions have been a source of stress for many. Emotions have run high with many feeling dread and panic as the future remains unclear.
Many of these concerns have manifested in different ways for people. Some have lost sleep, found it difficult to focus on work or school, experienced changes in appetite, while others seek to dull feelings of sadness and worry through alcohol and substance abuse. Trying to cope with drastically changing lifestyles has taken its toll on mental health.
However, even during this crisis, there are ways to manage these fears while still doing our part to support recovery efforts. Checking in with ourselves and how we are coping with the pandemic situation is important. Mental health concerns are often swept under the rug but can have far-reaching effects. Here are some things you can do to help reduce anxiety and stress while gaining a healthier perspective on life.
1. Limit News Intake
There has not been much good news since the pandemic started. People have taken to constantly checking on their news sources to find one bad news report after another. Rising infection rates, schools being shut down, the economy suffering are just some of the frequent reports we have had to contend with.
For many, the feelings of despair and stress are exacerbated each time they turn to their phone or television to look for updates. But yet this does not stop them from continuing to look, even when it is earlier news just being rehashed. This harmful pattern of behavior is now called ‘doomscrolling’. It erodes mental health by encouraging feelings of negativity that add to anxiety and stress.
A good way to put a stop to this stressor is to limit your news intake. It is advisable to keep up with what is happening in your community and around the world, but ration this feedback. Create some moderation by setting a specific time when you will look up news and for how long. If your stress levels are high, ask a friend to be sending you the highlights on the relevant news and avoid probing news sources on your own.
2. Stick to A Healthy Routine
It is easy to allow negative feelings to take over when you are idle and have nothing to think about but your troubles. With many people having much free time without daily commutes and social outings, it often makes dwelling on stressors easier. establishing a healthy daily routine can help fill up your time and bring about a sense of normalcy.
Keeping a regular sleep schedule will help ensure your mind and body get enough rest. Avoid too much screen time before going to bed and have a wind-down routine that will help you relax as you get ready for bed. Try to eat your meals at the same time every day and have designated periods for exercise and work.
3. Stay Connected
Social distancing and lockdown restrictions have meant that social interactions have taken quite the hit. But there is a good reason for this. With a sizable amount of the population being asymptomatic, it is far too easy for the virus to jump to more vulnerable people. However, protecting the more vulnerable has left many feeling deeply isolated and more prone to feelings of anxiety and depression.
Humans naturally crave social interaction and it can be achieved even without being in close physical proximity. Technology has made it possible for us to interact one-on-one and in groups. Make use of video chatting to stay in touch with family and friends. Seeing each other’s faces does more to lift spirits than just talking on the phone or texting. Schedule regular meet-ups, particularly with people who have a positive effect on your mood.
As said, many of us now have a lot of free time on our hands. Creating a self-care plan is a good way to fill up the gaps and invest in the health of your mind, body, and spirit. You first need to be kind to yourself and accept that having feelings of anxiety and stress are not unusual. Many people are going through a tough time and could use strategies on how to better cope and overcome this stressful situation.
Think of activities that you enjoy. Many can easily be done at home and affordably. Consider taking up journaling, painting, or learning new recipes. There could be a simple home renovation project you have been considering or a language you have always wanted to learn. Even something as simple as turning up the music and dancing around your living room can do wonders for your mood.
5. Do for Others
As much as you seek to care for yourself, it can also be enriching to do something for others. It can distract you from your own fears and give a sense of empowerment. If you are in a vulnerable health condition, be careful what you sign up for. However, by taking precautions you can still manage to do something for people that need help in the community.
You can donate cash, food, and clothing to local charities. This can provide much-needed assistance to families hard-hit financially by the pandemic. In some places, you can even volunteer to help vulnerable people like seniors and the disabled get their shopping. If you have family or friends that also suffer from anxiety and depression, reach out to them. Being a listening ear can help them better cope.