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Mental Health and COVID-19

As the days pass by, our emotions are changing and being attacked with so much information about Covid-19. Everything happened so fast, and when we were still processing the meaning of the words Coronavirus, we suddenly found out ourselves being restricted to do all the activities that we currently do to keep us alive. You couldn’t control it, we cannot stop the situation and its effects. However, there is something that we can do, and this is just to be healthy in all areas of our lives: physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. Did you know that taking care of our mental health is as important as taking care of our physical health? Thinking about that, I prepared some useful and simple tips to keep your emotions in the correct place during these difficult times and to help you and your family to have a productive and healthy isolation.

Make good choices – Try to limit yourself to reading information about Covid-19 only from official sources. Once or twice a day is more than enough to be updated and not to be overwhelmed with the news about the pandemic. If you are constantly connected with the news (especially with the not official ones), your brain will be in a constant state of alert, damaging your capacity to make wise decisions. WHO website and local health authorities platforms could be some trustful sources.

Be wise It is important to remind you that you cannot control everything (as stopping the virus). But there are things that you can control (as being healthy, having habits of hygiene), and your focus should be in keeping your routine as normal as possible, even at home. Keeping the good habits will help your immunologic system to be stronger and fight against the illness, both physical and emotional.

Establish the day with purpose dress yourself (pyjamas will not help you to feel productive ), prepare your home and your loved ones to have a useful day, plan ahead of time different activities and adjust them to your new reality. Organise your lifestyle: catch up on your sleep time, plan healthy and tasty food, exercise (internet is full of options to exercise at home, there is no excuse), spend time with your loved ones (if they are far away, call them and show them your love), listen good music, organise your stuff, especially those parts of your house that you have never had the time for them.

Pick a hobby it could be something that you already enjoy doing during your time off, or a new one with the resources that you have available. You can assemble a puzzle, play board games, learn a new language, write messages to your friends, learn how to cook a new recipe, write a journal, do karaoke, etc. Today, is the best opportunity to be creative and teach others your best skills.

Recognize your real feelings It is normal to feel upset, stressed, useless to help, overwhelmed, and/or anxious. Each person reacts differently facing crises. Talk about your concerns and fears with someone you trust. Sharing even the smallest and apparently insignificant feelings (either related to Covid-19 or not) can avoid attrition with others and have a better emotional balance. Be also available to listen to other people, perhaps you can help someone who is feeling alone and discouraged to find a way to cope with the current situation. When you take the time to help others, you are the biggest beneficiary. In times like this, peer support can be as important as professional help. You can save lives.

Support your child If you have children, maybe you are facing a very challenging time having them at home without the possibility to play outside. If this is your reality, just be aware that they are also facing a stressful moment. Take the time to help them to face their concerns and fears. This is a stressful moment for both adults and for kids. Remember, not all children respond to stress in the same way. There are some tips that will make your parenting role easier during this hard time: explain the Coronavirus to your little ones using words that they will understand; support them to deal with the new concept of Covid-19, and help them to express their feelings related to the new reality; make them feel safe; share how you are dealing with this crises and allow them to cope with you; find a creative way to make them understand the virus and to prevent it; involve them in cleaning specific places of the house, it could be a fun game to involve them in facing the Coronavirus in a healthy way; sing songs about hygiene every time they need to wash their hands, etc. Just use your imagination and have fun!

If it is necessary, adjust the rules Living isolated with others for a long time could be very challenging. It is important to spend some time organising the collective space with empathy, affirming rules, and making as much as possible a smooth and pleasant coexistence during this period. This will not last forever, but is up to you to develop your resilience in times when you need that the most.

Home office Especially for those who enjoy working with people, a great challenge during this pandemic is to work from home. You may feel guilty for not being able to do a lot from home. Perhaps, you don’t know how to be effective in your home environment. As I mentioned before, organising your day will help to know when you should work and when you should stop. Don’t feel guilty if you cannot accomplish what you have planned before this isolation time started. Be flexible, and try to adjust your priorities. It will help you and your organisation to be productive during this difficult time.

Feeling alone is a fact Many people may feel alone during the Covid-19 isolation. The reclusion is not a punishment, and definitely, it is something that you cannot change. This is for your own protection. There are so many ways to protect yourself from being depressed and to have attrition, even though you are not surrounded by friends and family members. Being connected with people is something that advanced technology allows us every day. The good news is that everyone is in the same situation that you are in worldwide. Make the time to call the people that you care to have good conversations with and to support each other during these difficult times.

Strengthen your spiritual health The last, but definitely not the least, aspect to consider in order to be healthy is to take time to improve your relationship with God. How many times you have desired to spend more quality time with Him? To pray in a quiet environment? To not rush during your morning worship? So, I have good news: now you have plenty of time to do it! This is not only good for you but extremely necessary to keep all the aspects of your life healthily connected. This should be your first activity in your day. When you take the time to talk and praise God in the morning, it will clear your mind and will help you to make positive decisions all long the day. Your emotions will operate in the correct place, your endorphins will be improved, and it will increase the capacity of your body system to release pain and distress. This is the first and most important step to improve your life in every single area!

By Roseane Alonso, PhD
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