Hi there! Yes, you! I want you to pause, take an intentional slow breath, and tell me: how are you doing, really, though this coronavirus pandemic? Now before you give a standard answer, I want you to reflect on all the components of your health: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social.
Now tell me, how are you doing really?
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit hard for most of us. Whether you've lost your job, been stuck in your studio apartment alone, or feeling trapped in your home with your dysfunctional family, I can understand how you might be feeling. I find that everyone's pre-existing anxieties and fears have been amplified due to all the uncertainty in the world. Our personal and professional lives have been significantly disrupted, and our ability to exercise our autonomy and freedom has been affected. I understand how you must be feeling. I, too, succumbed to avoidance, filling my time purposelessly with extensive workouts, binging on all the Netflix shows, or ploughing through a long-list of books. While these practices are healthy, I found that I was overdoing it to simply keep myself from feeling the true impact of what quarantine was doing to me. This is why I wanted to share some evidence based strategies that you can apply in your life to ensure you're looking after your mental health holistically, and boosting your happiness.
Chances are, many of you have been feeling the same way: longing to feel safe when going out and interacting with others, and going back to "normal". And though some places are planning on re-opening, it'll be some time before we can go back to what we used to call normal. Until that happens, we have to figure out a way to not just survive, but THRIVE in this pandemic. No, this does not mean that you have to be 100% productive, learn a new language or bake the fluffiest bread. I am going to argue to do the exact opposite of that, to SLOW DOWN, and live each day intentionally.
Check our the corresponding episode over on our podcast Ask a Therapist where share more details on these strategies!
Here's my top tips on how to uplift yourself psychologically during this time
1. Pay attention to the fuel you are putting in your body. Of course it is super tempting to be eating Flaming Hot Cheetos in bed until noon, with no one or no routine to hold us accountable. But I'm sure you have tried and tested that, and found that you tend to be extremely lethargic if you don't eat well. Don't aim for perfection - instead, listen to your body about what it needs on any specific day. Somedays you might crave a spicy bean salad, but on others a burger. It's okay to indulge! Just do it intentionally.
2. Practice basic hygiene. Yes, it is tempting to stay in our sweatpants all day. If you must, wear a fitted pair of joggers or slightly more form fitting sweats. But the actual routine of getting up, practicing basic hygiene and dressing differently will automatically uplift your mood.
3. Maintain a proper sleep hygiene. Again, a common sense tip, but it is so tempting to not practice this! I hear you. Maybe you no longer need to sleep at 10 pm and wake up at 7 am for work, but find a balanced time frame.
4. Pay attention to your emotional needs. This one may be slightly more challenging. Just like your body gives you cues for hunger and sleep, it also provides cues for heightened emotions. The coronavirus pandemic has amplified everyone's pre-existing fears and anxieties. Learn to name your emotions and then soothe them. I have personally been enjoying guided meditations to help me slow down!
Pro tip: Download an emotion wheel from google, that will help you identify what you are feeling at any given time. This is great for those who may have trouble identifying how they're feeling.
5. Emotions are contagious. Be wise about who you are turning to for support right now. The coronavirus is not the only thing that’s contagious. So are emotions! Avoid talking about the virus with people who tend to be negative or who reinforce and ramp up your fears. Turn to the people in your life who are thoughtful, level-headed, and good listeners.
6. Let yourself grieve. I have been grieving my autonomy and freedom to go outside, see my family, and seeing my clients in person. Any type of loss can trigger grief, but the more you squash it, the harder it will bounce back. Acknowledge how you feel, and self-soothe.
7. Practice self-compassion. Quarantine is not a race, nor is it a competition to see who comes out of it smarter, or thinner, or with more skills. Be attuned to your emotional capacity on a day to day basis. Somedays you will feel 90% of your energy and potential, and on other days it'll be 40%. You don't have to function in the same way everyday; be kind and flexible with yourself.
So, even though this coronavirus has affected our lives and even though it feels like it has stripped us of our control, we are here to remind you of the ways you are still in control. You can control the impact of the pandemic on your overall health by attending to your emotional, social and physical health needs.
Have you tried any of these strategies? How did they help you? Maybe you have some strategies of your own! Let us know in the comments or over on our podcast!
Be sure to listen to our most recent podcast episode over at Ask A Therapist, available on Apple and Spotify!