Mental Health in a Pandemic

Out of all the things I over-analyze and worry about, my health is typically one thing that doesn’t make the list. If something is off I don’t feel the need to research my symptoms or call the doctor, and the thought of germs lingering on public surfaces doesn’t bother me. For me, most things seem to disappear on their own and I figure as long as I wash my hands after touching the handle of the grocery cart, I’ll be OK. So it’s no surprise that COVID-19 isn’t having a huge effect my mental health. However, this isn’t to undermine the fact that this is a seriously issue because we should take every precaution possible. But perhaps even more importantly, I understand that this pandemic can severely heighten feelings that already exist for people that struggle with mental health even if I’m not one of them.

If you suffer from anxiety, you might be feeling even more anxious. If you have depression, maybe you’re feeling down and wondering, ‘What’s the point?’ If you have OCD that involves cleanliness this might be kicking your fears and tendencies into high-gear. Did you know people that have previous had serious health issues can develop PTSD? Faced with this pandemic, PTSD is at risk of being triggered. Personally, my main issue being triggered is that as I’m trying to face the co-dependent part of my depression, the isolation I’m practicing is feeling counter-intuitive to how I want to face my mental health.

I’m not an expert in mental health. I’m not trained. I didn’t go to school. I don’t work in the field. However, I wanted to offer suggestions on how you might be able to cope with your mental health during these trying and frightening times. The main thing I want you to know is that your feelings are valid. Just because others around you don’t feel triggered by COVID does not mean you are silly for being scared. Aside from that, I call my suggestions Controlling the Controllables.

  1. Mute the news. The endless news cycle we are in is NOT beneficial. You don’t need to see the number of increasing cases every hour, any death tolls, and a constant reminder of what we are facing. If you must, schedule your news-time. Decide you’ll only watch for 30 minutes in the evening, or maybe twice a day. Whatever you choose, stick with it and try to focus on other things.
  2. On a related note, log off. Personally, my Facebook is a giant feed of three things: judgement, the same articles being shared by dozens of different people, and a lot of (ugh, lack of a better phrase) fake news. If you don’t want to completely ignore your Facebook feed, consider temporarily muting some of the “friends” you won’t miss seeing updates from to clear some of the extra noise.
  3. Rest, drink lots of clear fluids, eat well. Do everything in your power to take care of you. It’s not a guarantee but try to focus on increasing your chances to remain healthy by doing what you can to boost or maintain your immune system.
  4. Make sure you have an appropriate amount of supplies. I say appropriate because, not only do we want to make sure our neighbours are also prepared, but too much stuff creates clutter and clutter can be stressful. We always have a stocked pantry but I’m also making sure to keep an eye on our perishables so I don’t stress myself out by running out of eggs or milk.
  5. Do something you enjoy. This doesn’t have to be how you usually “self-care.” It could be reading a book, watching your favourite movie, crafting, baking… whatever! Personally, I think this pandemic is a great excuse for me to buy a new puzzle to keep myself busy during isolation periods.
  6. Spread positivity. Near the end of the day one of my coworkers threw on a leprechaun costume for St Patrick’s Day and everyone that walked by her smiled or laughed. It was such a small thing but it felt like a great way to boost the energy. I also received an email saying my mom sent me a gift card for my favourite coffee place and, even though it might be a couple of weeks before I can use it, it was such a sweet surprise.
  7. Check in with a friend. Every once in a while my best friend Brittany pops up in my notifications with a snapshot of what she’s up to while working from home (her dog, her pajamas, whatever!) and I love it. Even though I have to go into work it makes me feel like we’re in this together. I also woke up to a message this morning from my other best friend, Katie, just saying hi and it started my day off on a high note.

Do you feel like the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting your mental health?
What are your suggestions for supporting mental wellness during these stressful times?

BONUS:
I know I suggest to log off but these are accounts on Instagram I’m loving:
@dianapasgas – even though she’s working from home Diana’s dressing like she’s going to work and I love seeing her outfits. She also radiates positivity
@femislay – her daily mental health check-in polls are so helpful to monitor where your mind is at
@arkells – my favourite band is hosting daily music lessons on IG Live!
@morganharpernichols – always a source of hope
@torontodateideas – looking for something to do? They have a ton of giveaways in their stories you can enter!
@mattsurelee – I love his cheeky charts any day but he’s putting a lighthearted and relatable spin on the Coronavirus
@whatsgabycookin – my favourite food blogger. Scroll through her feed and choose any of her recipes to recreate. Seriously.

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