In a crisis such as the recent coronavirus outbreak, our entire world and ways of going through life can suddenly shift. This is exactly what happened when people around the world became faced with COVID-19. What started quietly in one part of the world grew to something that affected the lives of just about everyone. Hospitals filled with people afflicted by the new virus, schools and workplaces shut down, orders to stay at home and self-isolate went out, and everyone was flung into a new situation that we all had to adapt quickly to. Perhaps one of the biggest impacts of this crisis has been on individuals’ mental health.
This is not unique to this particular situation. In various times of crisis, such as financial setbacks, war, and natural disasters, people’s mental health is highly at risk. All of these things are very scary, so it makes sense if you can’t keep a smile on while walking through difficult times. You don’t have to. It’s perfectly okay to not stay positive all the time. What is important, in the midst of any crisis, is to prioritize your mental health when it’s most vulnerable.
Coping with an Existing Mental Health Condition
This is particularly true for those with an existing mental illness. During typical times, a focus on their mental health may significantly contribute to their prioritization of daily activities and to their overall routines. In a crisis, however, these routines are disrupted, leaving those with a serious mental health condition facing brand-new circumstances that can make it difficult to cope.
For those with anxiety disorders, the fear and stress felt by everyone during a crisis can be harder for them to deal with, as it amplifies their anxiety symptoms. Distressing events may cause the moods of those with depressive disorders to plummet. Anyone struggling with their mental health while a crisis is ongoing needs to, therefore, find new ways to face this challenge that works for them.
Tips for Putting Your Mental Health First
Everybody handles moments like these differently, so there aren’t specific set guidelines that you should follow. Your own mental health is personal to you and should be approached in its own unique way. The following tips may simply give you somewhere to start.
1. Consider some simple things to stay positive.
There are things to appreciate and little things to enjoy, even in the darkest of times. Taking notice of the small joys in life and practicing gratitude is one way to generate some positivity when a positive side is increasingly difficult to find. Take the time to truly enjoy your meal or the song you’re listening to, take a moment to take stock of the good things that are still present in your life, and start a journal of gratitude. Holding onto these positives may help push out some of the negative that you struggle with.
2. Keep a structure.
A time of crisis will inevitably mean disruptions. However, even if your usual schedule is forced to change, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow some sort of routine. If nothing else, make sure to get up and get dressed. Then you might consider tackling a plan for achieving tasks that matter to you. While you can be flexible, sticking to some sort of schedule can keep you grounded while everything else seems to be changing. Having structure to your days will make things feel just a little bit more normal.
3. Find ways to spend your time that don’t keep you focused on the crisis.
It can be easy for a crisis to begin to take up all of our time. Yet putting all our efforts into excessive precautions, watching and reading every new update, and not taking any sort of break from the stress does not give our mental health much of a chance. Instead, find some more engaging ways to spend your time that can take your attention away from what’s upsetting you.
Instead of sitting and worrying, get up and do something productive like completing some chores around the house, going for a run, or getting started on that project you’ve been putting off. Instead of watching the news 24/7, change the channel to your favorite show, a lighthearted comedy special, or some fun music videos that will make you want to dance. Instead of scrolling social media and clicking “read more” on all the scariest headlines, put the phone down and read a book, do a puzzle, or spend some time with your family.
4. Use social media in a positive way.
Time spent on social media is time that you should give particular attention to. A lot of worry and anxiety can come from what we see all down the newsfeed. If your scrolling is only leaving you with more and more anxiety, it may be time to step back and reevaluate how you’re using social media.
Take control by blocking certain keywords and unfollowing certain accounts that aren’t beneficial to your mental health. Try to keep things positive online by finding space to discuss something other than the crisis. While social media can fuel mentally unhealthy habits, it can also be a tool for good, if we let it be.
5. Look out for and connect with the others around you.
Even in the midst of a crisis, we are never alone. In the case of the coronavirus, it may be necessary to physically distance ourselves from one another, but this is also a time more than ever to stick together, even if connections must be made virtually. Everyone faces similar challenges during a crisis and we must be there to support one another. Check up on the mental health of friends and family and see if there’s anything else they may need. Find ways to strengthen connections with all those that are near you by enjoying quality time together through a fun activity, group meal, or significant conversation.
6. Find the good.
It’s important to remember that a time of crisis isn’t filled with anything but bad, even if it takes some effort to find the good that is there. In times of crisis, the worst and the best in humanity tends to come out and while it can be incredibly easy to get bogged down by the not-so-good, shifting your lens to focus on the good can lift your spirits and help you find a brighter path through to the other side of the crisis.
7. Set your mind to a positive future.
As difficult as it may feel to navigate the present, there will be an after to the crisis and it’s important to hold onto hope for this future. Even if many aspects of your day to day have currently come to a stop, this does not mean that life has to be canceled completely. Don’t stop making plans, going after your goals, or reaching for that positive future.
Overcoming Mental Health Barriers in the Time of a Crisis
Taking care of your mental health while facing a crisis will not be easy. However, you don’t have to do it alone. It can help to find a friend or family member that you can turn to for support. In addition, there are many resources available, including licensed mental health professionals such as those at the ADHD Wellness Center. In times of crisis and out of them, it’s important to know what support is there to turn to.
This content is brought to you by Brittany LeMoine.
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