Around the world, most people are staying at home, as advised by governments and global health officials. The very real dangers posed by the coronavirus are cause for concern, but there’s an equally serious threat to our well-being at this time. Uneasiness about our health, the safety of our loved ones and our financial stability can turn into stress and take a toll.
Our physical health is a major talking point at the moment but we shouldn’t neglect our mental health. Here are some simple things we can do to look after our mental wellness.
1. Trust only reliable sources of information
There’s no shortage of information circulating about the coronavirus and some of the news you hear is likely to make you feel anxious. Minimize the time you spend reading or watching the news. Although you may be tempted to look at everything COVID-related that drops into your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter feed, make a point of doing so only once or twice a day. Take what you see on social media with a grain of salt unless the source is a reputable media house, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or Health Canada.
2. Develop a routine
For now, our normal routine is a mere memory. We no longer have to wake up when the alarm goes off, get the kids ready for school and rush off to work. Nevertheless, it’s important to have some type of routine, even if you have to develop a new one under the current circumstances. Children need to be in the household with a routine to help them develop self-discipline and have a sense of stability. Even for adults, having too many options can be overwhelming or exhausting, leaving you feeling like you don’t know where to start. Having a schedule helps you to relax because you know what you plan to do at a specific time of the day.
3. Get Moving
In this day and age, there are tons of exercise videos that you can do from the comfort of your home. Best of all, as we speak many online fitness programs sources are offering free access or longer-than-usual free trials. Raise your heart-rate every day with 30 minutes of exercise, as recommended for adults by the World Health Organization (WHO) and make sure kids get up off the couch or bed and get moving for an hour a day. The WHO also points out that if you are working at home, you shouldn’t sit in the same spot for long periods. Get up and take a three-minute break every 30 minutes.
If possible, go outside for a walk, a run or a ride and keep a safe distance from others. If exercise videos aren’t your thing you can garden, dance to music or walk up and down the stairs.
4. Enjoy the outdoors, if possible
Getting lots of fresh air and spending time in nature have been proven to be great for improving both mental and physical health. If you can get outside, do it as often as possible. Remember to keep the recommended social distance between you and others.
5. Make healthy eating a priority
Healthy eating helps to keep your immune system functioning properly. If you minimize junk food, limit your alcohol consumption, avoid sugary drinks and eat lots of fruits and vegetables daily, you will have a sense of vitality that combats stress. Large amounts of caffeine can also add to your anxiety, so be aware of the potential effects of everything you consume when you may be tempted to reach for your favourite comfort foods.
6. Clear your home to clear your mind
With more time on your hands, you can take a look at your home environment and identify chores you and the family can do to have a well-organized space. Spring cleaning and decluttering the house puts you in control of your surroundings, relieving stress and energizing you. It makes it easier to find everything you need and it frees your mind to relax and enjoy your home.
7. Try deep breathing or meditation
Whether you prefer to meditate or try deep breathing techniques, the mental health benefits will be profound. If you want to feel calmer, look for an online video or an app to help you. You choose what feels most comfortable for you and take it from there.
8. Stay connected
Human beings crave social interaction. The physical distance we currently need to maintain goes against our basic desire to gather and feel a sense of camaraderie. All the technology in the world can’t replace the emotional highs we experience when we connect with others face to face, but we need to make it work for us. This is the perfect time to reconnect with those we haven’t spoken to for a while or video chat with friends and family while we’re relaxing or even cooking. It sure beats complete isolation.
9. Have an attitude of gratitude
If you’re wondering whether your business will survive the economic downturn or you’re dealing with a salary cut or job loss or illness, practising gratitude may feel unnatural right now. The truth remains that you do have a lot to be thankful for. Studies show that if every week you take a moment to think of five things you’re grateful for, your well-being increases. Try it. You’ll find your entire outlook changes.
10. Get support and support others
The WHO confirms that it is normal to feel stressed, confused and scared during a crisis. Talking to people you know and trust can help, and checking on neighbours, family and friends to offer them support can help you as much as it does them. Those who need more formal support can refer to Anxiety Canada’s website, which offers self-management strategies for anxiety. The Canadian Mental Health Association also has a self-directed course called Bounce Back Online to help manage low mood, stress and anxiety. If in crisis, contact Crisis Services Canada online or by phone at 833-456-4566.
We will get through this together.