Amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic, there’s no doubt about it - these are trying times for everyone physically, mentally and emotionally. The CDC recently released a study sheding new light on mental health crisis linked to the coronavirus pandemic.1 During June, 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse.
Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, but there are things we can all do to remain mentally strong. We've learned a few things from our friends with cystic fibrosis that have been social distancing long before the novel coronavirus. Below we’re offering nine tips to help anyone better manage their mental health.
Tip #1: Take Breaks from the News and Social Media
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s important to take breaks from social media and the news.2
While you want to stay informed, taking in too much information can be upsetting and stressful. If you continue to refresh your news feed, listen to the radio or watch the news, it’ll be hard to break your attention away from the current global crisis. Find a balance that allows you to stay informed without overwhelming yourself. If you like to start your day by checking social media, for example, you may want to try changing your routine for the foreseeable future. With social feeds inundated with COVID-19 coverage, this could be a jarring way to start the day.
Tip #2: Remember to Exercise
Most of us want to stay on top of our physical health during this time, but exercise can be just as important for your mental health as it is for you physically. Whether it’s yoga, jogging or walking, riding your bike or hiking, participating in these physical activities allows you to take time for yourself - away from others and the news.
Tip #3:Get Outside
Ecotherapy is a growing scientific field that has shown a strong connection between reduced stress, anxiety and depression with time spent in nature.3 Anything from 20 to 30 minutes, three days a week is helpful. Interestingly, simply listening to nature sounds appears to cause the brain into a wakeful rest period similar to day dreaming. Is it safe during COVID? Yes, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation which makes recommendations to the extremely vulnerable has been encouraging CF warriors to get outside and just stay socially distanced. Getting enough sunlight is also tied to having enough vitamin D which has been tied to improved mood.
Tip #4: Practice Meditation
Even if you’ve never done it before, mediation is an effective form of self-care. Through patience and practice, regular meditation can help anyone become more mindful and at ease. It can increase calmness and physical relaxation, improving psychological balance and enhance overall health and mental stability.4 If you don't know how to get started there are lots of cool apps to help you: Headspace, Calm and Insight Timer.
Tip #5: Make Sure You Are Connecting with Others
Our personal experience with depression is that typically those are the times when you don't want to connect with others. This is the opposite of what you should be doing! We need our friends and family so that we can feel loved and supported. Let them know what is going on! If you're a Disney watcher, the movie Inside Out shows why we need to let the sadness out and allow others to help.
While we're unable to physically be present with friends and family, it's still possible to keep in touch. Set up a Skype, Zoom or Facetime meeting with your friends or catch up over the phone. Some people quarantined at home have even started going old school by sending letters or notes to one another, like penpals. Get creative and think of ways you can connect and brighten someone’s day, because chances are your loved ones are feeling anxious as well.
Tip #6: Try a New Hobby
With more time on your hands than ever, now’s the time to try something new. Whether it’s painting, knitting, photography or whatever else you’ve always had an interest in trying, it’s a great way to do something fun while clearing your head. If you are at home with children, you could also do age-appropriate crafts and activities as a whole family, as this provides fun for everyone involved. If you haven’t picked up a board game in a while, maybe now’s the right time to start a weekly family game night, we highly recommend the game Catan as our family has been playing all summer.
Tip #7: Help Others
There are plenty of ways to stay compliant with social distancing regulations while still taking the time to feel good by helping others. Some ideas include:
- Offer to get groceries for at-risk neighbors and family members
- Donate to local food banks
- Provide meals to local hospital workers
- Make a monetary donation online
Helping others in this time of crisis not only helps the community around you, it can make you feel good too.
Tip #8: Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep is a time to recharge your batteries, unwind from the day and prepare for tomorrow. Getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep will help you to work better, feel better and stay healthy.5 It used to be that the extremely ambitious always sacrificed their sleep to get more done. Now I'm watching as these people are learning that by getting enough sleep they actually get more done because they are rested and ready to tackle even the most difficult tasks.
Tip #9: Eat a Balanced and Healthy Diet
We may be stuck inside more, but that isn’t an excuse to forego our healthy eating habits. If you're like me, its easy to snack frequently while working from home. While it’s perfectly fine to enjoy some treats in moderation, make sure that you are still eating meals packed with protein, fruits and vegetables. Eating a healthy, balanced diet will help everyone in your household feel better both mentally and physically over the coming weeks.
Tip #10: Do Not Be Afraid of Professional Help
While the first nine tips were all things you can be doing on your own. There comes a time when you should seek out professional help and I can all but promise you that time is long before you feel you need to. Your mental health is not something you should take for granted. You seek out medical doctors when there is something physically wrong, mental well being is just as much if not more important. If you feel like you are stuck or in a hole, don't wait. Pick up the phone and call someone!
We hope that everyone stays healthy and safe while doing their best to support themselves and their communities during this time. As we all endure the emotional and mental stress of the coming
weeks months, it’s comforting to know there are things we can do to make it better.
Here is a link to the CDC's guidance and list of numbers for you to call: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html