A year into COVID-19: How are you coping?
About a year ago, I wrote an article encouraging you to keep your mental health in mind at the beginning of a pandemic.
It’s hard to believe that one year later, most of us are still living our lives radically different. Working in the primary care setting, I’ve had the opportunity of supporting many of our patients through these challenging times. I’ve seen the emotional suffering firsthand and acknowledge the stress of having to balance a variety of roles and responsibilities. Even our essential workers may be experiencing vicarious trauma and burnout through exposure to chronic stress and limited support and resources.
In the first article, I asked you to consider watching your consumption habits with the news and social media, due to the intense nature and coverage of COVID-19. Additionally, I mentioned finding new ways to connect with others to maintain social outlets, continue with a daily routine for normalization, and to increase exercise for a mood boost. Lastly, I encouraged you to focus on the controllable while practicing mindfulness, and consider reassessing priorities through personal reflection due to life adjustments out of our control. While many of the tips I have shared previously continue to be applicable to maintaining emotional wellbeing, I’d like to further reflect on considerations for your mental health.
- Give yourself a break. Whether you are surviving or thriving, it’s good enough. We all have “off” days or moments. We cannot expect a top performance every day of our lives. It is especially not realistic in a pandemic, with many of you going through additional life stressors and/or adjustments outside of the course of COVID-19. Even if you are just taking care of your basic needs some days, acknowledge what you have done. Be your own cheerleader.
- Clear your schedule. It’s almost time for spring cleaning with the impending season change. Instead of clearing your physical space around you, think about what is causing clutter in your daily routine or in your brain. What are your top values? Are you putting forth most of your effort towards those things that really matter? Some things may not be as important as we perceive them to be. Prioritize self-care and take control of your time, because you are also modeling behaviors for those who look up to you.
- Consider authentic connections. Socializing has been more challenging this past year, and some continue to feel isolated and disconnected. Sometimes, social media can be more of a hinderance than a way to connect. Spend time in social interactions being fully present in the moment and have those hard conversations with your loved ones on how they are truly handling themselves in a pandemic. Not only has this year taught us to consider who we want around us in our lives, but also how we spend our time together.
- Sorry, but you still need to exercise. Focus on baby steps and make it almost too easy for yourself initially if you haven’t been exercising at all. From a behavioral standpoint, its more effective to spend time building a habit, rather than focusing on the intensity of your workout. Figure out the times when you are most willing to exercise and choose an activity buddy or someone to help keep you accountable. Keeping your body in motion by going for a brisk walk, working out in the garden, or dancing in the kitchen to your favorite songs. Get outside to soak up the sun and replenish your Vitamin D.
- Allow yourself time for self-reflection. Yes, I mentioned this before. However, how are we supposed to know what is working and what we need to change, unless we are giving ourselves adequate time to reflect. Reflection can occur through designating quiet time, writing/journaling, or talking it out. Good things to reflect on are our commitments, routine, connections, roles and responsibilities, and outlets we are using that allow for creativity and wellness.
- Normalize getting help. We don’t have to suffer alone. As a mental health professional, a part of my role is destigmatizing professional help. We all get stressed, we all grieve, and we all go through unexpected life transitions at some point. Sometimes vocalizing what you are thinking and experiencing, can bring relief in knowing that you no longer have to keep this to yourself. Talk to your primary care providers about what you’re going through. I have listed a few resources below to help you access mental health professionals.
If you feel like you need professional guidance during this time, mental health providers are using both in-person visits and telehealth methods to provide therapeutic support. Ask your insurance company for a list of providers or use psychologytoday.com to access more information about local providers by typing in your zip code and insurance. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, use the available resources below.
Mobile Crisis: (800)-939-5911
Crisis Textline: Text TALK to 741741
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990