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May 06, 2020

How to Take Care of Your Mental Health During COVID-19

Whether you’ve been laid off, know someone who has been infected, have anxiety about catching the virus or can’t go to your favorite local spots, the coronavirus has upended life as we know it. And as a result, it’s completely normal to feel a range of emotions.

As the outbreak — and the implications from it — continues, you might start to feel fear, anxiety, have trouble sleeping or feel depressed or angry. Whatever you’re feeling, you’re not alone. A Kaiser Health survey found that 1 in 5 Americans reported the COVID-19 outbreak negatively affected their mental health. 

Here’s what you can do to safeguard your mental health:

Get enough sleep, exercise and eat healthily: It’s important, psychologists note, to get plenty of sleep, stay active — get outside if you can — and eat a healthy diet during this time. It may not keep you from feeling anxious or depressed, but it can equip you to better handle emotions when they appear.

If you can’t stop worrying: The 24-hour news cycle combined with social media makes it easy to drown in information about the spread of COVID-19. If you find that you can’t stop worrying about the virus, try limiting your exposure to the news and social media. If you must check the news, either limit it to 30 minutes a day or check social media once in the morning and once in the evening, psychologists recommend. Try connecting with friends and family via phone or video chat instead. If your anxiety is so severe it’s impacting your ability to eat, shower or pay bills, consider reaching out to a professional for help.

If you can’t sleep: Fear and worry release stress hormones into your body, which can make it hard for you to wind down when it’s time to go to sleep. If this sounds like you, try setting aside some “worry time” each day where you spend a few minutes writing out your concerns. Once you’ve done that, write down everything you’re doing to protect yourself like hand-washing, social distancing, etc. 

It may also help to have an image of a favorite relaxing place to keep in mind when it’s time to go to sleep. 

If you’re feeling sad or angry: It’s not unusual to feel sad in a time of uncertainty. The things we love to do have either been drastically changed or taken away completely. Give yourself time to grieve the loss of these things, psychologists say. Spending time outdoors, whether taking a walk or hike or simply sitting on your front porch can help lift your mood, as can connecting with family or friends. If you’re still feeling low or having thoughts of self-harm, contact the National Suicide Helpline at 800-273-TALK (8255).

If you’re annoyed with your significant other: Being quarantined with your significant other can become irritating after a while. Establish boundaries and include some alone time for each of you. You can create space for yourself by going into another room, going for a walk, sitting on the porch or putting in headphones.

If you’re tired of being cooped up: As the quarantine stretches on, you’re likely experiencing cabin fever. This is where it’s helpful to change your mindset, experts say. Instead of thinking about being trapped inside, consider this a time to learn a new skill or focus on a hobby you may have neglected.

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