When asked to write about my experiences with COVID-19, the first thing that came to mind was my job. I’m a Clinical Psychology Ph.D. student and part of our requirements involve clinical training. In addition to conducting research on ethnic health disparities, I also work as a psychology trainee (a therapist-in-training). Although this has undoubtedly been a challenging time, I am so grateful for my work as a mental health provider because I am able to help and support others during this unprecedented time. Psychological research has shown that COVID-19 has already taken an emotional toll on many. I hope that by sharing some of these skills that I share with my own clients, that this can help those who may be struggling to cope or those who would simply like more resources to deal with COVID-19.
One of the biggest challenges about COVID-19 is that it has completely shifted people’s lives and daily schedules. Whether it be having to work from home, educating children from home, losing one’s job — the list goes on and on. In any kind of crisis situation, drastic changes to our daily lives can increase our vulnerability to experiencing negative emotions. The stress and anxiety associated with these uncertain times can drain us of the mental energy and cognitive resources we need to cope. Some days, we may find ourselves feeling sad, having a short temper with our loved ones, or just feeling generally exhausted. And that is to be expected during a time of upheaval. Now more than ever, it is so important that we take care of our mental health. Here are some key ways that we can take care of ourselves during this global crisis:
- Set a Schedule: Find what works for you; it may take some trial and error. Maintaining consistency can be so helpful when everything else around us seems to be changing every day (e.g., having a set work schedule). Remember to take breaks and prioritize self-care.
- Treat Physical Illness: Take care of yourself — take any medications or vitamins you normally take. The emphasis right now is on washing your hands regularly or wearing masks in public, but make sure you are also doing the things that you always do to keep yourself healthy.
- Balance Eating: Maintaining a healthy diet can help our physical and mental health. If we are not addressing our anxiety and stress, it can sometimes cause us to eat too much or too little.
- Balance Sleep: The average adult should be getting between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Similar to eating, it’s important to not be sleeping too much or too little. Notice the things that are getting in the way of a good night’s sleep and practice good sleep hygiene (e.g., not using phones in bed, not watching TV before bed). Practicing mindfulness or engaging in guided meditations before bedtime can help you achieve more restful sleep.
- Get Exercise: It may be more difficult for some of us to exercise now that gyms are closed, but it’s still important to incorporate at-home workouts or outdoor runs into our schedules. Exercise can help reduce stress levels and improve feelings of calm.
- Connect with Others: Shelter-in-place can feel very isolating for those who might be used to socializing with coworkers or friends every day. Reach out to folks that you care about, or even reconnect with those you may not have spoken to in a while. This is a challenging time for many of us, but knowing that we are all in this together and here to support each other can make things feel a little less anxiety-provoking.
Even if you are engaging in healthy practices and taking care of yourself, COVID-19 can still feel extremely overwhelming. Now is a time to ask for help. If you are interested in seeking professional help from a mental health provider, you can search through a free database of local, licensed mental health providers: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists.
I hope you find this helpful. Remember to take care of yourselves during this unprecedented time. Be kind to yourselves and be kind to others.
Additional mental health resources:
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 for free, confidential crisis intervention
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-8255 for free and confidential support
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: Call (800) 950-6264 for more information on mental health resources
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