Many of us, even still, are sheltering in the safety of our homes more often in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. It’s an important part of social distancing that’s designed to help ensure that healthcare resources are available to those who need it most and to protect our own physical health as much as possible. The problem is that the steps we’re taking to protect our physical health may result in feelings of isolation and boredom that can ultimately take a toll on our mental health. The self-isolation that has become so important during the COVID-19 pandemic has become integrated within our behavioral health routines – the habits that can affect our mental health.
Here, we’re defining mental health as our psychological, emotional, and social well-being, and it matters every bit as much as our physical well-being. When our mental health is good, we are better able to work, handle stress, and enjoy our lives and relationships. When we are in poor mental health, our physical health can suffer and we are at greater risk of depression, anxiety, and even suicide.
During the pandemic, we’re faced with a number of new worries ranging from health to social and financial. In uncertain times like this, people can experience sleep difficulties or irregularities, poor eating habits that can worsen other health problems and affect self-esteem, and even engage in self-destructive behaviors such as excessive drinking or drug abuse. So it’s no wonder that as the pandemic continues to create uncertainty in our communities, a mental health crisis is brewing.
Having good mental health awareness is key in making sure you engage in the routines and behaviors that support optimal mental health. Even in times of self-isolation – whether for a pandemic or any other reason – we can engage in routines and behaviors that support better mental health:Unplug from sources of discouraging news.Take time for exercise, which is a great natural stress reliever.
-Connect with others on the phone or video conference calls.
-Establish a predictable sleep routine, even if you are out of work or working from home.
-Eat a well-balanced diet and resist the temptation to snack throughout the day even as you have increased access to food.
-Start a new hobby with the help of instructional online videos or engage in a long-loved pastime you can do from home.
-Seek out opportunities to help others, whether friends, neighbors, or family members.
-Find time for quiet reflection and gratitude. Meditation, relaxation exercises, or journaling are great ways to do this.
-Care for your physical health by staying up to date on caring for any chronic conditions.
If you feel that your mental health is suffering during this time, the sooner you take action the better. You may be able to find helpful advice in books on self-help or from depression support groups (contact psychiatric hospitals for help finding one near you). Many counselors and therapists are seeing patients, and you’ll likely be able to find help via telemedicine if you prefer.
Remember, taking care of our mental health is important, now more than ever. And if you find yourself thinking suicidal thoughts, call 911 or seek out emergency room care right away.