The world is changing, fast. There’s no doubt that during the Coronavirus outbreak we found ourselves in unprecedented circumstances. Isolation, obsessive hand washing, working from home and the general lockdown have seriously disrupted our normal lives.
Most of us are experiencing more uncertainty-related stress than usually. We worry about our health, our livelihoods, our loved ones, and with phrases such as “in these difficult times” present in almost every article we read, paired with the daily statistics, we experience some level of anxiousness every day. Media are even reporting a world-wide phenomenon of ‘Coronavirus dreams’ reflecting the heightened levels of stress we endure during the waking hours.
So what can we do to help ourselves maintain our mental health?
First of all, it’s useful to understand than anxiety is linked to fears about the future, about what might (or might not) happen, and to the feeling of not being in control. The COVID-19 reality is therefore likely to make us feel distressed.
Once we acknowledge that, and once we normalise it knowing it affects everyone in a similar way, we may allow ourselves to actually feel the pandemic stress for what it is and to know it’s fine to feel this way. Learning to recognise the moments when anxiety strikes can help us gain perspective and feel less overwhelmed.
We can also help ourselves by recognising what we can and cannot control; we’re not always able to regulate external circumstances, but we can learn to cultivate good habits where we feel in control of our personal well-being. Stress isn’t something that we can conquer, but we can recognise and manage it. And although it’s natural that on some days this will be easier than on others, the idea is to stick to the healthy habits regardless.
Hacks to calm the mind The Stress Management Society have been running the Stress Awareness Month in April for the past 28 years and this year came up with a 30-day challenge, encouraging us to manage our stress by carrying out a single action for our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing every day. They also offer useful ideas, such as “perform a random act of kindness - it’s nice to be nice” for every day. Check them out and continue reading for some more stress-busting inspiration.
We are a social species, hardwired for connection. Isolation and loneliness can exacerbate anxiety and lead to depression. Make sure you stay connected with people you love and those who make you feel happy. Use the available technology to video-call family and friends regularly. For many, it’s helpful to discuss upsetting thoughts with people they trust. The loved ones are likely to have them, too, and we may be better equipped to find solutions collectively. Looking out for one another and checking in regularly help us practice our sense of empathy and can even have a lasting impact on our relationships.
Filter the information you consume
Among the extensive news coverage about the outbreak, it’s important to find a balance between staying responsibly informed and limiting the intake of news, which, in excess, can fuel anxiety. This may not apply to you, but if you find that the news is causing you stress, try to stick to trustworthy sources, such as the BBC, the World Health Organisation etc. You may also want to limit how often you check for updates; constant monitoring of news and social media feeds can quickly turn compulsive. The limit is different for everyone, so pay attention to how you’re feeling and adjust accordingly. Think about switching off notifications about “breaking news” if you receive them on your phone. Consider limiting your social media consumption and be careful what you share. Do your best to verify information before passing it on to avoid spreading rumours and creating unnecessary panic.
Create a routine