The novel coronavirus crisis is taking a toll on our mental health. As we are locked down in our houses, physically distanced from our loved ones, and looking at an uncertain future on our doorsteps, it is normal to feel a little bit worried. Our minds are filled with questions like, “When is this going to end?” and “What will happen then?” The lack of an answer can leave us feeling anxious. Knowing what to do in a crisis like this one is definitely challenging, but learning how to manage these feelings of uncertainty and anxiety will help you remain calm and maintain or improve your mental health. Here are a few coping mechanisms that will help you get through the day, every day.
Keep yourself busy
During times of uncertainty, idle time can be particularly anxiety-inducing as our mind tries to make sense of what’s going on and what the future holds. The best way to quiet your mind is to keep it busy. One way to do so is to set up a schedule or a to-do list to organize your activities at home. This will help you remain focused and prevent your mind from wandering. You can also challenge yourself and use this time to learn something new, like cooking, painting, taking photographs, or knitting maybe. Due to the outbreak, there’s an incredibly wide offering of free online courses that you can use to learn anything you can think of. However, don’t get caught up in the idea that you have to be productive 24/7, as this is not a healthy mindset either. Catching up on your reading or binge-watching your favorite TV show is also a way to keep your mind busy.
Keep in touch with loved ones
Social distancing can fuel anxiety and feelings of loneliness as we feel isolated from the world and distanced from the ones we love. Although you may be physically distant from other people, remember to stay connected to them. Check-in with your loved ones, at least every other day, just to see how they’re doing. If you need an experience closer to real life, you can start a video chat with your family or group of friends. But even a phone call or even a text message will let them know that you’re thinking about them. Staying in touch with loved ones will improve your mental wellbeing as well as theirs as it creates a shared perception of support and optimism.
Although it’s easier said than done, try not to worry about the future. Uncertainty can make us feel like we lack control over our lives, which in turn makes us feel anxious. That is why searching for even the smallest element of certainty—what you know, what you can do—can help you cope with negative emotions. Use this time to focus on what you have and what you’re grateful for.
Limit media exposure
The almost-constant stream of news reports on the global coronavirus crisis can also be anxiety-provoking. Having the news on in the background can leave you in a constant state of panic and alert, instead of keeping you informed. So try to limit the amount of time you check the news per day. Find a reliable source of information you know you can trust and check for updates twice per day.
Staying calm during a crisis is a tall order, especially when we are all going through the same experience. However, as disheartening as it all may seem, there are still small yet significant actions we can do to maintain our mental health in the face of uncertainty.