Tips to Stay Mentally Healthy During a Crisis

April 28, 2020

THE COVID-19 pandemic has caused worldwide panic and distress on people from all walks of life.

While majority of people already know the basics on how to avoid the spread of COVID-19, but it’s equally important to keep mental health in check especially during a crisis.

It can get overwhelming and stressful when you read the news or when you continuously talk to other people about the virus, so here are some simple tips on how you can take care of your mental well-being.

* Don’t stress yourself from news about COVID-19. Reading news about updates on COVID-19 in social media or on television could trigger uncertainty, anxiety, or restlessness especially if the news is fabricated or fake.

Try to schedule breaks in between screen time and limit your usage of social media. If you wish to keep informed on the essentials, follow only trusted sources like the Department of Health (DOH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to avoid potential exposure to fake news.

* Create and follow a routine. Humans are creatures of habit who thrive on schedules and fixed tasks. This can be carried out in the comfort of your own home. Avoid spending too much time doing only one activity such as sleeping or watching TV.

For those working from home, create a routine during working hours and set boundaries between work and play. Make use of a designated working area in your home to avoid bringing work-related stress inside rooms for relaxation such as your bedroom.

* Move your body. Staying indoors should not hamper physical activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends exercising regularly to cope with stress from COVID-19.

Physical activity has proven to be beneficial in improving overall health and in ensuring bodies grow, develop, and function as they should.

In a study at Harvard Medical School, exercising not only reduces stress hormone levels, it also stimulates endorphin production. Endorphins are brain chemicals that help boost our mood.

These are simple exercises you can do to get your blood pumping:

-- Dancing

-- Brisk-walking around the house

-- Walking up and down the stairs

-- Skipping rope

-- Lifting heavy objects such as grocery bags

-- Using own body weight (push-ups, planks, lunges)

* Connect with the real world. There’s a big difference between real and virtual world. Maintaining strong emotional connections with your family and friends during times of crisis is an essential part of survival. Reach out to a loved one online or over the phone to relieve stress.

If extreme distress persists and affects your day-to-day living, you may consult a medical professional remotely as well. At the same time, make yourself available to people who you think may also need extra emotional support.

* Boost your immune system. Your physiological well-being—including mental health—has a great effect on your overall health. Regularly eat well-balanced meals composed of fruits, vegetables, and proteins. Avoid eating high-sodium and high-sugar food.

Consider taking multivitamins with vitamin C and zinc which are known to boost your immune system. It’s also a good idea to get more vitamin D the natural way by getting some sunlight. Get some much-needed sun exposure if you have a small balcony or by staying in a well-lit room. Consider squeezing in a couple of indoor exercise routines to get your blood pumping and to maintain a healthy weight.

* Focus on things that matter. Lessen your worries by focusing on things that are proven and on matters that you can control. COVID-19 affected a percentage of the global population, but there are also documented recoveries. We can focus our energies on supporting our medical professionals who are doing their best in treating those who are sick. Leading experts around the world are also hard at work in developing a cure or vaccine for the virus.

* Meditate. Find time during the day to sit comfortably in a quiet corner of your house, and take a deep breath. For a few minutes, close your eyes and try to let go of the things that stress you.

Meditation is a mind and body practice that helps people relax and stay calm even in a stressful environment. Faith-based practices such as praying, is also a form of meditation. Do what works for you to refresh your mind and body.

Remember, it is okay to feel anxious about the COVID-19 health crisis. At this time, there are many things beyond our control because we are still learning much about the virus and its effects on life. You may not feel at your best today, and that is okay. What is important is being able to talk to someone who can help relieve your anxiety.

If you feel like you need someone to talk to, you may call the Philippine National Center for Mental Health hotline at 0917-899-8727 (USAP) and 7989-8727 (USAP). The hotline is available 24/7 for those who are feeling down or distressed during or even beyond this global pandemic.