How to make your mental health a priority during the COVID-19 pandemic

How to make your mental health a priority during the COVID-19 pandemic

As the waves of COVID-19 seem relentless, our reality has met a new norm with restrictions on dining out, socializing, going to the gym and traveling, among others. During these times of uncertainty, it is important to take a step back and prioritize our mental health and prevent unhealthy emotional responses from disrupting our daily lives. When the world seems to be in a zone of panic, it may be difficult to know where to begin. But we have gathered some pointers for you to help you keep your mental health a priority during the pandemic.

Limit your exposure to the media

It is imperative to have access to current and accurate information regarding COVID-19 safety measures, however constantly checking media outlets could lead to a feeling of helplessness, anxiousness and pessimism. By focusing too much of our time on things we can’t control, we can increase these negative feelings and end up making ourselves just plain bummed out. Therefore, when necessary, it is important to take breaks from COVID 19 news. As with anything, moderation is key.

Maintain a healthy routine

This is especially crucial for those who are working or studying remotely. While we attempt to carry on with our new realities, we need to consciously practice self-care by eating well, sleeping enough and making time for an activity that we enjoy every day – this could be anything from reading or praying to talking to friends regularly. Practicing self-care is easily manageable by establishing a daily routine.

Stay active and communicate

Moving your body and regular exercise helps to elevate our mood and reduce stress. Plus, it keeps your body in a better condition to fight the virus should the need arise – but let’s hope not. In addition, to satisfy our need for social interaction, we need to make time to connect with those around us that make us happy. It’s helpful if the conversation is not only about coronavirus – so try to talk about normal things while still observing safe social distancing measures as recommended.

Reflect and practice gratitude

As your day comes to an end, make a list of what you have achieved and what you are grateful for. Focusing on the things we have accomplished can help us maintain an optimistic outlook and boost our self-esteem. In times when things are so uncertain, it helps to recognize the silver lining of our situation. Even if we are having struggles, acknowledging the positive parts of our situation can lighten our stress. As Johnson Oatman Jr., (in the well-known Christian hymn, “Count Your Blessings”) would say –

“When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”

Refrain from taking drugs, caffeine, alcohol and nicotine

Not to sound like a public service announcement, but it is important to limit the use of certain substances and stimulants – like alcohol and caffeine – despite the help they may seem to provide in the short term. Others, like drugs and nicotine should be abstained from for obvious health reasons. These substances can have detrimental effects as they wear off and can contribute to or exacerbate feelings of anxiety, difficulty sleeping, lowered mood or even aggression. If you are already a regular user, you could use this time to practice moderation by limiting what’s available for consumption in your house.

Focus on the parts of your life within your control

To do this, it may help to visualize your circle of control and be more forgiving and gentle with yourself, especially when you are unable to help with things that fall outside of your control. If you have concerns about your job security, you could choose to talk to your colleagues, supervisors and managers for support and to help you manage realistic expectations. Another helpful trick is to relax. Meditating for even five minutes a day can help clear your mind and keep you focused on things you can control. It can also help you keep a healthy response to things that get you down.

Reach out if you need help

If you are struggling, there’s no need to face it alone. There are plenty of professional resources to help us when our mental health starts to suffer and we are having a hard time dealing with things. There’s no shame in asking for help – in fact, it demonstrates a high level of emotional intelligence when you are able to recognize that you could use some help.

Here are some resources that can help –

Hong Kong

Time to Heal – 9010 2980,

Care4All – 6020 2493,

The Samaritans (Multilingual) – 2896 0000

United States

The Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line – Text “HELLO” to 741741

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – 1-800-662-HELP

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