7 Coping Tips To Stay Mentally Healthy During COVID-19

COVID-19 not only took some of our loved ones from us, but it has also taken our sense of normalcy since the pandemic started. The other issues it has created include job loss, financial strain, social isolation, loneliness, and a long list of other complications it has brought on the world. It can be a challenging situation, but here are some things you can do to help cope with these circumstances to try and help ease some stress and suffering.

  1. Be kind to yourself and others
    You may feel lost, confused, anxious, and worried, but so is everyone else. Nobody has ever experienced this type of situation before, so most people are taking things a day at a time. While they are very normal emotions to have and should allow yourself to feel these feelings and show yourself some compassion and patience for your struggles. Do not try to push away difficult feelings or force yourself to “think positive.” It will deny the reality of your current feelings and experience. Your feelings are valid, and ALL emotions are okay to have, even tough ones.
  2. Manage your feelings
    Find a way to acknowledge and express your difficult emotions in a safe and controlled manner, for example, write them down in a journal or letter, talk to a friend, get physical exercise, or practice yoga/meditation. If your ways are interfering with your ability to function daily, seriously consider reaching out to a mental health professional. Above all, think about how you would show compassion and the advice you would give a friend and apply that to yourself and others.
  3. Be realistic and lower your expectations
    It is not realistic to think you can handle and do it all like home school your children, work full-time from home, maintain a perfect (clean, orderly) household, and take care of yourself and others. Try prioritizing one of two things, and let the other stuff slide aside. Leave the teaching to teachers and focus on parenting. Take time out of your days to focus on self-care and remind yourself not to worry if you wait a little to start or finish projects, do laundry, and let the dishes pile. Do not expect too much of yourself. You will get to it when you can and should focus on high priority things.
  4. Make the best of the situation
    Distinguish between things you can control and things you cannot. Specifically, you are in control of your response to the situation. Accept that the future can be uncertain and recognize that you will and will not have control over areas of your life.
  5. Keep your routines
    It would be in your best interest to not sleep until noon every day. Try to keep your schedule and routine as close the same as before, with some modifications to suit your new routine. Have set times for work, meals, activities, and a regular bedtime. Try not to increase your alcohol intake more than it was before.
  6. Keep physical, not social, distance from others
    When we are being told to stay away from others, it can be hard not to isolate yourself socially, especially those who live alone. Try to make an effort to keep in touch with family, friends, and colleagues through email, FaceTime, video conferencing, and phone calls. Make appointments with friends to meet for a video or telephone call just like you would with an in-person get-together. Zoom parties are a thing as well. Share some food or drinks with friends and catch up regularly.
  7. Stick to reliable sources for facts
    Pick one to two sources that you trust to get your information. Social media may make you feel anxious and angry, so it can be a good idea to avoid it or take a break from it. Consider limiting your scrolling time to 20 minutes or so, once or twice a day, or skip it altogether.

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Feel Anxious About Supermarket Trips? Try These Tips

It is a strange time in our world due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic. Going to the supermarket may spark some severe anxiety for people, seeing customers wearing masks and gloves to buy food; nothing feels “normal” right now. As if that wasn’t enough to drive someone with anxiety to not wanting to leave their house for any essential errands, supermarkets are “potential hotspots” for the virus to spread. Nobody should feel silly about those worries of going into public grocery stores and supermarkets during a pandemic. Your fears are valid.

You cannot control what goes on outside of your body, but you can control what goes on inside of your body. Try thinking of it as “going to the supermarket/grocery store is a manageable risk.” Use the new measures at the grocery store or supermarket like following the tape on the ground and queuing at the checkout to make the trip as positive as possible. They are there to keep you and others safe. Remind yourself of the process you will take after your visit, such as washing your hands for 20 seconds. Remembering times when you have felt relaxed and in control at the supermarket/grocery store can be helpful as well. It can help prevent negative thoughts from spiraling out of control. Chloe Brotheridge, a hypnotherapist, suggested to “do a mental rehearsal of going to the supermarket/grocery store and imagine yourself feeling calm, grounded, and self-assured as you do your shopping. Imagine this with all your senses: see yourself looking relaxed, fee it in your body, notice your body posture, the sounds and smells – and imagine it going well.”

If you start to feel the panic start to rise as you approach the store she also suggests using positive affirmations like “I can’t control what happens outside of me, but I can control how I respond” or “I choose to hold on to my determined calm, all is well, I’ve got this.” Practicing controlled breathing can help reduce stress hormones from being released at the perceived threat. Stand still, fill your lungs fully by breathing through your mouth. Count to three while holding air in your lungs and breathe out while counting to four. Repeat the exercise for a few minutes until you feel calmer. You can also try counting to 60 while you are walking through aisles to help maintain your sense of calm, but try not to get too side-tracked from your shopping list. 

If you get panic attacks concerning weekly shopping, you are not alone. Social media is full of others sharing their experiences as well. Panic attacks are scary, but it may help remind yourself they aren’t dangerous. Writing in a journal every day to nurture resilience may reduce the frequency of attacks, according to psychologist Chloe Paidoussis-Mitchell. It is a way to declutter your negative and anxious thoughts and feelings that, in turn, can help you be less likely to be triggered. You should always journal positive experiences in your day to show gratitude and keep those at the forefront of your mind. 

Keep in mind that these tips were designed by professionals to make panic and anxiety more manageable, but feeling nervous is almost inevitable. Do not judge yourself for it. Reassuring yourself and staying positive can make all the difference in taking control of your anxiety in order to moderate and process it.

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How To Cope With Eating Disorders During COVID-19

Image Credit: Credit: Des – stock.adobe.com
Copyright: ©Des – stock.adobe.com

According to the American Psychiatric Association, someone with an Eating Disorder (ED) will experience disturbances in their eating habits. The disorders will also affect how people think and feel about eating, food, and spend a lot of time and energy thinking about food and how much they weigh. They usually have a complicated relationship with food and only eat certain types or brands of food. They might only eat at a particular time of the day with a strict routine. Social isolation and increased anxiety are also some factors that may interrupt recovery.

There are three main EDs:

  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Bulimia Nervosa
  • Binge Eating Disorder

There are many more types of EDs and disordered eating tendencies but may not always fit into specific categories. EDs are mental health conditions, and people who suffer from them also suffer from other mental health issues like anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or drug and alcohol use disorders. However, this is not always the case.

How COVID-19 affects people with an ED
Some people may feel isolated due to social distancing, which can lead to a range of emotions. The most common effects of social distancing are anxiety, depression, and loneliness. A common reaction to a trigger for someone who suffers from an ED can be binge eating, purging, taking laxatives, or excessive exercise. Some people with EDs can also experience social anxiety, and physical distancing measures can make it harder for them to manage that symptom.

With the current situation in our world, routines have been interrupted, and that can throw anybody’s day off. Routines can be an essential part of recovery. It can outline when and what to eat, as well as when and how to exercise. Visiting friends and attending healthcare appointments may be essential parts of the routine as well.

Making a plan
When someone with an ED experiences a trigger, there are some techniques they can use to help minimize their likelihood of engaging in harmful behaviors. Making an action plan based on the level of distress is a great idea. For example, if the measure of distress is at a 3 out of 10, then the person could call a friend for a chat, take a bath, or write in a journal. If the level of distress is at a 6 out of 10, the person could ask an ED organization, trusted healthcare professional, or a close family member for support.

Someone suffering with an ED may want to share what they are feeling with a trusted friend and/or family member and want to keep in touch Someone suffering from an ED may want to share what they are feeling with a trusted friend and/or family member and want to keep in touch during lockdown measures. Video, telephone calls, and social media are all great ways to stay in touch. Talking with a therapist may be beneficial as well. Therapists and mental health professionals may offer video or telephone call appointments.

Setting a routine, and sticking to it
Some people have found that setting a routine has helped. It may include a regular meal plan, exercise schedule, and set times for work and/or hobbies.

Writting it down
Many people with an ED find it helpful to write down a list of reasons why they want to stay in recovery. They can keep it somewhere easy to see, like a noticeboard or the fridge door.

Self Soothing
The things people find comforting will vary among individuals, but some ways to self-soothe may include:

  • listening to music
  • taking a warm bath
  • speaking to a friend
  • limiting social media intake
  • going for a walk, if possible
  • spending time with a companion animal, such as a dog or cat
  • reading a chapter of a book

Where to find support
There are many different organizations offering support to people with EDs during the COVID-19 crisis. Check out this list:

How to help someone else
A person with an ED may find it hard to talk about their feelings or how the People with an ED may find it hard to talk about their feelings or how the lockdown or other corona-virus safety measures have affected them. Friends and family members who want to help can try giving their loved one that is struggling with an ED, opportunities to open up. They can also work with their loved ones on how to avoid triggers. It may mean finding an acceptable alternative to an unavailable food product or avoiding stockpiling food at home.

This help guide has a couple of recommendations on how families can help.

  • Setting a positive example by eating nutritious, balanced meals and avoiding some language such as “diet/dieting”
  • Encouraging the whole family – even if the person with an ED is not eating – to sit down and enjoy a meal together
  • Avoiding attempts to force them to eat
  • Promoting self-esteem with encouragement and compliments that DO NOT focus on a person’s weight

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Can Isolation Affect Your Mental Health?

It has been proven that social distancing is effective in slowing down the spread of viruses. It can also lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, especially in older adults. With the pandemic that is going on, people are practicing social distancing and isolating themselves to contribute to their part of keeping people safe and healthy. However, isolation can have a significant impact on your mental health, contributing to conditions like anxiety, depression, and dementia. For this reason, The World Health Organization (WHO) encourages others to keep socializing, but at a distance by phone or online platforms. 

Effects of Isolation
Social support networks have a positive effect on mental health. Many countries are treating loneliness as a health priority at this time. Social connection is important for both physical and psychological health. Research has even shown that relationships are a biological need and vital to our well-being and survival. Some of the risks associated with loneliness and isolation can include:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • schizophrenia
  • suicide
  • dementia
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Some researchers have identified links between loneliness and some physical conditions such as heart disease and breast cancer.

Who is at risk?

With the world currently dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, health organizations (like WHO) around the globe are urging people to continue to practice social distancing. Older adults are the leading age group to likely to the effects of isolation. Before the pandemic, researchers estimated that more than 8 million older adults were affected by isolation. One of the reasonings that older adults are more at risk of loneliness is that they experience the most life changes that can break social ties and make it more difficult to socialize, such as:

  • Retirement
  • Widowhood
  • Children leaving home
  • Age-related health problems

People with health conditions or disabilities that limit physical activity may find it challenging to socialize outside the home. Age and underlying health conditions are both risk factors as well for developing severe COVID-19 symptoms. Other nations — including Germany, Australia, and the United Kingdom — say that they are also facing a loneliness epidemic. Societal trends may also cause social disconnection. For instance, the average household size has decreased, more couples are deciding not to have children, lower attendance in social groups, lower participation in religious groups, and a decline in the average size of social groups in the U.S.. Some other factors that may make it more likely that someone would experience loneliness include:

  • divorce
  • living alone
  • being single

Some signs and symptoms to look for

Signs and symptoms that suggest isolation is affecting a person’s mental health can include:

  • feelings of depression and anxiety
  • aggressive behavior
  • passive attitude
  • poor sleep quality
  • cognitive decline
  • altered memory
  • poor self-care or self-neglect

Researchers believe that loneliness and isolation can have different consequences depending on a person’s age. For example, someone aged 18-49 years old may struggle to focus or eat more frequently, while children and young adolescents may experience more cognitive, behavioral, and emotional difficulties.

Finding ways to stay connected

There are many different ways to reach out to loved ones, friends, and those in need in today’s world. We have many different platforms you can choose from to connect with others, such as:

  • mail
  • phone and text
  • email
  • social media
  • video chat platforms

With the pandemic going on worldwide, it is a good idea to keep in contact with others in the community that may be at risk of isolation, loneliness, and health complications. Some good ways to remind them that there is always nearby support are:

  • Calling them on the phone
  • Knocking on their door and staying a safe distance away
  • Setting up regular phone calls or video chats
  • Sending care packages (groceries or medication drop offs)

When to seek help

People who are experiencing loneliness should seek help from their doctor or a therapist if they have noticed any of these signs of anxiety or depression:

  • restlessness or irritability
  • persistent worry
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • an inability to concentrate
  • suicidal thoughts

Suicide Prevention
If you or someone you know is at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgement
  • Call 911 or your local emergency number, or you can text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or any other potentially harmful objects.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours per day at 1-800-273-8255, people who are hard of hearing can call 1-800-799-4889.

Here is another helpful suicide prevention link: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327007#hotlines

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How To Cope With OCD During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Those with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) experience constant or recurring thoughts that can cause anxiety and may try to cope with those thoughts through compulsions. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that a person feels that they must perform. With what is going on right now in the world with COVID-19, some aspects of the virus can trigger anxiety and OCD behaviors like frequent handwashing and constantly checking the news. Here are some ways to take precautions and other coping techniques for OCD tendencies during the pandemic.

Contamination is one of the most common fears among those with OCD. It can be difficult for someone to cope with under normal circumstances, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, it can become even more of a challenge.

The real possibility of illness for people with OCD can cause them to take extreme measures to keep themselves and their families safe, like repetitive handwashing, cleaning, or being afraid to even leave their homes.

Harming Others
The worry of possibly harming others, either by accident or on purpose, is a common fear of OCD. During the pandemic, people with OCD may worry that they will transmit the virus to another person, and may go to extremes to try avoid doing so.

Researchers consider hoarding as a separate disorder from OCD, but many people with OCD also struggle with hoarding. People who hoarder usually collect things that are not useful, however during a pandemic, they may hoard things like medications, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and toilet paper.

OCD Triggers During A Pandemic
There are many aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic that may trigger OCD-related fears and behaviors like:

  • The advice to wash hands more often
  • The emphasis on proper handwashing techniques
  • The need to clean hands every time a person returns home
  • The advice to only leave the home for food and necessities

Those triggers can contribute to behaviors like:

  • Widespread panic-shopping that can trigger hoarding (which we have seen with the toilet paper and cleaning supplies shortage)
  • Frequent reminding family members to wash their hands
  • Searching for information on how long the virus stays active on certain surfaces
  • Normalizing frequent washing and/or bathing

Sensible Precautions to Take
Most people with anxiety feel pressure to follow rules to the T, and as a result of this, someone with OCD may find it difficult to tell the difference between sensible precautions against COVID-19 and excessive or perfectionistic behavior. Many therapists suggest that those with OCD have a safety plan in place for themselves based on official public health guidelines. By following that plan, people with OCD will know if they are taking reasonable steps.

Therapists also encourage people to think about their cleaning and hygiene habits. If they did not go outside and no one came into their home, then they do not need to disinfect anything. However, disinfecting commonly used surfaces once a day is a reasonable plan.

When washing your hands try limiting your handwashing to 20 seconds each time and only wash them:

  • After going outside
  • Before eating
  • After going to the bathroom
  • After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose

If you have OCD and find yourself adding extra steps to your plan and find it difficult to stop, you may consider seeking support.

Limit News and Social Media
Many news outlets offer free live streaming during the COVID-19 pandemic and publish news updated frequently. The American Psychological Association (APA) advise that people that notice they are checking the news more than usual set a limit on how many time a day you check the news updates or watch the live streams.

Seek Online Support and Teletherapy
To limit the virus from spreading, many therapists have stopped offering in-person sessions and allow access for people to have teletherapy online or over the phone. Online support groups, such as the International OCD Foundation’s My OCD Community, may also help others cope with OCD during a pandemic.

When To Seek Help
Pandemics do not have biological or medical implications. They also impact many people psychologically and socially, including people with mental health conditions. During a pandemic, those with preexisting mental health conditions are at higher risk of experiencing a relapse, stopping their medication, not engaging in self-care, or having suicidal thoughts. If you or a person you know with OCD is struggling with their symptoms during this pandemic encourage them to call us or:

  • Their doctor or therapist
  • A mental health helpline (Suicide Prevention Lifeline has talk and text options)
  • Their local public health center

Suicide Prevention
If you or someone you know is at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgement
  • Call 911 or your local emergency number, or you can text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or any other potentially harmful objects.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours per day at 1-800-273-8255, people who are hard of hearing can call 1-800-799-4889.

Here is another helpful suicide prevention link: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327007#hotlines


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