Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis is unprecedented and it’s confusing and worrying for all of us – causing increased stress, anxiety and fear in many. For people already living with complex mental health issues, the impact of a pandemic like this can be significant. Physical and psychological impacts of imposed quarantine, self-isolation, physical distancing and separation from loved ones can exacerbate or trigger the symptoms of mental health issues. Personally, having to stay inside/at home for an extended period of time without seeing many of my loved ones has affected me greatly. As young people we endure a busy schedule of school and social lives, sports and possibly jobs – having all of these things taken away can severely impact one’s mental health. I know for me not seeing my friends 5 days a week at school, losing my job of 5 years, no longer being able to see extended family, having my last year of schooling turned upside down and even something as simple as having to spend 2 weeks of school holidays at home! I have to admit, I enjoy a good day in bed watching Brooklyn Nine Nine for the 4th time every once in a while, but when there is nothing else to do, it gets boring. As a result of this I have adapted my routine, found new things I love and tried to keep my mental health stable, being one of the main goals.
Here are 5 practical ways to I have found help to alleviate anxiety, distract my mind and help me cope with this pandemic
Exercise – before self-isolation began, I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t do much exercise, i’d rather scroll through Tik Tok then go for a walk. Yet ever since we have been confined to our homes, I made a pact with my brother that at 4pm every afternoon we would got for a 3km walk. We walk exactly the same route every day, this does not change, some days we might run, some days we walk, depends how we are feeling. It gets us out of the house, he listens to music and I listen to a podcast, yes it’s just a walk, but it is also a break for your brain from screens, news updates and even family members if need be.
Doing what I love – for many individuals, young and old, doing what they love may have been taken away from them due to the restrictions and rules set in place by the government. Personally ‘what I love’ is art, design, graphics and with this abundance of free time I have rediscovered my love for this. Before this pandemic hit I had lost all confidence in my work, yet with experimentation, feedback and a lot of free time, I have found my confidence again.
Maintaining communication – maintaining communication with your loved ones couldn’t be any easier in a technology run world like we have today. I know I struggle with not seeing my best friends every day, going from seeing them 5 days a week to no at all for months has really affected me. Not having them there when I need a laugh or even a hug, yet through apps such as facetime and zoom, communication can still be maintained even when we can’t be with them. I know many families around the country are using Apps such as Zoom to communicate with families that may be spread around the country, even the world. The technology we have access to at our fingertips is so easy to use and you can see your best friends on your phone in seconds, but remember, if you haven’t heard from your friend in a while and you think they might be struggling, send them a text, check in with them, even facetime them. You could make their day
Have a day to myself if needed – this sound silly considering we have to spend every day with our families at home, but sometimes being with your siblings or parents 24-7 can mean butting heads, siblings doing everything in their power to annoy you, and it is times like that when taking time for yourself is needed the most. We should be using this quality time with our family to try and build stronger connections, not tear them down. This may be easier said than done, but just going to your room for 5 minutes or so to calm down, having a bath, even putting some calm music on can help reduce your stress, anger and diffuse situations.
Turn off the news – every second of the day, we are consumed by news updates and conferences, whether it be on the TV or Facebook, this can have a real impact on mental health and I know it has mine. When you’re watching TV and there is an update, turn it off, if it’s anything important to do with the Virus, you will hear it 50 more times during the day, I’m sure. Find something new to focus your mind on, because watching and listening to news updates, hearing about the horrendous number of deaths around the world, anxiety will start to rise, stress levels too. All we can do is listen and do what the professionals say, stay home and wait till this all passes.