Health is hard enough to navigate, so how do you manage your mental, emotional and physical well-being during COVID-19?
Even the most balanced and mindful persons are feeling the stress of the COVID-19. It is becoming harder to bounce back and move forward—our routines are out of whack, the ability to navigate as we choose is gone and the amount of uncertainty continues to grow. Our minds are consumed by the spread of the coronavirus, how it will impact those we care about, our communities, the economy and us.
With so much out of our control and the growing unknown, it’s important to focus on what is within our power. Here are some ways to do that..
Manage your expectations
Don’t buy into the idea that you are meant to double down and increase productivity because you are homebound. Yes, there is truth to the claims that amazing inventions have come from pandemics (Sir Isaac Newton/Calculus) and game changing businesses born out of recessions (Uber, Slack and many more), but that is not the standard so stop trying to live up to it. We should not underestimate the cognitive and emotional load that COVID brings with it and the impact of them—short and long term. Expect difficulty concentrating, for motivation to dip and periods of feeling overwhelmed. Learning to adjust and adapt to a new normal will take time. Go easy on yourself. Goals need to be realistic, for ourselves and others. We need to figure this out, and we will, together.
Proactively manage your stress levels
Make yourself a priority. Whenever possible, build a solid foundation for your mental health and well-being. That means prioritize your sleep, eating well, resist the urge to overindulge and make time to exercise. Be aware that you are likely to be drawn to bad habits and vices as a means of coping.
Know your triggers
Do you know the things that derail you? You should. A good way to manage triggers and stress is to identify the thoughts, actions or circumstances and surroundings that tend to provoke or exacerbate them or make you feel overwhelmed. When you see them, step back. Deescalate by acknowledging and repositioning yourself—physically, mentally and emotionally. Our thoughts, feelings, physical reactions, and unhealthy actions feed into and amplify the situation. By addressing even one of these we help break the cycle.
Control what you can
Create and embrace routine when and where you can. Routine helps to manage anxiety, provides a sense of order and will help level expectations. This will help you adapt more quickly to what is currently the new normal.
Setting boundaries often gets a bad rap as being difficult or unaccommodating. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Be purposeful and make a distinction between work and non-work time, both in your physical space and your head space. At least once a day, do something that is not work or virus-related and brings you joy.
Practice compassion with yourself and with others
Each one of us is struggling with stress and uncertainty. So much of what is going on right now is out of our control. How we talk to and treat ourselves during these times can provide a powerful buffer or amplify our distress. We may be isolated but we are not alone; we are all going through this. Do not feel pressured to be “on” or your best self at all times. It is ok to ask for help. It is ok to admit this is scary. Reach out. We are in this together.
Human interaction is a biological need. Even the most introverted of people need some sense of connection for mental and physical health. Utilize the technology available to connect. Create virtual forums, encourage people to join video meetings, let people know they can contribute as little or as much as they are comfortable with and it is their presence that matters. We are in isolation, but there is no need to feel alone. Interact with your friends, family and co-workers. Suggest ways to spend time together remotely. Rekindle the friendships that suffered when we all got too busy to stay in touch. Let people know you care by showing them.
Manage uncertainty by staying in the present
We are wired to focus on the future, to plan for what is next. How do you do that when there is so much unknown? How do you focus on the present? Work to take each day as it comes. Focus on the things you can control. Focus on the present, on what you have and how to nurture it.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a stressful time for all of us. It will test even the most researched mental health methods and recommendations. Embrace good mental health and well being tactics, rely on others when necessary and protect ourselves and those around us.