AD | Featured
While the coronavirus is gradually showing signs of slowing, the world is still experiencing the challenges associated with this ongoing pandemic. Mental health has been of particular concern, especially in terms of the emotional toll and stress that many people have endured through lockdowns, remote working and drastic changes to everyday life.
If you are struggling with your mental health during this time, the strategies below can help.
Depending on the severity of your mental health issues, your first port-of-call might be to see a medical or mental health professional. Here are a few options:
Visit Your Doctor
If you are experiencing mental distress or other symptoms, it can be a good idea to visit your doctor. They might refer you to a mental health specialist, or they may be able to provide you with medication to ease your symptoms. Your doctor will also be able to diagnose or identify other conditions that might be contributing to your symptoms.
See a Mental Health Specialist
Seeing a mental health specialist is another excellent option, especially if you’re suffering from issues such as depression and anxiety. Some of the best options include:
- Psychologists: these certified professionals often provide consultations, assessments, advice and psychological counselling, depending on your needs. Some of the common psychotherapies include talking therapy and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). Psychologists often work in hospitals, community mental health centres and in private practice.
- Psychiatrists: psychiatrists deal with the emotional and physical aspects of mental health and are licensed to diagnose conditions and prescribe medications. They also provide psychotherapies and will work with other mental health professionals to provide treatment. Psychiatrists are often found in medical facilities, hospitals and private practice.
- Nurse practitioners: these specialists are qualified to assess, diagnose and treat mental health conditions. Some psychiatric nurse practitioners also prescribe medications for mental health issues or substance abuse problems. Like psychiatrists, nurse practitioners often work in hospital settings or in private practice.
- Social workers: while social workers are less involved with one-on-one therapy, they are often trained in mental health. Social workers can also provide vital support if you need advice on housing, finances and family assistance. Social workers can be found in local authorities, in NHS medical settings or private practice.
- Counsellors and therapists: counsellors are certified professionals who provide talking therapy to clients so they can express their thoughts and feelings. They can be found in hospital settings, health centres and private practice.
If you are unsure about how to find one of these mental health specialists, search online or ask for a referral from a doctor or local mental health centre.
Aside from medical support, self-care is one of the most important things you can do for your mental health during the pandemic.
Engage in Positive Self-Talk
During stressful periods, it can be tempting to focus on the negatives around us. However, a chronic cycle of negative thinking can lead to feelings of despair and depression. To improve your mental health, it’s important to engage in positive self-talk, not only about yourself but also about the world around you.
If you find yourself focusing on the negatives, try to pivot those thoughts and focus on more positive aspects instead. This can be challenging at first, but it gets easier with practice. The key is to remember that your thoughts dictate your emotions. If you want to feel better, you also have to change your thinking.
Stick to a Routine
If there’s one thing that the pandemic has left the world with is feelings of uncertainty. Since this virus first arrived in 2020, people have been exposed to the anxiety of not knowing what’s going to happen next or whether they or someone they know will catch the virus. This heightened anxiety and sense of insecurity can wreak havoc on people’s mental health.
Therefore, one of the best ways to manage this is to stick to a routine. Start by getting up and going to bed at the same time every day. If you’re working from home, try to make sure that you stick to set hours and that you’re eating meals around the same time every day. By giving your life structure, it can make you feel more in control. Routines are also great for keeping you productive, which is important if you’re struggling with depression.
Limit Your Exposure to the News & Social Media
It is no secret that we are surrounded by negativity in the news and on social media. This has been especially so during the pandemic when we are constantly exposed to stories about death and infection rates, failing economies and imminent lockdowns. While it’s good to stay informed, try where possible to limit your exposure to negative news. Subscribe to positive content such as Positive News or follow social media accounts that spread positivity. Part of feeling happier and healthier is to surround yourself with these messages as well.
Get Plenty of Rest
Getting plenty of rest is important no matter what is going on in our lives. But when it comes to mental health, adequate sleep and rest are essential. Lack of sleep can cause hormonal disruptions in the body and contribute to or exacerbate mental health conditions like anxiety. Ensuring you get plenty of rest means that you will be physically, emotionally and mentally healthier.
If sleep is an issue for you, make sure you wake up and go to bed at the same time every night. Erratic sleep patterns, such as going to bed early one day and then very late the next, can greatly disrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythms.
Exercise and physical activity are another vital component of managing your mental health. Not only is exercise good for keeping your body fit and healthy, but it has also been proven to boost mood and help with anxiety. If you are new to exercise and feel daunted by it all, start with simple activities such as walking. To make it more fun, go for activities that you find enjoyable, such as dancing or getting out into nature.
The key isn’t to go crazy and feel like you have to go running or do an intense workout. Moving regularly and alternating between stimulating exercise and more relaxing ones such as yoga and stretching will keep you mobile and nimble. You could even ask a friend or family member to join you to keep you motivated.
It goes without saying that a healthy diet also helps keep a healthy mind. Consuming lots of alcohol, sugar, caffeine and junk food may provide short-term benefits to your mood; however, over the long term, these things are known to be damaging to your mental health. For example, caffeine can trigger and worsen anxiety, while alcohol can lead to depression, especially if you consume it regularly.
To ensure you’re eating well for your mental health, make sure you eat lots of organic fruits and vegetables along with healthy proteins and fats. However, it’s also important not to deprive yourself of foods you love, even if you’re aiming to be healthy. Part of feeling good is to also treat yourself once in a while.
To curb feelings of anxiety or low mood, it’s also important to keep yourself busy with hobbies, work or other things you enjoy. If you’re struggling during this period, sitting around doing nothing can exacerbate negative thoughts and cause you to spiral into depression. While you don’t want to be overly active and create burnout, it’s also important to stay focused and stay active. Along with your hobbies, you could engage in some DIY and attend to things in the house that need fixing up.
Take Time Out
Taking time out for relaxation and to quieten the mind is also an essential part of improving your mental health. Too often, we work late hours or fill our schedules with so many things that we don’t have time to slow down. As part of your routine, schedule in relaxation so that you give yourself time to unwind and declutter from the day. This could include taking a bath, meditating, deep breathing, listening to music or reading a book. If you suffer from anxiety and tension, finding time to relax and clear your mind can be highly beneficial.
Find Ways to Connect with Others
While the pandemic has forced us all to become more distant with each other, there are still ways to stay connected. This is especially important for people who may be suffering from depression and feelings of isolation. Whether it’s scheduling regular phone calls or virtual chats via Zoom or FaceTime, try to connect with your loved ones so that you don’t become too insular.
If social distancing measures have decreased in your area, you could also make connections by volunteering to help others in need. This could include checking in on your neighbours, offering to pick up groceries or prescriptions for elderly people or making yourself available to people in your apartment building.