Welcome back to the Blair Wellness Group blog. You join us amid a two-part series in which we examine the psychological impacts of the new coronavirus, COVID-19.
In part one (which we’d encourage you to go back and read in its entirety if you have the time), we discussed the unprecedented nature of living through a pandemic. We analyzed the broad range of ways stress can manifest itself in our behavior, from being irritable and frustrated to the worsening of mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression.
We also established the importance of remembering that everyone reacts differently to the “new normal” we’ve been living in for the past few months. There’s no official playbook for living through COVID-19, social isolation, unemployment, and the general unease we all can experience daily.
That said, it’s important to acknowledge and accept that people will show signs of stress and anxiety in different ways. Additionally, children, adolescents, the elderly, and people with chronic or mental health conditions are folks who might respond more strongly to the stress of this crisis.
In part two, we’ll discuss some of the unique challenges which social isolation and financial insecurity present. After that, we’ll highlight a series of self-care strategies you can utilize to make lemonade out of this excessively sour lemon of a time to be alive. Let’s dive in!
Social Isolation Risks
While many are dealing with the fear and doubt associated with the pandemic itself, practically all of us must contend with the mental health risks associated with social isolation. Whether your community is in “lockdown”, quarantine, sheltering in place, or simply practicing social distancing, there is a body of research that firmly links loneliness and social isolation to worsened physical and mental health.
If you live alone or are separated from loved ones near or far, this too can lead to an increased risk of poor mental health. In fact, loneliness is a public health concern in and of itself, as it is associated with a reduced lifespan along with an increased risk of physical and mental illness.
Financial Insecurity & Job Loss
Another COVID-related mental health risk stems from job loss, economic uncertainty, and financial insecurity. With unemployment rates spiking, many households are faced with unforeseen trouble and even financial crises, such as paying for groceries or making rent.
Because the country is nearing an economic recession, mental health professionals understand that this will lead to an increase in cases of depression, distress, anxiety, and low-self esteem. Widespread financial troubles are also associated with higher rates of substance abuse and suicide, as was observed during the Great Recession of 2008.
Now that we’ve established some of the adjacent risk factors associated with COVID, we’ll transition to a discussion of some self-care strategies you can consider for your own circumstances. While no two people experience the effects of the pandemic in the same way, we trust that you’ll find these suggestions to be beneficial in a practical way.
It’s vital to take care of your body. Being mindful of your physical health helps you take charge of your life; “controlling the controllables” brings a sense of stability and normalcy on a daily basis.
- Get your eight hours of sleep – Be sure to go to bed and wake up and reasonable, regular times. Do your best to stick to a consistent schedule even if you are not working at the moment.
- Move your body every day – Regular physical activity can help to improve mood and reduce anxiety. Whether it’s jogging, weight training, yoga, dancing, or otherwise, try to get outdoors while you are physically active, doing your best to maintain a healthy distance from others.
- Eat well – Choosing to eat well not only helps you stay physically fit, but avoiding junk food and caffeine can help reduce anxiety and significant stress.
- Avoid tobacco, alcohol, & drugs – If you vape or smoke tobacco, you are at a higher risk of lung disease than folks who do not. Because coronavirus damages the respiratory system, those who smoke or vape have an increased risk of COVID-19 being harmful. Using alcohol or drugs as coping devices will limit your coping abilities in time. Be sure to avoid taking drugs as a means of coping unless a medical professional has prescribed them for you.
- Get off your phone – It’s so easy to get caught up in a routine of mindless scrolling. Likewise, being exposed to a 24/7 news cycle full of alarming reports isn’t good for your mental health either. Limit screen time, especially right before bed.
Taking Care Of Your Mind
While taking care of your body is a crucial part of any self-care strategy, it is no replacement for being intentional with safeguarding your mental health. Below are a few tips to reduce stress triggers to help you remain in a good state of mind.
- Choose positivity – Focusing on the positive side of things doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but doing so can help you stay hopeful and optimistic rather than dwelling on the negatives in life.
- Stay busy – There’s never been a better time for taking up a new hobby or starting that household project you’ve been putting off for years. Why? They are distractions that can help you break the cycle of negative thoughts many of us fall into. Plus, feeling a sense of accomplishment should never be underestimated.
- Establish a routine – Keep consistent times for eating, sleeping, working, and even recreational activities. Maintaining a predictable schedule helps you feel more in control of your life — a feeling which many people are lacking at the moment.
- Stay connected – Now more than ever, it’s paramount to stay connected with friends and family. Doing so will help you feel more supported and less isolated during this challenging time. Try doing something for others, like reaching out to a family member or friend once a week to check in on them. It may just have a side effect of raising your spirits!
Teletherapy At Blair Wellness Group
Dr. Blair is thrilled to be able to offer teletherapy sessions and/or online therapy. If you are seeking convenient treatment, coaching, or therapy with a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, we are ready to assist you during these unprecedented times. Request your appointment with Dr. Blair today! We look forward to hearing from you.