Protecting Ourselves from Panic: Coping Tips to Maintain Your Mental Health
We are all experiencing an uptick in stress and anxiety as our families, communities, and nation face COVID-19. We experience it individually but also feel the effects of the collective anxiety that has developed. It’s important to know that fear and anxiety are normal, but we should be proactive and take steps to combat the panic that we see spreading. The need for focus on self-care is heightened during this time in order to maintain both our physical and mental health. Unfortunately, it’s common during times like this to decrease our focus on self-care. Don’t fall into that trap. Here are some tips you can use to make sure that you don’t:
- Tune into and accept what you are feeling. Instead of judging your emotions, remember that they are there for a reason. Right now, that reason is to motivate us to take care of ourselves and others and we need to honor that.
- Focus on what works for you and what is needed for the given situation. Do what is effective and consider your response to the current situation through this lens. In responding to COVID-19, following CDC guidelines such as hand washing, not touching your face, and engaging in physical social distancing when warranted is effective. Isolating emotionally from those you care about and allowing yourself to feel hopeless is not.
- Make yourself take a break from worrying/planning. It is human nature to want to take action, but it is extremely trying when there is so much out of our control. We need to focus on what we do have control over. One thing that we cannot control are the worried thoughts that come into our mind. However, we can control whether we let them stick. We also have control over what we put into our heads and we need to try to keep it positive. Ask yourself if the worry is something you have control over or not. If it is out of your control, redirect your brain with a positive distraction to take a break from that worry.
- Do small things, like cleaning a room, keeping up with emails, and doing laundry. These are things we may not think of as rewarding, but they contribute to a sense of normalcy and efficacy. Feeling a sense of control over small things can contribute to an overall sense of wellness.
- Grow and use healthy coping strategies. Talk about your emotions with someone in a healthy fashion. Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member. You should also be sure that the people and things around you are positive. “We are what we eat” so to speak.
- Don’t neglect taking care of your physical health too. You may need to think outside the box and get creative to find ways to make sure you are not sedentary while at home, but it can be done.
- Tap into hobbies and interests, especially those that you may not have had time for until now. This can be a great positive distraction. Find some enjoyment, and break boredom.
- Avoid excessive exposure to media coverage of COVID-19. Limit it to what is healthy for you and make sure you find a few sources that are credible and trustworthy. Inundating yourself with news can contribute to anxiety, so it’s best to find a balance between staying informed and not focusing too much on the negative.
There are no limits to the creative, positive ways we can maintain mental, emotional, and physical wellness. It’s important to remember that dealing with the impact of COVID-19 can take a big toll on our mood and make us vulnerable to depression. We need to reach out for support when we experience stress, anxiety, and/or depression.
Below are a few resources to contact for mental health needs:
SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration)
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Suicide Hotline online chat
- Suicide Hotline for LGBTQIA+ (Phone, Text, and Online Chat)
Text START to 678678
LGBTQIA+ online chat
- Hotline for Students of Color (Text)
Text STEVE to 741741
Students of color online chat
- Lines for Live Veteran’s HotlineCall: 1-888-457-4838 Text: MIL1 to 839863