Our sense of normalcy has changed. We are in unprecedented times causing anxiety even among people with no mental health issues. It’s important to know that in these uncertain times, with recommendations becoming more restrictive than the day before, it is no surprise that anxiety and depression are increasing at alarming rates. Experts are recommending social distancing, which can cause increased feelings of loneliness and disconnection, increasing symptoms of anxiety and depression. We also have a chronic fear of the unknown and feel helpless as we have very little control. These issues combined leave us feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and uncertain. The following are tips and techniques to help take care of our mental health during these times.
What to Look Out For
- Lack of interest in previously important or fun activities
- Feeling overwhelmed and restless
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits (too much or too little)
- Headaches, fatigue, insomnia.
How to Cope
- For Everyone
- Pray and engages in activities that will encourage spiritual growth.
- Avoid excessive exposure to media coverage: take breaks, limit intake only to trusted news sources (CDC, WHO, etc.), and decide on a specific time to check in on the news.
- Focus on what is in your control and actions to take to keep yourself and loved ones safe. Use mindfulness to stay present and take it one day at a time.
- Grounding techniques: Explore the present moment, because right now, all is well. Notice your breathing and the sensations of your breathing. Notice the ground beneath you. Look around and notice what you see, the colors, the shapes, the objects, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell.
- Deep breathing: Breathe in for a slow count of eight, hold your breath for a count of eight, and then exhale for a count of eight. Repeat this sequence.
- Keep contact with loved ones via social media, text, and phone calls/FaceTime.
- Add extra time for daily stress relief.
- Practice self-care, including physical activity, regular meals, and hydration.
- Keep yourself busy with games, books, movies.
- For Kids
- Reassure them that they’re safe.
- Let them talk about their worries.
- Limit their news exposure.
- Create a routine and structure.
Holding on to Hope
- “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
- "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord you God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
- Panic, by confusing and frightening you, pulls you away from the help God wants to give you. It is not coming from God. What is coming from God? St. Ignatius tells us: God’s spirit “stirs up courage and strength, consolations, inspirations and tranquility.” So trust in the calm and hope you feel. That is the voice to listen to. “Do not be afraid!” as Jesus said many times. -Father Martin, S.J