Protecting your mental health during the COVID 19 outbreak

It’s important to note that we are not helpless in light of current events.  We can always choose our response. This situation can actually bring new opportunities if you can shift you mindset to see them.  If you are struggling, here are some things you can do to take care of your mental health when there is uncertainty and instability:

  1. Create new routines. The first thing is to accept that this is the new normal, for as long as it lasts. We don’t know what a couple months will bring so try not to speculate about it. If you’re going to dwell on the worst-case scenario, come up with a contingency plan and focus on creating a routine to get through the days, one at a time. 
  2. Separate what is in your control from what is not. There are things you can do, and it’s helpful to focus on those.  Wash your hands.  Remind others to wash theirs. Take your vitamins. Limit your consumption of news (Do you really need to know what is happening on a cruise ship you aren’t on?).
  3. Do what helps you feel a sense of safety. This will be different for everyone, and it’s important not to compare yourself to others.  It’s ok if you’ve decided what makes you feel safe is to limit attendance of large social events, but make sure you separate when you are isolating based on potential for sickness versus isolating because it’s part of depression.
  4. Get outside in nature–even if you are avoiding crowds. Get a dose of vitamin D, fresh air, movement and connecting (with your dog or physical distancing with a friend or family member).   Exercise helps both your physical and mental health.
  5. Challenge yourself to stay in the present. Perhaps your worry is compounding—you are not only thinking about what is currently happening, but also projecting into the future. When you find yourself worrying about something that hasn’t happened, gently bring yourself back to the present moment.  Notice the sights, sounds, tastes and other sensory experiences in your immediate moment and name them. Engaging in mindfulness activities is one way to help stay grounded when things feel beyond your control.
  6. Stay connected and reach out if you need more support. Talk to trusted friends about what you are feeling. If you are feeling anxious or if you are struggling with your mental health, it’s ok to reach out to a mental health professional for support.  You don’t have to be alone with your worry and it can be comforting to share what you are experiencing with those trained to help.
  7. Stay informed. When you feel that you are missing information, you may become more stressed or nervous. Watch, listen to, or read the news for updates from officials. Be aware that there may be rumors during a crisis, especially on social media. Always check your sources and turn to reliable sources of information like your local government authorities.
  8. Avoid too much exposure to news & social media. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly. Try to do enjoyable activities and return to normal life as much as possible and check for updates between breaks.
  9. Take care of your body. There is a link between mind and body. Try to eat healthy well-balanced meals, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep. Avoid excessive use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs to cope. 
  10. Support your kids. Children and teens react, in part, on what they see from the adults around them. When parents and caregivers deal with the COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children. Parents can be more reassuring to others around them, especially children, if they are better prepared. 

  • Take time to talk with your child or teen about the COVID-19 crisis. Answer questions and share facts about in a way that your child/teen can understand.
  • Reassure your child/teen that they are safe. Let them know it is ok if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.
  • Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.
  • Try to keep up with regular routines. If schools are closed, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing/fun activities.
  • Be a role model.  Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat well. Connect with your friends and family members.