COVID-19 has gradually found its way into almost every continent and nation, sweeping thousands of lives globally. Most countries have been forced to enforce total and partial lockdowns leading to significant adjustment to normal routines and springing a lot of panic, anxiety and depression. Society is now ripped off of social connection which is the very core of what could have kept us emotionally strong to deal with the impact of the pandemic.
To be able to keep our sanity and avoid emotionally falling apart, we need to give some attention to our mental health. In addition to advice on social distancing and personal hygiene, below are some tips that you may want to include in your box of nuggets to see you through the fight:
- Set your mind on the positives and focus on what you can control
A positive mindset attracts positive energy, and in this time of despair and anxiety, the last thing you want to do is focus on the problem; what you need is a disengagement of the mind from negative thoughts, especially those that you are incapable of controlling and focus on the things that you can control and that lifts your spirit. Decide to be positive and be committed to it. Do the things that work for you regarding relaxation and staying positive; listen to your favourite music, watch movies.
Making sure you have enough essentials for the family, heeding to the COVID-19 preventive guidelines, seeing what opportunities you could grab from the situation, are some of the things you are likely to be able to control and should be of immediate focus. Name your fears and find practical solutions to those you can, as much as possible try not to be anxious about those that you cannot immediately solve, you will figure them out eventually.
- Look for ways to accept and adjust to the change
The sudden manner in which this came, taking everyone by surprise and the uncertainty that comes with it is probably why we are hit so hard by COVID-19. Unfortunately, we have to deal with it anyway. Whether we like it or not, prepared or not, we have no choice than to deal with the unprecedented change this has brought and even yet to unfold. Living in denial does not help, we need to accept that it is happening and find practical ways of dealing with it as much as we can.
- Stay connected to friends and family virtually
Now is the time to virtually connect with all the people that matter in your life. The ones that work pressures did not allow you to regularly contact; parents, grandparents, siblings, friends and even neighbours. Love and care come handy in these difficult times. A WhatsApp family group could enhance connectivity if you can afford it.
- Keep a realistic daily schedule
Planning your day helps to give you focus for each day without being anxious about which task to focus on and which not to. Prepare a To-do list and allocate different spaces to different activities to avoid boredom and to keep you active. design a work station, use the couch for naps and watching TV, the bedroom for sleeping. The goals you set for yourself or employees should be realistic; do not put too much pressure on yourself to do so much during these periods
- Eat and sleep Well
Regulating your sleep pattern to allow you to go to bed early and rise early will go a long way to reduce your stress level, improve your general wellbeing, improve your mood and improve your mental capacity. It is also important to eat healthy not only for long term health benefits but also you do not want to fall ill amid the pandemic when health facilities and healthcare givers are already overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
- Engage in some form of spiritual exercise
These are perfect times to get closer to what you believe in. You cannot afford to be faithless in these times. You cannot by yourself handle all the fear, anxiety and depression that COVID-19 brings. Put your trust in some supernatural being. Stir up your spiritual energy to help you deal with the things you cannot explain. If you are a religious person, you may want to set some time for personal worship and prayer, reading portions of your bible or religious book that encourages you not to be afraid. Join online live church services and observe your personal quiet time daily.
- Take care of your physical wellbeing
Keep fit; part of keeping mental fitness is pursuing physical fitness. It is very important that you maintain your exercise routine if you had one or develop one if you did not. Make the best of any space available to you. Look up the internet for appropriate exercises that fit your space and any special conditions. You could join an online yoga class, take short distance walks outside once in a while for fresh air if that does not violate any lockdown regulations.
- Do something nice for someone: make someone smile
Extending a hand of kindness to others has a tendency to bring us some happiness and feeling of usefulness that could ripple into a positive mental state. It does not necessarily have to be monetary (even though that will be most requested and useful to many if you can afford). It could be buying someone a meal, listening to someone share their worries, teaching someone something new or sharing words of encouragement. But be careful not to compromise social distancing and do not overburden yourself with the worries of others.
- Moderate news feed
Restrict your consumption of information out there to avoid getting weighed down, confused and anxious over disturbing news. Shut the TV /radio sometimes, be selective of what you watch, read and listen to. Identify a reliable source to get yourself updated on happenings at certain specific times of the day regulated by you.
- Take it one day at a time
You are going to be overwhelmed sometimes with all the devastating news of the rapid spread of the virus, people dying, the isolation, social distancing, economic strain, keeping up with work from home, taking care of the kids, online assignments if you are a student, and the new demands all that brings, but you will need to consciously slow down and challenge yourself to stay in the present; try to enjoy ‘the now’ (a nice meal, an interesting book, fresh air etc) deal with one problem at a time, one day at a time with a daily schedule to guide you as mentioned before.
- Take the opportunity to Learn something New
While you are locked down at home, why not take the opportunity to try a new hobby, learn a new skill; cook that dish you have never found the time to try your hands on, learn to do your own hair, try your hands on stitching that favourite dress that needs a patch, get some fun at it while expanding your tentacles, who knows something good could come out of it.
- Increase intimate times with that loved one
This might also be an opportunity to build a more intimate relationship with that special person. If you are lucky to have been locked down with him/her then bingo! Do not spend the time on petty fights; though inevitable, focus on intentionally building happy moments, more fun, more intimate moments, take it easy on each other. Observe some level of emotional intelligence; study your partner’s moods and emotions and play along to be able to bear with each other. If you are apart, make communication key. This might not be easy, but achievable with a conscious effort.
- Actively reach out to someone for help
Ask for help when you need it. Professional or casual, go for it. Seek help. Do not keep anything to yourself till it gets out of hand. It could be something seemingly insignificant but mentioning it to someone could release some stress. It could be a technology you need help with if you are unable to figure it out on YouTube, reach out to a friend or colleague, someone might know someone who knows someone who could help. Also, make use of online cancelling and institutional contacts available to you.
- Do not be hard on yourself
There is the tendency to think that you are the only one confused and finding difficulty with how to cope with the peculiarities of the times, but trust me it is not the case, everyone is as confused, scared and uncertain as you are, and the difference probably is that they are practising better emotional and self-care.
- Maintain a happy emotional state and spread hope
In these times of fear and panic, the best you could do for yourself is to do all you can to be and stay happy, Do not insist on what you do not have, or cannot do as your only source of happiness; adjust with the available. Give yourself treats once in a while to kick up your moods; put on that outfit that makes you feel good about yourself, eat your cravings once in a while, go through some old photos, create a healthy routine and as you strive to stay happy, help others by spreading more hope than despair.
- Do not leave out the Kids
Do not lose sight of the fact that the kids too are affected by the pandemic and going through the same stress and fear that we are all dealing with. It is understandably going to be challenging for parents to effectively manage their kids while managing their own fears and emotions at the same time. To avoid more stress and tensions at home, parents should do well to give their kids ‘a break’ at home; less pressure. Do not insist on giving them the same load of schoolwork as they would have been in school, a little learning a day should be fine, focus on creating a healthy and fun atmosphere at home, use the opportunity to spend quality time and know your kids better, listen to them share their emotions, let them eat and sleep well.
The writer, Ethel Yiranbon (PhD) is a Lecturer at Ghana Technology University College, with research interests in Healthcare Management
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