2020 has really been throwing us for a loop! It seems like every time a problem starts to go away, it either comes right back or another (bigger) one replaces it. It goes without saying that the novel coronavirus has been the biggest problem of the year and the implications of a worldwide pandemic are very serious.
Since the virus broke out, everyone’s lives changed all around the world. There’s hardly anyone that wasn’t touched by the virus in one way or another! Whether it was getting you or a family member sick, affecting your job or finances, having you stuck inside, or changing up your school routine, it’s been a whirlwind of a few months. With so many changes – and abrupt changes at that – it’s completely understandable if your mental health isn’t in the best shape right now.
In order to be ready to rejoin the “normal” world (whenever that may happen!) it’s important to take care of your mental health. Just a few moments of self-care a day can really make all the difference! Here are a few suggestions for managing mental health during the pandemic:
Don’t consume too much news
Of course, it’s important to be well-informed about what’s happening around the world, but keeping your eyes glued to the TV or social media is just going to make you upset. Instead, have scheduled news times for when you check in with what’s going on in the world.
I highly recommend a regular news update from NPR or another daily podcast. The episodes are easily digestible and cover a variety of topics – things that are happening all around the world! Once your update is over, make the choice to stay away from all other news for the day. If you’re consumed by reading or watching the stressful news throughout the day, you might feel generally more upset or find yourself having a short temper.
Schedule self-care time
Rather than an entire self-care day, try to work in little “me time” moments throughout the day. It can be tough to find those moments if you have kids at home, but they’re oh so important when managing stress during a pandemic.
Taking just a few moments for yourself throughout the day allows you find some peace of mind and be ready to tackle the next few hours as they come. Try a few (or all) of these:
- Exercise at home
- Take a bath (during nap time if you have kids)
- Wear clothes that make you feel great
- Listen to a podcast that you love (check mine out!)
- Lay out in the sunshine
- Read a chapter of a captivating book (check mine out!)
I think you’ll find that it’s easier to work these into your day than you might think! Even if you can only make 30-minutes of time to do one of these a day, that’s better than nothing.
Check in with your doctor
If you’re already seeing a mental health professional, make sure you continue to utilize all of the service that they’re offering during the pandemic. More than likely, you’ll be able to take advantage of telehealth and continue your regular appointments right from the comfort of your own home.
If you aren’t seeing a therapist regularly, this might be a great time to check in with one! There are many hotlines that you can call and even some free mental health services that are being offered during these crazy times. Check in with your state’s department of health website and see what’s available to you.
If you’re on medication of any kind, make sure you’ve got at least a month’s supply at the ready! Managing mental health during a pandemic is hard enough and running out of medication is just one other thing that you won’t want to worry about.
Keep a journal
Journaling in general is a great way to manage stress and anxiety! It also helps us to make sense of what we’re feeling. Sometimes, seeing all of your worries and fears down on a piece of paper just makes them easier to manage. Journals are also a good place to practice gratitude – write down everything that’s going well despite the pandemic, the things that you’re thankful for, and the goals that you have for today, the next day, and the future.
Managing mental health in children
Helping your kids manage their mental health and feel safe during the pandemic is also really important. All over the world, children’s schedules were abruptly and drastically changed. They were taken out of school, their activities were cancelled, and they suddenly aren’t allowed to see their friends. Many children even had to cancel birthday parties! Although that might not seem like a big deal to an adult, that can be extremely devastating to a child, especially if they’re too young to really understand what’s going on.
Remember to stay calm
Remember the “me time” that I said was so important? This is why! If you’re trying to manage mental health during the pandemic for yourself AND your children, you have to use the oxygen mask analogy: make sure yours is secure before helping others.
When your child is having a crisis and you’re starting to feel overwhelmed too, just take a deep breath, count back from 10, and then deal with the situation in a mindful way.
Ask them to describe their feelings
Even if your child isn’t a pro at forming sentences, they can fully form thoughts and feelings! Give them time to process how they’re feeling and let them know that as soon as they’re able to articulate it, you want to hear about what they have to say. It’s important for children to feel heard, even if you think their feelings are completely irrational.
To be honest, this is an irrational time that we’re all in! Giving your child the chance to explain what is making them upset will give you the chance to either try and fix it or offer compassion and understanding.
Make it fun
While you’re all stuck inside as a family, try to keep things interesting! Maybe you can plan a backyard or living room camping “trip” and sleep in a tent for the night or get a constellation projector so you can look at the stars right from the comfort of your bed.
Finding ways to have fun during the pandemic is crucial for the mental health of the whole family. Once your routine gets disrupted and all of your fun summer plans have been cancelled, it’s understandable to feel despair and hopelessness. But trust me when I say that hope is not lost. There’s always, always, always fun to be had. You just have to look a little bit harder for it, sometimes!
Keep your kids educated
And I don’t mean as a home-schooling way! If your kids are confused about what’s going on in the world, break it down to them in ways that they can understand. A worldwide pandemic that shut down all of the stores and keeps people in their houses sounds really scary. However, you don’t want your children to feel fear and harbor those feelings inside of them!
Reassure your children that your family is doing all of the right things to make sure you stay safe. Be honest with them and tell them that you’re not sure when things are going to go back to normal. This is how things are for right now and you’re going to take it one day at a time and always be there for each other.
Utilize technology and stay connected
Although limiting screen time is important for children (and parents!) staying connected with the people you love is going to be so helpful in getting through these uncertain times. Let your child hold onto their cellphones, tablets, and laptops a little bit longer each day so that they can connect with their friends and other family members.
This is especially important in teenaged kids who thrive on the connection they make through school and sports. They are at the age where they’re just getting to explore their autonomy and hang out with friends unsupervised. Now that they’re stuck inside with just their family for months, they might feel anxious, upset, and lonely. Luckily, there are so many avenues to stay connected these days through video chat, text messages, phone calls, and interactive video games!
Managing mental health during the pandemic is a feat for all ages. Remember that you’re never alone and this WILL all be over at some point! In the meantime, remember your self-care moments, stay connected with your family, and don’t be afraid to make mundane tasks a little bit more fun.