Looking after your mental health during COVID-19

Disclaimer: Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have.

As the world we know increasingly faces inward in the wake of COVID-19, the law of social distance doesn’t merely separate us from others, but puts us in greater touch with ourselves. Sometimes it’s scary, sometimes it’s a revelation, but it’s always a very personal experience that comes quietly and when we least expect it to.

It’s important to know that even though we are socially distant, you are not alone, and there are steps you can take to keep yourself mentally healthy, as well as physically healthy. Some will be new, some you already do every day, but each one is a part of a greater effort to staying happy and healthy during a very uncertain time.

  1. Take back power by sticking to a routine. This controlled aspect of your life will soon grow into a source of comfort.
  2. Get dressed. You might have nowhere to go, but dress in the clothes you would if you were going out. Looking good makes us feel good, and it allows us to apply some normalcy to an otherwise abnormal situation.
  3. Get outside for at least thirty minutes. Don’t go any further than the 2km around your home, and be sure to stick to social distancing measures.
  4. Do some exercise for at least thirty minutes.
  5. Reach out to your friends or family via any non-physical channels at your fingertips. Send a text, give someone a call, and have a nice chat.
  6. Stay hydrated.
  7. Develop a self-care regime for when it all gets too much. Keep a book, a packet of hot chocolate, and comfort foods close by – for instance.
  8. If you have children, make sure to give them plenty of attention. They might be too young to understand what’s going on, and they’ll need you to help them make sense of the situation. If they’re not taking it well and are acting up, make sure to respond gently to them.
  9. Find a space to retreat to when you need to. Everyone needs to be alone sometimes, so find a place in your home where you can go to do just that.
  10. Don’t make the same demands of yourself that you would on any normal day. Whether it’s work or keeping the house clean, don’t expect to operate at normal energy levels and don’t exert yourself too much.
  11. Limit your exposure to social media. By all means, watch the video of the funny cat, entertain yourself – but don’t invite the negative aspects of social media into your home. Overexposure to bad news or negativity can cause great anxiety.
  12. Amidst all of the negativity – remember the good things. Remember the amazing heroes who are helping on the frontline, or those who are simply contributing in any way they can. There’s still countless examples of goodness in the world – it just doesn’t always make it to the newsroom.
  13. Help others. Doing what you can to help your friends and neighbours is always a source of comfort and an experience you can have control over. Whether it’s picking them up something from the shop or simply listening to them over the phone – helping others is an all-round positive experience.
  14. Engross yourself in a fun and long-term project. Think as big as you’d like; write a book, paint a masterpiece, or even just rearrange each room in your house. Find a big project to lose yourself in.
  15. Laugh. Watch a funny TV show, Youtube video, or keep in touch with that friend or family member you know is always good for a laugh. This is one of the most important ways to cheer yourself up in times of need.
  16. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Whether it’s from a friend or a professional, realise that there are plenty of people around you who can lend a helping hand when you need it. Seek support and you shall receive.
  17. Remember that this will all be over one day. This is a challenging time for everyone and it’s okay to be upset by it, but remember that it is only temporary, and one day soon life will return to normal.