10 Mental Health Tips for Coping Right Now
Very special thanks to Casey Jones of Carolina Family and Maternal Counseling for sharing these tips.
1. Create a routine for yourself (and your family if applicable). Have a set time you wake
up and go to bed. Have planned breaks or activities for yourself and/or your kiddos. In
times of chaos and uncertainty when so much is out of control it can feel really good to
create some structure over things you can control.
2. Put something you enjoy on your schedule daily! Having something to look forward to
can help push you through when the day feels long or you get stuck in negative thought
cycles dragging you down.
3. Identify a calm place in your home. If you don’t already have a place where you
regularly go to take a minute, get some deep breaths, cry some tears, pray, meditate, or
do something mindful, then now is the time to create one! Have your place picked out
BEFORE you feel distress coming on. When you have calm moments go there and
practice feeling calm, safe, and at peace. Then at the first sign of discomfort, before
feelings of distress, go there. If you have small children or babies, remember it is okay
to leave them in a safe place (i.e. the crib, a swing, a play pen, etc.) and take a couple of
minutes to yourself if needed. Taking care of your needs will enable you to be more
present and calm for their needs.
4. Ensure some sort of contact with someone who brings you joy daily. During this time
we are being physically distant from others, but that does not mean that we are socially
cut off from people we care about, our support system, and people who makes us
laugh. Remember we still have Facetime, Skype, phones, text messaging, and good old
snail mail! It is a great time to connect with people in new and different ways. Now is a
good time to reframe “social distancing” into “physical distancing” and remember we
can still be social, just differently social (thanks Dr. Bruce Perry).
5. Go outside! At least once a day it is important to be outside. The benefits of being
around nature, outside of your home, breathing fresh air, and taking in the greatness of
what is around you are immeasurable. Not only are there countless studies about the
value of Vitamin D and sunlight on mental health, but the things in nature that are
constant and unchanged by the chaos around us are grounding. When things as simple
as blooming flowers, buds on trees, and even bugs and pollen are all around you, it can
be a great reminder that what you are experiencing is a point in time stressor.
Tomorrow will come no matter what today brings and constants, like the changing
seasons, will continue despite the circumstances of today.
6. Limit your indulgences; during this time it can be easy to binge watch countless hours of
TV, overdo it with your social media, overindulge in foods or alcohol, or slack up on your
fitness regimen. Not setting clear limits for yourself may result in negative
consequences, such as feeling overtired, bloated, or unwell. This can result in negative
self-talk and negative view of self, which will further add to stress during this time.
Creating clear expectations for yourself about how much and in what way you will
indulge can prevent unintended extra stress and negative emotion.
7. Play music you love and that makes you happy! There is plenty of research to connect
music to emotion. Having your favorite band playing while you do the dishes,
homeschool your children, finish your work project, go for a walk, or sit in your calm
spot can be extra powerful in relieving stress and adding joy to your day.
8. Adopt an attitude of gratitude. Gratitude journaling has taken off in the past year and
there is new research on how gratitude journaling can literally rewire your brain. Taking
a minute, or ten, or thirty (depending on your current life circumstances) can make a
huge difference in your outlook and may alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Gratitude journaling can be as easy as writing down one thing you are grateful for each
day or can be as detailed as following a journal or guide. These can be purchased online
or prompts may be found on Pinterest or through online searches. They have these for
kids too, so if you have a family this could become a part of your daily routine. If you
are religious, prayer and readings may accompany this part of your day.
9. Avoid deep dives into the internet. If you want to find information that will terrify you,
keep searching. You may not have to look far to find it, but I guarantee you that if you
search you will find something to support your greatest fears. While there are many
good things that come from internet searches and social media, there is plenty that may
cause distress. Related to this, stop looking at news and media sources at least an hour
before bed time. Allow yourself to fully disconnect before trying to sleep.
10. And finally, but perhaps most importantly, lower your expectations of yourself during
this time. The events we are experiencing now are unprecedented. No one really
knows what they are doing. Cut yourself some slack and do the best that you can. This
period is about survival, not about perfection or about who did it best (thank you
Facebook and Instagram for showing us how much better everyone is doing social
distancing, homeschooling, working from home, and grocery shopping!). At the end of
the day, did you do the best you could? Did you survive? Did the little humans some of
you are responsible stay alive? Then that’s a win.