Prior to COVID-19, I imagine most of us adults would say they we were too busy, overwhelmed, and “wore too many hats.” I don’t think any of us could have imagined how busy and overwhelmed we’d be in a world with social distancing being required. Many have full- or part-time jobs (including being stay-at-home parents) and now need to manage teaching children at home as well. Maybe there are sick family members that need to be cared for. Maybe a job was lost, and time needs to be spent on looking for a job, but other priorities are popping up.
To add to this, the ability to cope is being challenged. Maybe anxiety and/or depression are making the multitude of tasks that much harder, or in some cases, impossible. Maybe parenting a child with increasing mental health issues (anxiety, depression, OCD, behavior issues are the common ones that we hear) is part of the picture that now needs to be handled. Parents of children with ADHD are having a significantly hard time managing all that needs to be handled because their incredibly active, distractible, and impulsive children are requiring a lot of the parents’ time to keep the children out of trouble.
To be able to manage all of the tasks on your plate, your mental health needs to be a major priority. Mental health struggles (anxiety, depression, etc.) distract us from tasks at hand and don’t help us do our best work. Just like being unhealthy physically can cause problems in many areas, so, too, can being unhealthy mentally and emotionally.
What can you do to help maintain your own mental health during COVID-19?
- Keep a routine. This is a common recommendation that you’ve probably heard before, but it’s important. Keeping a routine gives a sense of mastery and control, and now more than ever in this unpredictable world in which we live, feeling in control is important. It can help reduce anxiety and hopelessness. It can provide a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day (and throughout the day as tasks get completed). It also uses your time more efficiently. You’ll spend less time saying, “What should I do now?” and more time doing. By end the of the day, you can look back on your day and feel like you’ve owned it!
- Do at least one enjoyable task a day. As mentioned, most of us have been thrown into caring for others in many ways, and what often happens is our own self-care falls to the bottom of the priority list. Give your brain a chance to feel calm and involved in an enjoyable activity. Think of it like a “worry break”, a time in which your brain can relax and focus on something less stressful. It’ll help remind you that your life is full of enjoyable, non-stressful events and activities so that COVID-19 and its related stressors aren’t always on center stage.
- Focus on what you have. Now is a fantastic time to think about what you have instead of opportunities lost. Are you seeing your children in a new way, maybe watching their “light bulbs” go off when they understand an academic concept (something that teachers may see more than you)? Are you doing more projects around the house, a house that you can be super grateful for? Maybe you’re spending less time driving to work (or driving kids to various activities) and have more time for family movie night. Is your family eating more home-cooked meals, which is often healthier than grabbing food on the go? I don’t think anyone would argue that COVID-19 is costing us a lot, but you have the option to “change the brain channel” (as I often say to kids) to what you have and what you’re gaining.
- Set up virtual dates with friends and family. No doubt that most of us are feeling the negative effects of being without our friends and family members. A quick text or phone call to others for scheduling virtual dates can be so good for your mental health. Talking with others can help you know that your thoughts and feelings are shared by others in addition to having the opportunities to laugh and share good memories.
- Think about life after the virus. Try not to fall into the trap of thinking that this pandemic will last forever. Those at risk for (or struggling with) anxiety and depression tend to ruminate about negative events and misfortunes and misinterpret that there will be no end date. Visualize all of the good that will come after the pandemic has ended. Make a list of things that you want to do so that they’re the first things that you schedule when social distancing is not required. Remind yourself that this will end. Trust in your ability to cope and your ability to bring your life back to normal (even if that’s a new normal). You’ve been through hardships before; there is no reason to believe that you can’t make it through this one.
If you have any concerns about your thinking patterns, intensity of feelings, or behaviors, please give us a call or text (908) 914-2624 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We specialize in helping people with anxiety, depression, perfectionism, feelings of being overwhelmed, self-esteem issues, and more! You do not need to struggle any longer, and you are not alone.