Covid-19, Corona Virus, The Ro, Rona, whatever you call it, we’ve all be affected by it. Shut in, shut out, and locked down. The schools are closed, businesses have been dark, supplies in great demand. Money is tight and times are hard. Your focus is on staying safe and staying afloat. You wear your mask and the kids do too, you wash your hands for the whole 20 seconds, you order in, you avoid crowds and on top of all of that you worry about what you will do if you get sick after all?
Steering clear of the virus, though, is only part of taking care of yourself. You might find yourself doing things you never would have done before. You may be withdrawn, avoiding phone calls and numerous texts, binge watching Netflix and YouTube videos and eating yourself out of house and home. Depression never looked so comfortable in your life. You don’t know how it got there. You didn’t even see her lurking in the shadows when you were first isolated. But as days have turned into weeks and weeks into months you have begun to recognize a change.
Six feet apart from other living beings, in a quick trip to grab groceries the clerk bids you a good day with the now-popular, “Be Safe!” You smile and trudge back to your home. Being nothing but safe you settle into another night of loneliness, boredom and despair. You know how to be safe but are you taking care of yourself?
The facts are plain. “But I’m at home, locked in,” you think to yourself. “All I can do is wait this out. I can’t be concerned with my mental health when I am so overwhelmed with keeping my physical self healthy.” But our mental health is as important as the physical and in some ways even more so. Feeling good mentally helps you take on the physical struggles of everyday living.
WHAT CAN I DO TO TAKE CARE OF MYSELF?
- Seek help. If you know you are struggling and need someone to talk to, reach out. Call your doctor or mental health provider. Make a phone or virtual appointment. Talking it through really can help.
- Call a friend. Spend some time away from social media and the television. Make socializing part of your day. Human connections are important especially during this time when physical connection isn’t possible.
- Write a letter. The younger generations have moved away from paper correspondence but this is what older generations know. Send grandma a handwritten note to let her know you’re thinking of her. Send a letter to our troops. Drop a card in the mail to a neighbor. You might be surprised who will write back and how nice it is to receive something other than a bill in the mailbox.
- Get out. Go outside even if it’s just for a walk around the block. Vitamin D comes from exposure to sunlight, it boosts your mood and your immunity. The exercise is a great mood lifter too.
- Treat yourself. Self-care is as important for your mental health as eating well is for your physical health. Take a break and play a game with the kids, open one of those books you’ve been meaning to read or break out your computer and start in on the one you’ve been wanting to write, take a bubble bath, give yourself a mani-pedi, learn something new (there are so many free or almost free classes online right now) – try art or a new language or a new dish.
- Don’t let fear or shame take over. The stigma of mental health can keep the best of us from taking care of ourselves. Don’t let it. There is nothing to be ashamed of. There are people who are trained and able to help. They understand and they care. If you don’t know who to call you can start with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI.org for guidance and support.
- Stay connected. You can be the support for someone else who is struggling. Stay connected to family and friends. Pay special attention to those people who have been locked in alone. Reaching out will do you both good as you take care of each other.
- Don’t forget the kids. Kids feel the stress of these times too. Don’t forget to let them talk about their feelings. Validate them and seek help if they need it (sometimes they don’t know how to express how they feel). Help them learn self-care. Share with them in the process of practicing good mental health. Spend time with them and honor the time they want to spend alone.
We know it can be hard to think of ways to practice self-care. Here’s a short list for you:
Dance to some fun music, Sing a silly song, Play with sidewalk chalk, Paint a picture, Paint a room, Practice yoga, Stretch, Do some deep breathing, Listen to some soothing music, Give yourself a spa treatment, Color, Fingerpaint, Walk shoeless in the grass, Ride your bike,Take some photos, Walk at sunrise, Watch the sun set, Rollerskate, Bake, Have a movie night, Write a song, Hum, Take a nap, Meditate, Make up a game.