By Stephanie Avery | Contributor
Just three months after the coronavirus (COVID-19) began making headlines, the world is experiencing an emergency that is multi-layered and unprecedented. The pandemic is heavy on the hearts and minds of Americans, and many uncertainties still lie ahead.
School districts throughout Texas have shut down indefinitely. Restaurants, theaters, gyms, and community centers have also closed. As self-quarantining becomes the new normal per the CDC’s request, community members are engaging in social distancing like never before.
In the midst of all of this change, it is natural to feel increased stress, anxiety, and fear. But in the wise words found on Instagram:
Conversations will not be canceled.
Relationships will not be canceled.
Love will not be canceled.
Songs will not be canceled.
Self-care will not be canceled.
Hope will not be canceled.
….not to mention Netflix and Snapchat.
While there are undoubtedly numerous challenges in the weeks and months ahead, there is also an opportunity to take this moment to give attention to well-being. Here are some tips to help provide focus more on self-care and less on COVID-19 headlines.
Begin the morning with a well-deserved reward.
Working and studying from home has its perks, but over time it can feel difficult to motivate yourself to get out of bed and get the day started. People love to feel a sense of accomplishment, so sinking into the bed or couch day-in and day-out can have negative impacts on feelings of self-worth and mental health. Encourage a positive morning routine by starting off with something you enjoy. That could be as simple as enjoying a cup of your favorite hot tea or a bowl of cereal, listening to a fun playlist, stretching, going on a walk, or even playing a fun video game.
Stand up and take a victory lap!
Many of us use our homes as a place of relaxation after a hard day. Sometimes this means we develop a habit of sitting or lying down, which is fine in small doses, but not ideal when we are stuck in the house for long periods of time. Movement and activity are not just important for our physical health but for our brain health as well. While working and studying at home, try to get up and walk around once per hour. Set a reminder on your phone to help you make it a daily habit in the coming weeks.
Yes, wash your hands, but also use them.
Hand-based activities are soothing and provide anxiety relief for most individuals. Look at the evidence: fidget spinners, stress balls, slime, putty and kinetic sand. Make time in your schedule, particularly when feeling additional stress, to engage in hand-based activities such as knitting, quilting, fixing broken things, cooking, drawing, coloring, playing with Legos, or even painting your nails.
Rock those virtual connections.
During this time of self-quarantine, embrace your online community. While there are definite drawbacks to social media and the virtual landscape, recent events have illuminated the enormous benefits it can offer. Thanks to technology, we are able to stay in touch despite being confined to our homes.
From livestreamed concerts on Facebook and Instagram to Google hangouts, people are getting creative in building connections. Think about creative ways you can stay in touch with your network––whether hosting a digital Sunday supper with friends, sharing a cup of coffee via video conference, doing an online fitness class, or starting an online book or film club.
Reach out for help.
Many mental health professionals are offering increased Telehealth options so people can get support from home. Grant Halliburton Foundation’s Here For Texas Mental Health Navigation Line can help you find the right support for your situation.
The Mental Health Navigation Line is a free service that helps people get connected to resources that best fit their preferences and needs. The Navigation Line will remain open and is taking calls at 972-525-8181 Monday–Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Hug a kitten (or dog, stuffed animal, or family member).
Even if we are doing all we can to stay positive, the truth is this can be a scary, lonely time. Sometimes we just need a hug. Physical touch and connection are core human needs, so be sure to put your arms around someone or something at least once a day. Give yourself permission to be vulnerable and seek out warmth and comfort. While we’re practicing “social distancing,” you can give friends and others a “virtual hug” via email, phone or text.
Positive psychology and the science of happiness have come a long way, and one thing that promotes our overall well-being is conducting acts of generosity. It may seem surprising, but numerous studies have shown giving to others leads to more happiness than receiving from others.
As food pantries face shortages and workers in the service and arts and entertainment industries lose income, now is a great time to find ways you can contribute to the community. Giving back can give a sense of inspiration, purpose, and a feeling of belonging. Embrace your inner helper and give yourself and others a mental health boost at the same time.
Despite these measures, if you find yourself struggling excessively with stress, anxiety, depression or other problems, don’t hesitate to seek help. We all need help dealing with life’s challenges at times, and none of one is invulnerable.
Editor’s Note: Grant Halliburton Foundation’s Here For Texas Mental Health Navigation Line can help you find the right support for your situation. The Mental Health Navigation Line is a free service that helps people get connected to resources that best fit their preferences and needs. The Navigation Line will remain open and is taking calls at 972-525-8181 Monday–Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Stephanie Avery is the Outreach and Education Manager for GHF where she plays a key role in the development and coordination of education programs
HOW TO FIND HELP
For more information about anxiety, depression, suicide, and mental health resources, we suggest:
Grant Halliburton Foundation
National Institute of Mental Health
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Mental Health America
Half of Us
Where to Find Help
Here for Texas Mental Health Navigation Line (not a crisis line)
M-F 10 AM – 6 PM
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
(800) 273 – TALK (800-273-8255)
Crisis Text Line
Text HELP to 741741
The Trevor Project Helpline for LGBTQ+ Youth