COVID-19 A Mental Health Survival Guide
From the beginning of the Coronavirus to present day, people worldwide have felt the affects of COVID-19 on their minds & bodies, without ever contracting the virus. Speaking specifically to New Jersey residents, our quarantine started during the winter when it was freezing outside, so we were able to stay in in our homes with our children, pets, significant others and/or roommates. But being in close quarters was enough to increase stress and anger.
Sprinkle in being furloughed or laid off from work, with gyms & fitness studios being closed, and an increased worry about finances & keeping our family safe, it was not the best prescription to maintain our health. Our every day routines were interrupted & and we didn’t have our normal outlets to relax or blow off steam. This was and still is a recipe for stress, anxiety, depression, and increased alcohol/substance abuse.
Throughout the summer, as our state began to open back up, some of us have been able to bounce back. However, in my experience, more of us are still finding ourselves feeling stuck in a funk, maybe depressed and unmotivated to get back to our routines.
Speaking for myself, I struggled a lot through March. Being a social person, and not having the ability to go out, workout, see people and socialize, left me feeling a little hopeless and sad. My drinking increased, the mid-week morning mimosa became a thing - why not, there was nothing else to do! I would stay up all night binge watching TV, and then sleep until 1pm. I wasn’t working, I had no routine, no purpose, no goals. I had all the tools of life coaching to cope through a pandemic, and yet I still found myself feeling sad and alone.
April rolled around and I decided I couldn’t spend my days lying on the sofa, with a mimosa, binge watching all of Netflix with my dog Gizmo anymore. While this certainly is my ideal way to spend a lazy Sunday, on occasion, it was not a healthy or sustainable way to live daily.
Here are my tools and suggestions to beat the quarantine funk as New Jersey begins to open back up and the weather begins to cool down.
1. Create a Routine
Creating a routine helps get sleeping patterns back on track, ensuring you get the proper amount of sleep. Having a routine also helps you set small attainable goals and helps arrange your day. Don’t overthink it! See the basic daily routine that I followed to get myself on track, it wasn’t incredibly detailed but having a framework for my day helped improve how I was feeling. Routine gave my day purpose, and got me back into a day-to-day rhythm of life. Now that people are
getting back to work and kids are in school many of us already have the framework of a routine set up. You may need to plug in some other more personal parts, like designated quiet time or time to move your body.
A personal note, once you decide on a routine stick with it! Set the alarm, roll your booty out of bed and go turn on that coffee pot! Confession: I had to move my alarm into my kitchen the first few weeks to get myself up. My friends notoriously know me as an anti-morning person, trademarked by my crazy hair and cranky demeanor, so you can imagine the obscenities my poor dog’s ears had to endure those first few weeks. But once I got into the swing of things, the easier it was, the less cranky I was, and now my quiet time in the morning is my favorite part of my daily routine.
2. Move Your Body!
Yoga, gym & other fitness studios have re-opened YAY!!!! But, just because they are open doesn’t mean you have to go back right away. For some it might be too big of a personal risk to go to a public class or gym right now. That's perfectly valid, you should take care of your body and health as you see fit.
BUT, I am suggesting you move your body in a way that makes you feel safe and empowers you. The research proving a correlation between exercise and positive mental health is endless. Writing merely from my own professional and personal experiences, I see this to be true as well.
Make moving your body part of your daily routine. Take baby steps to ease your way into movement, as there is a way for everyone, no matter their physical limitations. Dust off the treadmill in your basement, take the dog on a walk instead of letting them out in the backyard, take the stairs at work instead of the elevator, or while working on the computer take a break, do some chair yoga. The possibility for movement is limitless! Challenge yourself, and do what you feel is best for your body. As you progress, challenge yourself to move in a more dynamic way, but also show your body compassion and patience.
Walking on the Atlantic City boardwalk during the shutdown was probably the best decision I made for myself. Getting outside in the fresh air, instead of being inside my 900 square foot condo made all the difference for my mental health. I started small. I had to after spending March on my sofa drinking half the champagne supply in Southern New Jersey! I started out walking one or two miles a day. After awhile, I began walking more and more, sometimes nine or ten miles at a time; it felt so nice to be outside, it felt even better moving my body. From there, I progressed to low impact driveway workouts, and now I am back to my normal pre-COVID workout routine.
3. Stay Connected in Your Community
This is a hard one, typically someone who is depressed or sad will turn away from his or her normal activities and social life. During COVID-19 this happened in reverse, we had our normal activities and social lives taken away, leading many of into a depression. Online conferencing platforms like Zoom have provided an opportunity for religious services, AA meetings, yoga/fitness classes, some doctors visits, etc. to stay connected during the peak of COVID-19 and many continue to offer these online options today.
My suggestion here, if you’ve got the COVID blues, is to talk to friends, family and trusted community members about how you are feeling. Don’t be afraid to ask them for help, so many are silently suffering though this pandemic. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
If you notice a family member or friend has been less communicative, reach out; ask for more then “I’m ok” or “I’m fine.” Engage them ask what they have been doing, what they did today, how they are feeling, what they have coming up in the next few days. Not only does it engage the person in conversation but also it gives them the feeling of being cared about. This may in-turn allow them to feel safe enough to open up and ask for help.
Additionally, therapists with tools to help are out there offering secure virtual & phone sessions. If you are feeling like all of this information is too much for you to handle, or you want to improve your physical & mental heath, but don’t know how or where to start, see the tools & resources listed below.
1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish,
I hope these tips are beneficial to you on your wellness journey, as we continue to live in the unknown of COVID-19. Like I mentioned earlier, don't feel pressure to do anything you aren't yet comfortable doing, but do challenge yourself to make healthier choices for both your mental and physical health. As a life coach and yoga teacher, I am also here for my readers. You can always find my public yoga offerings as well as ways to contact me about one-on-one life coaching or yoga movement sessions on my website.
Just know that I am here to empower & support you however I can, in my professional capacity.