COVID-19 has heavily impacted communities globally, with many individuals experiencing worsening mental health symptoms as a result of coronavirus-related stress and conditions. In the current state of the world, it’s more important than ever to assess the impact news, social media, and social distancing has on your mental health. Here are some steps and tips to help support your mental health during COVID-19.
Even without a global pandemic occurring, the immediate and near constant stream of news reports can be overwhelming to viewers. The WHO recommends gathering information at regular intervals from their website and local health authority platforms to help minimize unnecessary anxiety that could stem from hearing rumors or misinformation.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) recommends focusing on facts from medical experts and legitimate news sources rather than granting attention to gossip or fear-inducing theories. Accurate news can be received from trusted sources like the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO). Both these resources provide scientifically-backed and contemporary advice for the general public regarding appropriate public health measures.
Despite the rapid evolution of news output, not much typically changes in the span of a few hours, so it’s important to not get stuck constantly viewing for updates. If possible, limit the number of times you check the news to three times daily.
Though social media serves as an outlet for socialization and connection, it can also contribute to increased anxiety and panic. With instantaneous updates available, as well as the ability to view how your peers seem to be coping with quarantine, the constant influx of information can quickly turn from comforting to overwhelming.
Posts of friends flawlessly baking, perfecting a new workout or craft, or spending quarantine with a partner or close friend can still spark feelings of missing out or a sense that you’re not doing enough. However, people tend to only share their highlights on social media, not necessarily how they’re truly coping with life being put on hold for COVID-19. Contrary to how it looks, you don’t need to leave quarantine having mastered a new skill. This is an incredibly stressful time, and it’s important to recognize that simply completing your typical responsibilities can be considered an accomplishment right now.
Regardless of how it may seem on social media, you’re not alone in feeling what you’re feeling! Consider taking social media breaks throughout the day. While it’s good to stay informed and patch the disconnect between us and loved ones, we don’t want to become inundated.
To help cope with corona-related anxiety, create realistic goals, as well as a routine that you can stick to each day. Include not only time to complete academic and/or work assignments, but activities that help relieve stress, such as going for a walk outside, listening to music, writing, and talking to friends and family.
Sticking to a routine will allow your days to feel more structured, and can help with feelings of unproductivity and uncertainty. If you can, create an environment that’s relaxing to work and rest in. In quarantine, many people may just have one room for both, which can spark feelings of restlessness. A clean space will help promote a clearer mind. If your bedroom is central to your environment, maybe designate time to spring cleaning on the weekend.
Social distancing can understandably have substantial negative impacts on our mental health. With limited social networks and outlets for connection, people may feel increased symptoms of loneliness and sadness. It’s important to stay connected through available means, whether it be through video chat with a family member, by hosting virtual “events” with groups of friends, or simply checking in with loved ones via text. We’re all going through a challenging, unpredictable time, and try to support each other to the best of our ability. Reach out to friends and family if you’re struggling, and remember to check in on them as well. You might be surprised by the support family, friends, teachers, and others are able to offer.
As always, but especially now, it’s okay to not be okay. If your mental health is suffering during this challenging time, help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to get connected with a local crisis center.