09 Oct Mental Health and 10 ways how to cope with stress related to COVID-19
Talking about mental health is as crucial as emphasizing the importance of taking care of other health aspects. If we can talk about health issues, it is also OK to talk about our feelings, emotions, and thoughts. People with mental health issues may be very close to us, in the family, among coworkers, or live next door. We may not even notice their suffering since many don’t talk about it and are not seeking help. Only about one-fourth of people receive the treatment they need, often because of the stigma and shame attached to mental health. Therefore, it is so essential to talk loudly about mental health issues. They are more common than we think.
MENTAL HEALTH AND THE PANDEMIC TIMES
During the COVID-19 time, we may experience increased levels of stress. Stress, fear, and anxiety can be overwhelming and may cause a cocktail of emotions, negative thoughts, and unpleasant body sensations. How do we respond to stress depends on many different factors, from personal characteristics, level of resilience, previous experiences, confidence, coping skills, and social support. All these emotions are normal since the situation itself is unknown and unpredictable. There are many changes we need to face, and changes are always stressful. People are not designed to like changes. We are creatures of habit. Changes are stressful. We all need to adapt to this new normal. Cope with demands, rather than waiting for a problem to vanish or even ignore it.
10 WAYS TO COPE WITH STRESS RELATED TO COVID-19
1. Know what to do if you get sick and where to find a treatment
If you are worried about being infected with COVID-19, explore what you can do, call your healthcare provider, and ask for guidelines. Try to avoid exploring different nonexpert opinions on the internet. They might confuse you even more.
2. Relax, meditate, read a book
If you feel the tension in your body, in your chest, if you feel the anxiety is increasing, do some relaxation. You can reduce the negative effects of stress with relaxation techniques – breathing techniques, autogenic training, hypnotic, pleasant visualization, a warm bath, a prayer, or read a good book. You need to help your parasympathetic nervous system to calm down.
3. Go outside, be physically active
Regular, moderate-intensity physical activity has a positive influence on our feelings and emotions. When feeling down or blue, encourage yourself to go for a walk, an easy run, hiking, or participate in any activity that will increase your heart rate for a while. Even if it is hard at the beginning when finishing, you will feel all the benefits.
4. Talk to a friend, a family member
Sometimes the problem is not as big as we think it is. When we experience stress, we are more likely to see the only negative aspect of the problem and our focus is very narrow. It helps if we ask for help, opinion, and see the situation from another perspective. Talking with the dearest one helps to release negative feelings. Don’t be afraid to express your worries or doubts.
5. Problem or cognitive distortions?
Ask yourself, is it a problem, or is it just the irrational thought pattern? If you have a real problem, for example, afraid of losing a job, financial issues, and being surrounded by infected people, the solution is to solve a problem. But if you worry about things with no rational background, then your task is to control your negative thoughts. The most common distortions are “all or nothing thinking,” overgeneralizing, filtering, jumping into conclusions, blaming, and others. Be aware of them, try to stop and reevaluate them into more positive, constructive ones.
6. Take time for worrying and limited time for overthinking
Worrying too much means overthinking about negative things that may occur in the future. But sometimes worries are part of our problem, and we cannot ignore it. Worrying time can help to relieve stress and anxiety. Define time in a day, for about 10-15 minutes, and allow yourself to worry, define what you will worry about (ready news about COVID-19 is part of the worrying time). Postpone all your daily worries till worrying time. At the end of worrying time, ask yourself, is there anything I can do about the concern? If the answer is yes, plan (problem-solving) if the answer is no, try to let go of the worries.
7. Solve the problems
Problems are meant to be solved. Use the problem-solving technique, which will help you to focus on the issue and manage the stress. Follow four steps: define the problem, generate alternatives, evaluate each option, and make a selection, make a plan, and implement the solution. Remember, sometimes, the first solution may not be the right one.
8. Be optimistic and be mindful
Optimism is one of the best ways to cope with stress. It can even stabilize the level of stress hormones in your body. Being optimistic can help you to avoid negative emotions. But be careful, being optimistic doesn’t mean you need to force your positivity. Being optimistic means, you believe in a happy end. Sometimes situations are challenging. Do not force yourself, “I must be positive,” but be mindful in a moment, accept negative emotions here and keep in mind that in the end, they will vanish, and the problem will be solved.
9. Build your resilience
Resilient means the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, toughness. You can train your brains to become more resilient. Understand your mental states, educate yourself about the brain and how it works, practice mindfulness, gratitude, kindness, optimism, and proactively cope with stress. A coping mechanism is a skill that can be learned.
10. Ask for additional help. You are not alone.
If you feel the problems are bigger than you, if you feel deep sadness, if you are hopeless or helpless, if the mental pain is too intense, encourage yourself to find expert support. Call your doctor, look for mental help in your area. Looking for expert help, a psychologist, psychiatrist, the psychotherapist is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of your strength. Remember, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.