This is a guest post from the Ketchikan Wellness Coalition and Amanda Gannon.
Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has infected not only human populaces, but our social media, our daily conversations, and our personal thoughts. It’s difficult to separate ourselves from as it has changed the way we live day to day on a large scale. Whether you are dealing with unemployment, food scarcity, lack of physical comfort, missing social interactions, or are scared, one thing to remember is that you are not alone. It is okay to be honest with yourself that this is overwhelming, or that you’re feeling stir crazy. When managing emotions such as stress and anxiety, our first thought may be to avoid them. These feelings may feel like they are not productive in creating solutions in this situation, however, the reality is if you do not acknowledge the emotions, they may have a negative impact.
Think of your mental health like you would a garden; when you are tending to your garden (mental health), you do not want to let the weeds spring up and take away resources from the other plants. In order to pull these weeds, we have to see them. We need to identify them as weeds, and separate them from the sprouts we are tending to. In relatable terms to mental health, we only have so much energy right now; we can choose to focus it on love rather than fear. It’s not a simple task, but being able to sit down, and say to those feelings: “I hear you, and I see you,” may help. Some ways you can support your mental health right now are calling friends, writing down what you are experiencing, reaching out to a therapist, or asking someone for help. Talking can put these feelings at ease, and give you some respite from them, but it’s not the cure-all of solving stress and anxiety. Eating well, getting rest, exercising, having a creative outlet, maintaining a routine: these are the actions that will pay off over time when combined with identifying these feelings. As someone who personally struggles with anxiety and depression, that was a tall order before the virus changed my life. I started watching my sleep schedule fall apart, my meals become less nutritious, and I wouldn’t even walk outside to see the sun. I work in mental health, and yet I was ignoring all the things that can maintain a healthy mind. It is normal, my routine before is completely gone; but just because things have changed drastically, doesn’t mean we can’t tackle this. A few things I have found helpful in my personal experience are reaching out to my therapist, calling friends, and working to spot the weeds in my garden, especially now that so many more have cropped up. When I look at my mental garden, I count the weeds, but I also count my flowers. I look at the blessings in my life, and I remind myself that I need to water them in order to continue to grow.
If you are unable to telework and you feel like your day is empty, try to make a list to support things that you want and need to do. This will help create a routine and fill your day with meaningful activities. A list of things that you want to do (and that you safely can do at this time) and things you need to do. You do not need to complete all the tasks at once. Take care of your chores, but make sure you take time to enjoy the sun or a book. This is also a time that we can really utilize to get to know each other and our community. If you have the ability to safely help others, such as shopping for the elderly, or a neighbor with health issues, do so.
If you are an essential worker, thank you for all that you do during this difficult time. Not everyone can do what you do, and we are incredibly grateful even if it doesn’t feel like it right now. Just because you have an important function in society, does not mean you don’t deserve to rest. Putting yourself at risk everyday may make this event more taxing, even if your routine has not changed that much.
Taking care of ourselves during this time is crucial, and it is ENOUGH.
Healthy Minds is a monthly column coordinated by Ketchikan Wellness Coalition as a way to share positive stories from people living with mental illness, offer information from local mental health professionals about maintaining mental health in your life, and provide details on tangible activities or actions you can take to strengthen your mental wellness. If you would like to contribute to the column, please contact Romanda Simpson at firstname.lastname@example.org