One could see the welcoming response to the World Health Organization’s advice on protecting our mental health during this period which shows that it is also as important as protecting ourselves against the Covid-19. It is also a great eye opener about mental health matters during a pandemic. To be concerned about the events happening around the world during these times is understandable, but for many people it can make an existing and sometimes unknown mental health problem worse.
The world is currently on a pause due to the Covid-19 pandemic and with it comes varying moods like relentlessness, fear and uncertainty which is not healthy for our minds. These moods take its toll on people’s mental health, particularly those already living with conditions like OCD and anxiety, and so the protection of our mental health becomes as important as keeping to the basic hygiene practices for the prevention of the coronavirus.
The question now is how can we protect our mental health?
The AnxietyUK suggests the “Apple” technique as a good practice in dealing with anxiety and worries.
- Acknowledge: Notice and acknowledge the uncertainty as it comes to mind.
- Pause: Don’t react as you normally do. Don’t react at all. Pause and breathe.
- Pull back: Tell yourself this is just the worry talking, and this apparent need for certainty is not helpful and not necessary. It is only a thought or feeling. Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are not statements or facts.
- Let go: Let go of the thought or feeling. It will pass. You don’t have to respond to them. You might imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud.
- Explore: Explore the present moment, because right now, in this moment, all is well. Notice your breathing and the sensations of your breathing. Notice the ground beneath you. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell. Right now. Then shift your focus of attention to something else – on what you need to do, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry, or do something else – mindfully with your full attention.
Embrace healthy eating and eat well. This is not the time for unhealthy meals and sweet junk foods and drinks which just gives an instant spike in serotonin, the body’s feel good chemical and a fast rise in your blood glucose levels, that does not last and does more harm than good. Rather, go for healthy meals, especially ‘brain foods’ like whole grains, wheats, oatmeal, peanuts, eggs, berries, fish, dark chocolates and so on.
Take time out to exercise, especially indoors. An indoor work out regime you can embrace is running on the spot or squat jumps, you can also push further with ab exercises such as planks or crunches.
Meditate more, have a good laugh, spend quality time with family and read an engaging book.
Finally, take this time out to Breathe and ask yourself the ‘Why’ of all you do. Our society is one that glorifies overwork, both as individuals with more than two jobs or the almost toxic culture of presentism and high service to endear ourselves to our bosses in order to appear more proactive than our colleagues, which one can arguably say is almost pointless without fulfilment. In answering the ‘WHY’ of all you do, you will be able to discover the underlying drive for what you do which will produce joy and fulfilment and to know what to stop doing that increases stress and disturbs your mental state. It is important to understand that reducing yourself to the totality of what you do and identifying yourself completely with your work won’t do your work and yourself any good in the long term.
Succinctly, the best thing you can do for yourself now is to take one day at a time and focus on things within your circle of control of which your mental health is very paramount.