As the sun rises on a new week, I can’t help but feel like I’ve lived the last seven days in a parallel universe. Each day felt like a week. And each day the coronavirus situation escalated. Tough decisions were made. More and more business close their doors, not knowing when they’d return.
Coronavirus has plunged the entire world into complete and utter chaos. Uncertainty has become our new norm. A norm we’re uncomfortable with.
And the continual news about this pandemic is overwhelming.
Life has suddenly become scary. Humans crave certainty, routine, normality. We seem unable to tune out of the information (and the misinformation) that comes at us for every angle. And this does nothing except fuel anxiety.
Our anxiety is further fuelled by our lack of control. We feel helpless flailing around in these unchartered waters. In times like this our mental health has to become a priority.
Our mindset is, in fact, one of the few things we can control right now. Anxiety and fear will manifest itself in many ways over the coming weeks…anger, sadness, stress, emotional outbursts.
Protect Your Health During Coronavirus
Whilst we can’t control the coronavirus pandemic, we can control our response. If you are struggling, here are 10 things you can do to protect your mental health during coronavirus and alleviate anxiety in the face of uncertainty:
1. Focus On What You Can Control
There are things you can do – so do them. They will give you a sense of purpose and control. Stay on top of your hand hygiene. Focus on eating good, nutritious food to help boost your immunity. Give your attention to those you love.
2. Limit Your News Intake
It’s impossible to avoid. Coronavirus is the ONLY news right now…it’s literally taken over the world. But it doesn’t have to completely take over your life. This is probably the best thing you can do to protect your mental health during coronavirus. Constantly consuming news, whether it’s reading the paper, watching the news, reading articles on social media, will only intensify your anxiety. Set a limit to check-in and then promptly check out. A 24-hour newsreel will NOT make you feel better and will not change anything except your stress levels.
3. Take LONG Breaks From Social Media
Yes, we all want to be informed but right now everyone’s screen time report is probably more than double what it was last week. And that is not good. If it’s all getting too much turn off all notifications on your phone. I know we need social connection now more than ever because we are socially distancing. But too much screen time and hanging out on Facebook is not good for the soul or your mental health.
4. Get Outside In Nature
Right now Ireland is not in lockdown and we can get outside. So do – take advantage. Get some much-needed vitamin D to help boost your immunity. Stop and take several deep breathes – this will help regulate your stress and anxiety. And you’ll be getting exercise which not only helps you physically but is fantastic for your mental health. There are literally no downsides to being in nature.
5. Stay Connected
Just because we’re socially distancing and self-isolating doesn’t mean we need to be isolated. Let’s go completely old school and pick up the phone. Check-in regularly on the elderly and see if they need anything. If you are using social media, use it to catch up with friends. Do WhatApps, Messenger and skype video calls for free. I’m catching up with my book club girls on Friday night via a Zoom video call where we’ll have our first virtual book club in 8 years…but there will be laughter and there will be wine. And of course, there will be a discussion on our book!
6. Be Present
Stay in the moment. Focus on what is in front of you right now. Worrying about the future and what may or may not happen (because none of us know) will only heighten your stress and anxiety. Gently bring yourself back to the present, to what you can control. Practise some mindfulness or meditation. I do a guided meditation every day and it brings a beautiful calm into my life. I used the Orpah and Deepak Chopra paid app (I think you can do a trial for 21 days here) but there are several apps that offer free trials and guided mediations too such as insight timer, calm and headspace.
7. Be Conscious Of Your Sleep Hygiene
Everyone is talking about hand hygiene at the moment. But sleep hygiene is equally as important. The day the government shut down the schools I didn’t sleep a wink that night because I stayed online trawling from one news site to the next for hours. The story didn't change between sites, there was no ray of light. And it completely disrupted my sleep. Turn off your phone at 8.00 PM and clear your mind before going to bed. Aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night - this not only helps your mind rest but it boosts your immunity too. Even better, use the time to create an evening routine.
8. Be Mindful In Your Conversations
When we feel threatened, all we want to do is talk about it. And talk about it constantly, with anyone that will listen. Shift the focus away from coronavirus and talk about all the positives in your life. And it’s absolutely OK to say “You know I really don’t feel like talking about coronavirus right now”. Give your headspace a break and talk about anything other than coronavirus.
9. Create A New Norm
We thrive on structure and routine. So create your new norm. Get up every day, do some exercise and take a shower. If you’re home-schooling – make a plan. If you’re working from home set your hours. And schedule breaks in your day.
10. Show Yourself Some Love
Selfcare is an absolute necessity now. We have to look after ourselves to be able to look after our families in these uncertain times. Obviously, going out is not an option but take a bath, take an hour to yourself to read a book. Light some candles and have a glass of wine. Paint your nails…do whatever makes you feel good.
Lynne and I feel a huge responsibility to show up and support as many people in our community as we can right now in this global crisis. We hope these tips help alleviate some of the stress and worry in your life. Just keep breathing. Smile. Don’t venture too far into the future.
And stay tuned to our Facebook page (I know, I know I just told you to stay off social media) – we are running LIVE, FREE workouts every day at 12.30 PM to help you get through this. These live workouts will serve to boost immunity, relieve stress and anxiety and provide structure for those being homeschooled (PE element). They have been designed specifically to protect your mental health during coronavirus. We'll have lots of content over the coming weeks about fun activities to do with the family, great family-friendly baking recipes and maybe even a live cooking demo or two.
I don’t know what the future holds. None of us does. But I do know that, together, we will get through this.
Co-Founder, Pepper Hustle
P.S. If you are feeling totally overwhelmed and don’t know where to turn – please, please send us a message. It is so important to guard and protect your mental health during coronavirus. We promise an open, non-judgemental ear. And be sure to join our FREE Facebook family where you’ll find nothing but LOVE, SUPPORT and COMMUNITY in these difficult times.