The media is full of scientists speaking about the medical and epidemiological possibilities surrounding COVID-19. But what about the psychological effects? How will the worry and fear affect us? What about the social isolation and loneliness? We might not know the full scope of the psychological ramifications of COVID-19 for some time, but we CAN be active RIGHT NOW in maintaining good mental health through the next few weeks and months.
Keep or Make a Routine
I'm starting to see it all over the internet: how to keep up a routine, when all of our normal routines have been changed. It will take some creativity and flexibility, but almost all of us thrive on routine, structure, and predictability. Consider setting up a doable routine for you and your household that includes: physical activity, typical eating patterns, personal hygiene, work, hobbies, and chores.
Manage Your News Consumption
Predictions and recommendations around COVID-19 are changing on an hourly basis. And so are the state of the economy, the stock market, and the upcoming elections. Talk about information overload! While we all want to stay informed and up-to-date, it is imperative that we be mindful of how the constant stream of news is affecting our mental health. Try limiting your media (and social media) consumption to certain times of day; or limit the number of times you check your news feeds to a reasonable number per day. It's tough, but it's worth it for the mental health benefits. Hide your phones and tablets from yourself, keep them in another room, but do something to limit your exposure to the onslaught of news.
We know that interpersonal connections are essential for good mental health. Some of us need more, some less, but just about everyone needs them. With that in mind, consider adding some "socializing" to your daily schedule. Can you text some old friends or distant family members to check in? What about FaceTiming or calling a co-worker or fellow parent from your child's school? Could you write a letter to Great Aunt Mary? Talk to a neighbor from six feet or more away? Again, we will need to use some creativity, but social connection is essential.
Continue Your Good Health Routines
We all know that we need to wash our hands and cover our sneezes with our elbows. But don't forget about your other health maintenance routines during this time. Keep exercising, keep eating as normally as you can, drink water, and do whatever you generally do to keep up your health. As tempting as it is to gorge ourselves on cupcakes, pizza, and Netflix, it's probably not the best decision for overall health.
Consider Doing Something for Someone Else
Psychological research has long told us that giving to others can have mental health benefits. Are there neighbors you can help? Food banks or charities to which you can donate? Opportunities to serve others are springing up everywhere; it's worth looking into.
If you have tried to manage the anxiety and worry about COVID-19 on your own, and it is not abating or is getting worse, consider reaching out to a mental health professional or primary care clinician for assistance.
Article Originally Published on ACOG Career Connection