How to take care of your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic

As of Wednesday morning, the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Also known as the coronavirus, the rapidly spreading disease is causing life as we know to change quickly. With many businesses and schools asking workers and students to stay home in order to remain healthy and, ideally, prevent any further infections, things aren’t what they were just a month ago. Even events like Coachella have been postponed—and did we ever think we’d see that?

When our daily lives are in flux, especially relating to how we interact with our fellow human beings, it can feel unnerving. Most of us haven’t witnessed something of this level in our lifetimes, as according to experts, the last global pandemic was in 1918 with the Spanish flu. But while the mortality rate for the Spanish flu was intense, to say the least, we need to remember that that was over 100 years ago, and science has come a long way since then.

But no matter how far we’ve come, when our lives are thrown for a loop and pharmacies are selling out left and right of anti-viral and anti-bacterial products, it’s hard not to be anxious or afraid. Information and statistics changing by the hour doesn’t help much, either. However, worrying will not help you actually deal with the situation at hand. So, take a deep breath, hold it for 10 seconds, and release it slowly. It’s time to alleviate some of your fears.

How to cope with general anxiety surrounding coronavirus

Even if you’ve never experienced anxiety before, you might be feeling it now. Assuaging these feelings and coping with them means keeping your mental health in check, being as pragmatic as possible, and being proactive in limiting that anxiety. A great place to start is to stop consuming every piece of media on the virus. As you’ll find, there are a lot of mixed messages out there—and this includes the information coming out of the White House. Your best bet will always be to refer to organizations who have dedicated their lives to protecting the health of the global population, like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

In general, though, “limit daily viewing and consumption of news media,” Erika Martinez, Psy.D., licensed psychologist from Envision Wellness, tells HelloGiggles. “If you’re worried about going to public places, call ahead and ask what they’re doing to maintain hygiene and cleanliness.”

Martinez also suggested sticking to “prescribed recommendations from the CDC, WHO, [and similar organizations] for cleaning to minimize spread of illness,” both in home and while out. Just having sanitizer in your bag can provide you with both relief and peace—but of course you’ll want to use it, too.

When meeting people, “say no to handshakes and yes to fist bumps,” Dr. Lyndsay von Miller, a licensed acupuncturist and health professional, tells HelloGiggles. “Get creative with light switches, by using your knuckles. Also, get creative with doors by using your arms to push them open or paper towels on the handles to pull them open—especially bathroom doors that get a lot of traffic.” Doing these things, von Miller explains, will help put your mind at ease, because you know you’re being proactive and making an effort.

But if you don’t want to go out because you don’t feel safe and would rather not test your anxiety, then don’t.

“Ask if you can convert in-person meetings to online ones,” Martinez says, adding that she’s being doing this with her clients and it’s really helping to alleviate their anxiety. So if right now, you’re feeling uneasy about things, limit interactions to what feels comfortable for you.

How to help yourself mentally if you’re quarantined

Whether you’re quarantined because you have been diagnosed with CORVID-19 or because you’ve chosen to do so as a precautionary measure, being stuck at home for two weeks or more can get boring fast—especially if you live alone. Because of this, you want to keep your mental health on the up and up.

“Make sure that you are following medical recommendations,” Martinez says. “This will give you peace of mind that you’re doing everything within your power to avoid spreading the disease and maintaining/recovering your health.”

It’s also important during this time to stay in touch with loved ones via digital forms of communication. “Loneliness can result from social isolation, especially for extroverts,” Martinez says. “Chatting with people regularly can ease these feelings.”

It’s crucial to stay busy. In other words, now is the time for a hobby. “Try knitting, crocheting, drawing, sketching, or painting,” says Martinez. “Learn something new. Take an online class on Great Courses, Udemy, or Master Class.”

If things start to feel stifling and you’re losing your center where you’ve managed to keep your anxiety at a healthy level, turn to exercises like meditation. “Practice relaxation techniques like diaphragmatic breathing, guided meditations, or progressive muscle relaxation,” says Martinez.

According to von Miller, another way to keep your anxiety at bay while being quarantined is by consuming healthy nutrition-rich foods. Knowing that you’re adding natural healing foods to your diet will help you feel like you’re on the right path. Our mental health is, of course, related to our physical health, so if you feel good about what you’re putting in your body, you’re bound to have a higher chance of making peace with any impending anxiety.

“Load up on foods and spices with antiviral properties,” von Miller says. “Kimchi and other fermented foods, coconut oil, raw garlic, oregano, ginger, walnut, pomegranate, green tea, apple cider vinegar, and medicinal mushrooms like shiitake, maitake, reishi, cordyceps, and turkeytail are the types of things you want in your body during this time.”

Ultimately, your mental health during this pandemic is just as important at your physical health. Like any virus—and there have been many throughout history—coronavirus will run its course. Yes, there will be those who will be affected, and there will also be those who won’t be affected. No matter what, allowing your anxiety to take over isn’t going to help. It can’t be stated enough: A healthy mind plays a major role in having a healthy body.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, HelloGiggles is committed to providing accurate and helpful coverage to our readers. As such, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, we encourage you to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments, and visit our coronavirus hub.

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