Before I get started with mental health and the pandemic, I want to address that there are lots of individuals in our country who don’t have access to basic necessities – a stable environment, access to food, the influx of income. Additionally, I’d like to acknowledge our healthcare workers and caregivers for putting themselves at risk to protect us. If you consider yourself to be in a position of privilege – please do help in whichever way possible! I will be attaching links to various initiatives at the end of this article.
I am aware that we are receiving a lot of useful information from various sources regarding ways to take care of your mental health. For example, making a routine, engaging in exercise. These are extremely valuable , however given the current situation, a lot of people are struggling with the motivation to be able to engage in these activities at the moment. With the extension of the lock down, I’ve written this article to provide you with a framework that may help you accomplish certain things that you’d like to do to keep your mental health in check.
I think it is important to accept the uncertainty and the negative feelings that you are feeling currently as natural – we are in the midst of a global pandemic so it is understandable to respond in ways that may be unusual for you. Also, it is absolutely OK if you don’t learn a new language, instrument or write a book during this pandemic.
What I’ve seen on a lot of Mental Health websites is to do a purposeful activity. Of course, this is subjective and it is possible that you haven’t been able to identify that activity yet.
You could use the ACE (Achievement, Closeness to Others, Enjoyment) model to identify what activity is useful to you. We usually derive a sense of achievement, closeness to others and enjoyment from a purposeful activity
This could look something like this. Of course, these scores vary from individual to individual.
Activity – what you did & with whom
1. Baked a cake with my family OR with a friend over video chat
2. Did an AT-HOME workout
Closeness to others
It is also recommended to reduce exposure to media/ news outlets as that may trigger feelings of anxiety, panic and low mood for many. In the occasion that you do come across news that has a distressing impact on you, the following strategies may help:
It may not be useful to form an interpretation about the news despite its obvious connotations. Rather, it may help to focus on the ‘here and now’ and making the most out of the current moment.
These are some ways to do that:
Imagery: You can imagine a place that makes you feel calm & safe. Try to notice the colours, sounds, sensations and smell of this place. Close your eyes and go to this place and enjoy its peacefulness and tranquility. For guided imagery you may want to check out these links:
Distraction: If the news is very overwhelming, some people may require a form of distraction to help them get through the moment.
The 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique is often used as a transitionary activity before moving on to something different. You can think or say aloud:
The 5 things you can see right now
The 4 things you can hear right now
The 3 things you can reach out to and touch right now
The 2 things you can smell or like the smell of
The 1 thing you can taste (gum, candy or any small snack) – notice the flavours closely
Another aspect of self-care that is widely recommended is to establish a routine, a timetable. It may be difficult to do so given the emotions we are currently feeling especially considering that even getting out of bed may seem arduous at times. Some general tips may help you with this.
-Try setting a realistic routine. It is easy to overload our schedule with multiple tasks or to-do lists. Although a productive approach, this may lead to a feeling of disappointment towards the end of the day if you’re unable to do so.
-Another tip is to have a designated space for a particular activity. E.g.: bed for sleeping, desk/chair for working, kitchen for eating. This will help you demarcate space and create boundaries.
-To set your mood for the rest of the day, it can help to start the day on a positive note with some self-care: this can be anything from reading something positive, meditation, cooking a delicious breakfast with whatever ingredients you have, journalling, watering your plants or anything else you feel that gets you in a positive mood
Of course physical activity/ exercise has also demonstrated to have a positive impact on mental wellbeing. However, it may be hard to motivate yourself when you’re feeling low or overwhelmed.
-How you view exercise can also impact your motivation for doing it. Seeing it as a ‘fun’ activity may also persuade you to work out e.g.: learning a dance routine, doing a workout challenge.
-Having an exercise buddy: This can be someone you’re quarantined with or a friend virtually. Perhaps making an ‘agreement’ with your buddy regarding a certain amount of exercise per week. This can help improve motivation and accountability.
-Focussing on additional benefits of exercise such as better sleep, energy, concentration and a sense of achievement can also positively impact your motivation to do it
– Finally, it is also important to be realistic and not set the bar too high while exercising so, set a workout routine according to your stamina and energy level.
I hope this article has provided you with some tips on keeping your mental health in check during the ongoing pandemic.
List of NGO’s/ Organisations providing relief: