The arrival of the pandemic came as a surprise. The world changed overnight. People were suddenly becoming fatally ill due to a virus that no one had ever heard of. One day we’re living our normal daily lives, and the next, we’re locked away at home.
It’s hard enough going through isolation, but it’s even harder when you’re dealing with mental health issues. The Kaiser Family Foundation Tracking Poll conducted a study in the middle of June, that showed in the US alone, 53% of adults reported their mental health has suffered due to stress toward the coronavirus. Now imagine the number when we think about the whole world.
Dealing with anxiety is not easy. Every day you wake up without knowing how you will experience your day. When the pandemic hit, I wasn’t ready at all. I kept saying to myself “it would only be a couple of days,” and that “everything would be okay.” But days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, and nothing has really changed.
I had to learn how to deal with my anxiety from a new perspective, failing and learning until I discovered what was best for me and my mental health. With that, I realized that there are a lot of things you can do by yourself to help cope with it. Here are some tips that I hope will be of good use to you.
1. Listen to your Body
Your body knows you better than you’d think. It knows the triggers that can put you in a bad mental place. Your intuition will always be ahead of your anxiety and will warn you when you’re getting off balance. For some people, it starts with a fast-pounding heart or constant scratching of the arms. Some people feel lightheaded, almost like they have a fever. Listen to those signs — stop what you’re doing and take a breath, focus on your body, and try to find what’s causing that reaction. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries. If watching the news is taking away from your sleep, turn it off. If talking about the virus makes your heart go into a frenzy, let the other person know, and change the subject. Your body is constantly trying to protect you, so don’t fight it.
2. Find Something that Brings you Joy
Finding a new hobby can be a wonderful way to get your mind off of things. It can be doing yoga in the garden, dancing in your room, or singing in the shower. If it makes you happy, just do it. You don’t have to be the best at it — everything we do with love is valid. With time, this hobby can turn into a ”safe mental space” where you can go when you feel anxious, or just to calm down. For me, I found my escape in cooking. I started creating new meals in the middle of the pandemic and found love in that, as it takes my mind away from things, and I appreciate the result. It also allows me to stay in the present, to ground myself in what’s happening in that second, in that kitchen, without thinking about what the future is going to be like.
3. It’s Okay Not to Be Okay
I remember by the middle of the pandemic, I would see people on social media, being physically active, opening a new business, or becoming influencers and bloggers. I wasn’t doing any of this. I was in a place where doing things like waking up and having breakfast were difficult. I felt so bad for being unproductive some days, while others seemed to be fine. It took me a while to realize that, that was okay. I was allowed to have bad days, and it’s healthy to spend time taking care of myself. We need to stop comparing ourselves; everybody works differently, and that’s totally okay. Let yourself go through the hard days, and use those days to try to connect with yourself and your feelings. Take care of your body and mind, we’re not machines programmed to be at 100% all the time.
4. Don’t Suffer in Silence, Ask for Help
When you’re dealing with mental health issues, asking for help is one of the hardest things to do. We think that we’re going to be bothering people with our feelings, and that we’re pushing our problems into their lives. But the truth is that the people around you love you and want to make sure you’re okay. You don’t have to carry the weight of the world alone. I used to have panic attacks, and without warning anyone, would lock myself in the bathroom until I could function again, which can be very bad for you. How can the people around you help if they don’t know what’s happening to you? Don’t feel that you have to hide your symptoms without talking to someone about it. Allow yourself to realize your importance. Your feelings matter, and people will care.
5. Find Support in Each Other
I know therapy isn’t cheap. Unfortunately, many see it as a luxury they can’t afford, especially with the amount of job loss the pandemic has created. But, sometimes, talking with people that go through the same things as you can be amazing. By connecting with someone that endures similar issues, you can create a support community where you can share your feelings, along with helpful tips for getting through your condition. There are a lot of websites and apps (like Sayana, Sanvello, and Self-Help for Anxiety Management) that allow you to connect with people all around the world and talk about your mental health. I found this so important as it made me realize that I’m not going through this alone. I’m not weird, I’m not crazy, and there are countless people out there who understand exactly what I’m going through.
These are difficult times. We don’t know how to feel, or what to do. But at the end of the day, it’s important to put your mental health first.
In the case of immediate help, please call Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566.
Article photo created by Toni Ann “Hiccups” Tapper