5 Ways to Protect Your Mental Health During Coronavirus Chaos
COVID-19 has taken a huge toll on my mental wellbeing. During weeks of self-quarantine, I felt helpless as I woke up each morning to more and more bad news - the stock market kept plummeting and more businesses were struggling or shutting down for good. I still can't hug my mom, walk on the beach or window shop at my favorite mall. Our cousins' annual trip to Knott's Berry Farm for Boysenberry Festival got cancelled because the entire park has been closed. It seems everywhere we turn discouragement and sadness are waiting to attack us, but here are some ways I learned to smile during these difficult times:
1. Stop Watching the News
Unless you work in a career where you're obligated to stay up-to-date with everything going on around you, take a break and stop looking for the latest updates. I quit watching live TV and even did a Facebook fast for a few days. I wanted to control when and how I consumed the news, and now that I'm not a local news reporter, I can totally do that! It's really important that I'm mentally prepared when I ingest new information because so much of it can be triggering. My husband, on the other hand, is always up-to-date, so he knows to let me know if there is something happening that affects me directly.
2. Pick Up a New Hobby
I've had a pretty pink bicycle collecting dust over the past two years. My father-in-law refurbished my sister-in-law's bike, and I meant to ride it while I lived less than a mile from Redondo Beach.
Well, that never happened, and now I'm living in the heart of Torrance about a handful of miles away from the beach.
But this past weekend, my husband and I finally took our bikes out together to exercise in our neighborhood. We even put my father-in-law's birthday gift in my bike basket and delivered it during our workout!
I've been somewhat afraid of getting onto a bicycle because I was afraid of falling down. But I didn't fall once and it was a lot of fun!
3. Consider Therapy
I started seeing a therapist after I got out of my domestic violence relationship. Prior to that I thought therapy was for people who were crazy and weird. Now I realize how silly I was to think this way! Now more than ever, we need professionals who can help us navigate through our emotions. Here's a blog from Matthew Shima, an Asian American psychotherapist who specializes in trauma and resilience.
4. Stay Social
Isolation is the key to depression for me. While there are definitely days when my mental state is not up for talking to anybody, there are other days when I'm longing to connect with someone. I've noticed that seeing other faces via FaceTime and Zoom does wonders for my mood. So I've made an effort make that a normal part of my weekly routine. For at least 3-4 days each week, I try to schedule some virtual time with other people or simply show up at preassigned ones. For example, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays I log into Zoom for Bible Study Fellowship. On Thursdays my husband and I meet with our church's young couples small group. On a Saturday, I my friends and I had a five-couple dinner date via Zoom.
5. Help Others
For the past couple of weeks, I've been donating my time to help other small businesses in the South Bay. I create videos for them that can be shared online. I catch up on how this pandemic has affected them, personally and professionally. Usually there is a positive element to their story, and I love sharing that with others.
For example, I met with Alisa and Dave whose custom printing company halted in recent weeks. But instead of focusing their financial woes, they're using this time to give back to their community. Through personal networking, they were able to get a lot of hand sanitizers and N95 masks. They're selling them to those in the South Bay at a reasonable price and giving away free shirts to help boost morale.
Another small business owner I talked to is Alan. He's a Realtor who spends a lot of his money every year buying and planting American flags throughout North Torrance. He doesn't have any new business right now due to Covid-19 and said he'll be late on bills. Still, he invested in 4000 new American flags again this year because he says now more than ever the community needs to come together. His wife and kids also created Thank You signs for front yards around their neighborhoods so that delivery drivers and postal workers can see them and feel appreciated.
I hope these tips help you to navigate through these hard times. I came across this timely reminder from a recent devotional on my YouVersion app - When you guard your mind, you guard your peace. When you offer prayers to God with faith an thanksgiving - no matter what trials you face - He assures you inner peace (Phil. 4:6-7).