With COVID-19 pandemic social distancing and shelter-in-place orders dictating our new reality, our minds are consumed by the spread of the coronavirus and its impact on our health, separation from loved ones, loss of freedom, financial insecurity, uncertainty of a normal society, and boredom. To combat the negative consequences of social isolation and preserve our mental health and well-being, we need to adjust our mindset with these recommendations by the CDC.
Reevaluate your expectations
Do not underestimate the cognitive and emotional load that this pandemic brings, or the impact it will have on your productivity, at least in the short term. Difficulty concentrating, low motivation and a state of distraction are to be expected. Adaptation will take time. Go easy on yourself. As we settle into this new rhythm of remote work and isolation, we need to be realistic in the goals we set, both for ourselves and others in our charge. Reading recommendations include The Obstacle is the Way and Activating Happiness.
Control your stress threshold
Try to lay a solid foundation for your mental health and well-being by prioritizing sleep, eating well, and exercise. Enforcing healthy habits will lower stress levels and help you to better regulate your emotions. Reading recommendations include Healthy Living from A to Z and Healthy Habits Suck.
Know your red flags
One way to manage moments of distress is to identify key thoughts or physical sensations that tend to contribute to your cycle of distress and feelings of being overwhelmed. Our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and actions each feed into and amplify these negative emotional spirals. Addressing one aspect of this loop by, for example, consciously turning away from bombardment of information, can de-escalate the cycle and help you regain control. Reading recommendations include Distress to De-Stress and The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques.
Routine helps to manage anxiety, which will help you to adapt more quickly to this current reality. Create clear distinctions between work and non-work time, ideally in both your physical workspace and your head space. Find something to do that is not work and is not virus-related that brings you joy. Working in short bursts with clear breaks will help to maintain your clarity of thought. Reading recommendations include 24/6 and Life Matters.
Be compassionate with yourself and with others
There is much that we cannot control right now, but how we talk to ourselves during these challenging times can either provide a powerful buffer to these difficult circumstances or amplify our distress. Moments of feeling overwhelmed often come with big thoughts, such as “I cannot do this,” or “This is too hard.” This pandemic will cause a lot of stress for many of us, and we cannot be our best selves all the time. But we can ask for help or reach out when help is asked of us. Reading recommendations include Nurturing the Soul of Your Family and Self-Love Experiment.
Nurture social connections
Even the most introverted of us need some sense of connection to others for our mental and physical health. We are in social isolation, but we need not feel alone. We can nurture existing relationships or form new ones. Reflect on your current state of social health and then take one digital action to deepen it—such as getting in touch with a family and friends—or to broaden it—such as reaching out to someone you’d like to get to know. Reading recommendations include Art of Gathering and Belong.
Manage uncertainty by staying in the present
Take each day as it comes and focus on the things you can control. Mental health professionals recommend mindfulness and meditation as effective tools for embracing your inner zen with these meditation resources. Reading recommendations include How to Do Nothing and A Sloth’s Guide to Mindfulness.
By adopting good mental-health and well-being measures, and by relying on others when necessary, we can protect ourselves and those around us from the adverse effects of social isolation.
Dickerson, Desiree. March 26, 2020. Seven tips to manage your mental health and well-being during the COVID-19 outbreak. Nature Research. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00933-5