tending to our mental health in a time of crisis

Resilience, as it is defined, is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties or an ability for an object to spring back into shape. The idea of resilience comes to mind in this time of complete uncertainty, in a time where we are confined to our homes with little to no connection to our work, passions, hobbies, loved ones, and daily routines. These details, however small they may seem, are essential in maintaining our overall wellbeing. While some may approach this time with a sense of ease, others may find themselves experiencing loneliness, hopelessness, anger, anxiety, and despair.

Our jobs may be in question, but our mental health may equally be at risk.  One of the biggest challenges we will face will be how to keep well, sane and well…entertained. Now for the how… 

All is not lost in quarantine.  Since the news of COVID19 and its potential impact began, I have tried to keep in mind and comfort others noting “necessity is the mother of invention.” On a concrete level, our well-being is built into the detail of our daily/weekly routine. With the current happenings and restrictions, it will be important to get as creative as possible. Build a routine into your day. Attempt to bring yourself back to your weekly schedule to the best of your capacity. If you woke up at 7, try keeping to that practice. If the lack of commute grants you extra morning time, indulge in the time afforded with some additional sleep or make yourself/your loved ones a hearty breakfast. If you are used to going into an office, ensure you are getting ready for your day. Shower and get out of your loungewear. There is something powerful about physically “getting ready for your day.” If exercise is part of your morning routine but COVID has left you gym-less, try going for a walk outside (keep your distance from others) or download a workout app for some at-home activity. Make it a point to set lunch dates (even through Facetime) with your spouse, family, or work friends. In a time where technology makes it easy to connected, make sure the most of it. Take a moment to share a new experience with your loved ones who you are quarantining with. Build a puzzle, paint, garden, organize photo albums, cook etc. Indulge in the extra time granted to get all the details you once put off done. Finally, keep your appointments. If your doctors are offering telehealth sessions, make it a priority to continue to look after yourself. That being said, staying well isn’t only about what is on the outside, but equally how we maintain the inside. 

Health is incomplete if we are not caring for ourselves internally.  Mental and emotional health are central to our wellbeing and will carry us through these difficult times. How then, will we tend to this under the current challenges we are facing. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind. 

Having a means of support to combat the fear and uncertainty is essential. Be it a loved one, a neighbor or even your mental health provider (yay, telehealth), all are important sources of connection to help guide you through this experience and hear your specific challenges. Learning new coping skills, gaining a new perspective and/or creating a space to be validated and listened to may be invaluable during the pandemic. Bill Gates recently wrote about what he described to be the “spiritual purpose” of this pandemic (a recommended read: https://www.the-sun.com/news/579819/bill-gates-says-coronavirus-reminds-us-we-are-all-equal-in-powerful-message/). This ability to shift perspective and to accept the gifts and lessons granted to us within this chaos is a skill that aids in building resilience. Studies have shown both gratitude and positivity to have tremendous effects on our psyche, overall wellbeing and on our longevity. Attempting to reflect on the reasons and gains of this time may assist in changing the way we think and ultimately, the way we feel daily about it. In my opinion, this time may change us, and in many ways for the better. In this slowness, I believe there is great opportunity for reflection, introspection, creativity, innovation and connection, all things we may usually take for granted.  

There may be opportunities to journal, read, start a new project or even a new business. There may be time to put passion and creativity into your meals, to play and to share. See these experiences are not just about filling our time or out tummies but also our hearts. These activities keep hope, understanding, love, and compassion alive. They remind us of the essentials beyond the clutter that may have filled our lives previously and such awareness can, in turn, create positive internal shifts for us. They can shift our mental process and the way we utilize our time. Ultimately, it can have great impacts on how we move through this time.

I have been told that this is a moment in history and it sure feels like one. Let’s make sure to take in the good with the challenging. The positive memories, lessons, and changes as well as the realities of what is truly worth prioritizing. Let’s embrace the gift of time we have been given and use this restful period to get us prepared for what lies ahead. 

Here is to a time where both scarcity and abundance coexist in our daily lives. Be it in different forms, may we attempt to balance one with the other and find comfort in doing so. 

Terina Lopez, MS, LMHC