Tips for Mental Health and Resiliency amid COVID-19
Developing your resiliency is a key mental health strategy for responding to COVID-19 and many other stresses facing our communities, our nation, and our world. Some people think of resiliency as the ability to “bounce back” from difficulties, but it is more than that. Being resilient helps you work through challenges and problems and it helps you improve your life even when things are going well. With intention and practice, there are many ways in which anyone can become more resilient.
BUILD RESILIENCY BY KNOWING YOUR RESOURCES
Getting help when you need it is crucial to building resiliency.
- Know the facts about COVID-19.
- Remind yourself that we all play an important role in fighting this pandemic. Be informed and follow guidance about how to protect yourself and others.
- Know what to do if you are sick and are concerned about COVID-19.
- Know where and how to get treatment and other support services and resources, including counseling or therapy (in person or through telehealth services).
BUILD RESILIENCY BY PRIORITIZING RELATIONSHIPS
Maintaining strong, positive relationships is a source of support during good times and bad.
• Prioritize relationships. Connect with others through phone calls, email, text messages, mailing letters or cards, video chats, social media, and through limited in-person contact while observing physical-distancing and wearing a mask.
• Participate in a virtual community. Along with one-on-one relationships, many people find important social support by being active in civic groups, faith-based communities, or other organizations. Many organizations are convening virtually or in other physically distant ways.
• Check on others. Helping others improves your sense of control, belonging, and self-esteem. Look for safe ways to offer support to others, especially if they are showing signs of stress, depression, or anxiety.
• Connect with nature. Spend time outdoors, either being physically active or enjoying the beauty of the natural world.
• Connect with your spirituality. Meditate, pray, journal, or connect with sacred texts or a faith community.
BUILD RESILIENCY BY CARING FOR YOUR BODY AND MIND
Stress can make you more susceptible to illness and negatively affect your emotional well-being. Maintaining your physical, emotional, and mental wellness are important ways to build resilience.
• Prioritize sleep. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
• Focus on healthy eating. Plan ahead for a steady rotation of nutritious meals.
• Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can exacerbate symptoms of stress.
• Exercise and stay physically active. Stress makes the body feel braced and defensive. Exercise is a natural stress reliever. Stretching and rhythmic movement can also help with this. Look for livestream exercise classes or exercise apps.
• Settle stress and anxiety by focusing on breathing. Deep breathing helps calm the central nervous system whether you are experiencing panic or discomfort.
• Increase your sense of control with a consistent daily routine. Whenever possible, try to keep to a regular schedule, ideally one that is similar to your pre-pandemic schedule. If you work from home, try to set regular times to begin and end your workday.
• Engage in goal-oriented tasks or activities. Do something with a defined beginning and end. It is important to see tangible progress.
• Take breaks throughout the day to stretch, exercise, relax or check on others.
• Engage in fun or mentally stimulating activities. Curiosity, creativity, play, humor, and joy are antidotes to fear, stress, and anxiety – and they all help to build lasting resilience and to mitigate feelings of fear, stress, and anxiety even when they return.
• Clear your mind and visualize positive outcomes. A number of apps can assist with getting into the habit of clearing your mind and visualizing positive outcomes.
• Avoid excessive alcohol and drug use. If you feel you may be misusing alcohol or other drugs (including prescription drugs) as a means of coping, reach out for help.
• Continue with treatment for any physical or mental health conditions. Let your provider know of any new or worsening symptoms.
BUILD RESILIENCY BY EMBRACING HEALTHY THOUGHTS
How you think can play a significant part in how you feel and behave —and how resilient you are when faced with difficulties.
• Shift your focus to what is possible. Identify areas where you have some choice, things that you can influence. Ask yourself, “What is the next decision that I need to make?”
• Change your thinking patterns in times of stress. During times of stress it is common to not think as clearly as you do when things are calm. It is helpful to remind yourself that you may not be able to change stressful things, but you can change how you interpret and respond. You can look at situations in a way that takes into account both the challenges of the moment and the strengths and resources that are available to help you cope.
• Notice and label your thoughts. Do a reality check. When you feel flooded with negative thoughts, identify and acknowledge them. When you say your thoughts out loud and talk through them, they lose their power. State your negative thought, think about where it comes from, and offer alternative thoughts. Is this true? How do I know that it is true? What might not be true? What steps can I take to determine how respond? It is often helpful to get the perspective of a trusted friend or family member.
• Limit your media exposure. Choose a reliable source of information and set a specific time to update yourself – and then stop until the next time. Determine what information would help you to make decisions and seek information that portrays positive ways for addressing common challenges.
• Identify those things over which you do not have control. Do the best you can with the resources available to you, and empower yourself in other ways, such as remaining open to new information and managing your expectations in certain situations.
• Learn from experience. Reflect on the strengths and skills that have helped you through difficulties in the past. By looking back at who or what was helpful in previous times of distress, you may discover how you can respond effectively to a current difficult situation.
• Be proactive. Do not ignore your challenges. Instead, figure out what needs to be done, make a plan, and take action. Seek information and support to determine reasonable next steps.
BUILD RESILIENCY BY FINDING PURPOSE AND MEANING
Honing in on what brings you a sense of purpose and meaning and aligns with your values is an important part of building resilience.
• Help others. Whether you volunteer with a community organization or support a friend who needs you, you gain a sense of purpose, foster self-worth, connect with other people and help others in tangible ways, all of which contribute to developing resilience.
• Move toward your goals. Develop some realistic goals and do something that enables you to move forward with achieving your goals regularly, even if it is just a small accomplishment. Ask yourself, “How can a break a problem into manageable pieces that I can take action on today?”
• Maintain a hopeful outlook. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on what you can change.
• Make every day meaningful. Do something that gives you a sense of accomplishment and purpose every day.
American Psychological Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Crisis & Trauma Resource Institute
The Joint Commission and the National Council for Behavioral Health
Kansas City Business Journal