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Ways to Protect Your Mental Health During the Pandemic

March 26, 2020

By Mary E. Corrado, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every one of us, and we are each processing it differently.  Never before in my lifetime have I experienced a shelter-in-place order.  This is a big adjustment for all of us, and Forbes recently posted an article with some mental health practices that are helpful during this pandemic.

The tips include:

Maintain a routine – Both children and adults thrive on routine, but especially children.  With Michigan schools being closed, it’s important to maintain a daily routine as much as you can.  It will help both you and your children.  Too much unstructured downtime creates boredom and anxiety.  While your routine has likely changed, it’s good to create a new routine to follow.

Start an in-home exercise routine – What a better time to get in shape!  Plus, exercise is a great stress reliever.  Dust off that exercise equipment (I’ll be dusting off my Peleton) or take advantage of the many online workout sources being made available.

Get outside – One thing we are still allowed to do is go outside.  Just be sure to allow 6 feet between you and anyone not in your immediate household.  Many state parks are offering free admission right now.  Sunlight and fresh air will help you immensely while stuck at home.  It’s good for both your mental and physical health.  I have two pups that are enjoying their daily walks.

Declutter your home – This is a great time to do some early spring cleaning.  The book Trauma Informed Care states that “Studies say the predictability of cleaning not only offers a sense of control in the face of uncertainty, but also offers your mind body and soul a respite from traumatic stress.”  I’ve already cleaned two closets and several kitchen cupboards.  It takes my mind off things for a bit and is therapeutic.

Meditate – Meditation has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. It can take some time to learn, but there are many online resources and even some apps that help. Researchers have found that meditation or slow breathing is used “clinically to suppress excessive arousal and stress such as certain types of panic attacks.”  I think it’s important to find some ways to calm your body’s stress response during this difficult time.  Although I haven’t tried meditation yet, I have downloaded the calm app on my phone…hoping for time to utilize it.

Maintain community and social connection – While it’s not the same as face-to-face interaction, we thankfully have technology available that allows us to connect with others online, including video. Social connectivity is one of our most basic human needs.  ASE has hosted several online happy hours with our employees to maintain social connection among our team.

Practice gratitude – Gratitude is extremely beneficial to mental health. Studies have shown that writing down five things you are grateful for once a week can increase your wellbeing.  During this time where we are bombarded daily with bad news, take the time to acknowledge the good things in your life.

Let yourself off the hook – During times like this we have to cut ourselves some slack.  Screen time will likely be increased – that’s OK. If you need more sleep, that’s OK too.  Everyone handles stress differently, so go easy on yourself.

We are all in this together.  It’s important to remember that.  Lean on friends and family for support during this time.

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