In our last blog, Social Distancing: What to Expect, we discussed what exactly social distancing is, what you can do to remain safe and what to expect in regard to your mental health. Just to recap, the CDC has defined social distancing as “keeping space between yourself and other people outside of your home.” It’s a way to limit face-to-face contact with your peers in hopes of reducing transmission of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). We learned that we can practice social distancing by doing three things:
1. Staying at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other people,
2. Not gathering in groups larger than 10, and
3. Staying out of crowded places / avoiding mass gatherings as much as possible.
Once again, Social Distancing not only affects those with mental health issues but also those who are deemed presumably healthy. The adverse impact on mental health for all individuals included increases in
1. Fear, 2. Anxiety, 3. Isolation, 4. Irritability, 5. Depression, 6. Stigmatization and, 7. Flashbacks (PTSD)
Check out our last blog if you’d like more detail about these increases in symptoms.
Now that we understand this concept and we’ve been informed on how it can affect our mental health…how can we use appropriate coping mechanisms to combat the negative effects of distancing? Don’t worry! Fortunately for us, we live in a society where our options are limitless as long as we use a bit of creativity.
You may feel like you don’t know what to do as your whole routine or lifestyle has changed and many of things you once did, you aren’t able to do because they required that you leave your home. Here are some tips and suggestions for coping:
1. Therapy: If you’re still in therapy, don’t quit! Likewise, if you can afford therapy, carefully consider making an appointment with a private outpatient facility or your local community service board. Many therapists have moved over to various Telehealth services to accommodate their client’s needs while also following social distance policies.
**Freedom Support Services uses Telehealth powered by SimplePractice. We have been using SimplePractice and its software far before the start of the pandemic so you can rest assured that the software is HIPAA-compliant and confidential. We are also still allowing face-to-face individual sessions in which you can meet with your counselor in our office as our rooms are big enough to implement the 6 feet rule.**
2. Only Listen to Reliable Resources: There’s a lot of misinformation out there, especially when it comes to social media and news stations. Listening to these sources will only cause more confusion, frustration, anxiety, and fear. To obtain accurate information, make sure you’re gathering your facts from reputable sources like the CDC’s “What’s New” page or Virginia’s official government website.
3. Take Breaks: Even when you are gathering reliable information from reputable sources, the information can still be upsetting and cause an increase in symptoms. It’s okay to limit your intake of news and media consumption if it means that it will maintain a healthy well-being. Some us of need to stay informed to calm our anxiety while others are better off knowing the bare minimum. Carefully decide what the best option is for you.
4. Create a New Daily Routine: Since our normal routine has been interrupted, it’s easy for us to get into a slump and spend out days doing nothing. Productivity is important for minimizing symptoms and keeping us busy. Your routine doesn’t have to jammed packed, but it should be effective enough to continue accomplishing your goals as well as promote a healthy lifestyle. Here’s an example:
7:30 AM – Morning Meditation
8:00 AM – Hygiene
9:00 AM – Breakfast: Mindful Eating
11:30 AM – Creative Time: Read a Book, Draw, etc.
12:30 PM – Lunch: Mindful Eating
1:30 PM – Chore Time or Exercise
3:30 PM – Academic or Office Time
6:00 PM – Dinner: Mindful Eating
7:00 PM – Chore Time or Exercise
8:00 PM – Free Time: Skype/Facetime with Friends, Watch a /movie, etc.
9:30 PM – Night Meditation
10:00 PM – Bedtime
5. Stay Social while Social Distancing: Just because our face-to-face contact is limited, doesn’t mean that we can’t talk to our love ones or celebrate with them. You can talk to your friends and family on the phone or via video conferencing tools like Facetime. You can even celebrate events like your birthday online with your friends using these tools. Of course, it isn’t the same thing as actually being there in person, but it’s better than nothing!
6. Maintain a Healthy Life: Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, showering regularly and being mindful of what you eat. Take time to take care of your body by exercising, meditating, and only consuming things that are good for you. If you have certain medications or vitamins you’re required to take, make sure you’re taking them as prescribed.
Social Distancing is hard. In a matter of a couple of weeks, we’ve watched our entire world be flipped upside down. Even though things are tough right now, you can still prosper and maintain a healthy well-being. Get creative, reach out to your loved ones and mental health providers and last but not least, continue to persevere. Remember, flattening the viral curve is extremely important but so is your mental health. See you next week!
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We have two strategies for coping; the way of avoidance or the way of attention. - Marilyn Ferguson