Managing Your Mental Health during a Pandemic
Are you feeling overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic and struggling to maintain good mental health? If you are, you are not alone. It is natural to feel stress, anxiety, grief, and worry after any kind of uncertainty. During this unique time, it can be especially important to take care of your emotional and mental health. Taking care of your mental health will help you to think and respond appropriately to the situation and help your long-term healing.
Improve Your Mental Health During the Pandemic by Using the Three R’s
Dr. Bruce Perry, a pioneering neuroscientist in the field of trauma, developed The Three R’s: Regulate, Relate, and Reason. This was established to increase children’s ability to come to a place of calm and clarity, but I believe we can all use the 3 R’s to help us process and respond appropriately to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When we are in a time of uncertainty and panic the best thing we can do is learn skills to help us calm down and ground ourselves. It can be very dis-regulating when our routine is suddenly changed, and we are encouraged or forced to change our daily schedules. Regulating is about learning how to calm ourselves and learning skills to calm our body and mind. Running to Walmart to stock up on toilet paper and panicking when we don’t find any may not be the best way to help us calm down.
One helpful way to manage your mental health during the pandemic is to self-regulate is through skills of mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing. Mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing help us to focus on where we are at in the current moment and gain the ability to react wisely to our situations. If you need help in practicing and developing skills of mindfulness and mediation there are many excellent YouTube videos and apps that can help you to practice these skills. The Calm app and Headspace app are two that I use regularly when teaching these skills.
After we regulate and ground ourselves the next important step to managing our mental health during the pandemic is to then relate. Relate is all about connecting with ourselves and others. It is important to identify what we are feeling and thinking. You may be feeling anxious, worried, or afraid. You may be mad or upset or fearful of what may happen. When we acknowledge and connect with how and what we are feeling it helps us become more anchored and secure. Talking and connecting with others is also helpful and essential. Even though physical (not social) distancing is important during this time we need to connect and talk with others. Reach out and talk with people you trust about your concerns and feelings. Technology allows us to continue to connect even if we may be physically apart. Connecting with others helps us to feel understood, seen, and validated.
Reason is taking time to problem solve and make wise decisions. It is important to take breaks and make time to unwind. Take intentional breaks and avoid too much exposure to the news. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis repeatedly. Be intentional and create a routine. Schedule activities that are enjoyable and that help you to feel as normal as possible. Consume information wisely and look to get proper facts and information from reliable sources. There can be lots of misinformation and new information being shared. Look at the CDC and local resources.
Lastly, seek help if needed. Look for common signs of distress; feelings of numbness, anxiety, fear, changes in your energy level, problems with concentration, sleep patterns, or feeling angrier or on edge. If the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting your mental health and you are unable to carry out normal responsibilities for several days or weeks, please consider speaking with a professional counselor. This can be a trying time for many, but by implementing these strategies I hope you find peace in the storm.
Cary Larson, LMFT
Carey is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and has a private practice in Rock Springs, Wyoming. He grew up on a small farm in Northern Utah and has a passion for helping and working with others. Carey has experience and training in helping individuals and families with relationship issues, depression, anxiety, trauma, grief, and addiction.