Tips to care for mental health during corona virus, covid-19, social distancing

10 tips to care for your mental health during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that are low-cost or free

There’s a great deal of uncertainty in the world right now.  The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is changing life as we know it. Social distancing, the pending economic implications of the virus and the disruption in daily routine are enough to throw off anyone’s self-care routine.  Below are 10 mental health tips for the coronavirus.

The World Health Organization(WHO) has put together some mental health considerations for the COVID-19 pandemic.  As a mental health professional, I wanted to get this information out to as many folks as I can. I’ve elaborated on the WHO recommendations and offered some suggestions for low-cost or free ways to keep taking care of yourself during this period of great uncertainty.  

Take what you like and leave the rest.  

  • Try virtual yoga classes.  Yoga is an excellent way to reconnect with your body and get some physical activity.  Here is a link for a local San Francisco yoga teacher, Sean Haleen, who is offering his classes online.  He asks for a small donation, but no one is turned away for lack of funds. If yoga isn’t your thing, dig a little online and I’m sure you’ll find a number of other offerings.  
  • Stay connected to your people.  Even if you think you’re an island that can survive for long stretches alone, trust me, it feels good to connect with folks during stressful times.  There are a number of different ideas for staying connected to your network during this period. Try hosting a virtual dinner party, game night, or movie viewing party.  There are a number of free platforms you can use to make it happen like Zoom or Google Hangouts. Be creative. Have fun!  To support the local arts get a virtual ticket to a couple of ACT shows that were canceled because of the virus.
  • Limit checking the news.  In fact, limit screen time in general.  Of course it’s important to stay informed during these uncertain times, but limit of often you check the news.  Reading scary or difficult news stories will increase your anxiety and stress. Use a harm reduction approach and perhaps check the news three times a day or set a timer and only read news stories for ten minutes at a time.  
  • Get out in nature.  As of now, even with the shelter-in-place policies in San Francisco you can still get out in nature and hike, bike or run.  If you’re not feeling active, just sit on your front step and look out at the sky. If you’re able to get in a hike, that’s even better.  There have been numerous studies about the positive benefits of getting out into nature. Use the time you have at home to experience some of those benefits.  
  • Set a routine. And keep it!  If you’re working from home, furloughed or unemployed set a routine for yourself and stick to it.  It’s important for good sleep hygiene and your overall mental health to stick with a routine. Try and eat at the same time each day. Incorporate a walk.  Set aside time to read or just pull yourself away from your devices. You don’t have to be rigid about the day, but put a few things on your daily calendar and stick to them.
  • Maintain healthy eating habits.  Though it may be tempting to indulge in your favorite comfort food during this stressful time, remember, everything in moderation.  Try and maintain your pre-pandemic eating habits, as nutrition certainly can affect mood and overall mental health.  
  • Do one thing on your To-Do list.  If you’re someone who likes to feel productive, you may approach this period of social distancing with high expectations for your output.  Instead of trying to accomplish everything on your list, why not pick one thing you’ve been putting off and try and accomplish that. Maybe it’s cleaning out a closet.  Maybe it’s reading a book you’ve been lusting after for a year. Don’t try and do it all because that can bring about overwhelm. Imagine how good it will feel to cross one thing off your list when all this is said and done.  
  • Meditate.  Social distancing is perfect for meditation.   If you’re someone who has been putting off trying meditation, what are you waiting for? You can find easy to use apps like Headspace or fantastic free guided meditations on YouTube by experts like Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield.
  • Feel your feelings.  The world is not the same as it was a few months ago.  That can bring up all sorts of feelings. Sadness, anger, fear, boredom.  They’re all valid and they’re all important. Carve out some space to connect with your emotions.  Journal, meditate, sit quietly, dream, make art. Do something that will invite the feelings in. And seek support if you need it.  You don’t have to do this alone.  
  • Remember self compassion.  Maybe you’ve read this whole list and all of it sounds either overwhelming or stupid.  Good for you for noticing that! You’re being honest about your feelings. Whatever you do or don’t do, whatever you feel or don’t feel right now, it’s all ok.  Be kind to yourself. This is a period of immense stress and uncertainty. As humans we often don’t do well with either of those things. Cut yourself some slack.  Be compassionate.

“You can’t calm the storm…so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh

Take good care of yourself!

Tom Bruett

Tom Bruett

Tom Bruett, LMFT is a licensed psychotherapist with an office in San Francisco, CA. Tom feels passionately about helping people have better relationships. The purpose of this blog is not to provide advice or to take the place of working with a mental health professional. For more information please visit the homepage.