With the omnipresent threat of COVID-19, life as we've known it has changed so dramatically that many - perhaps most - of us have experienced changes in our emotional wellbeing. While there are still things we can't do now, there are many things that we can do to improve our mental health and outlook on life.
Gratitude. Even in the face of adversity, we can find things for which to be grateful. Loneliness can be lessened by appreciating the safety of being at home, ability to work from home, or work at all. Be grateful for health, the beautiful spring weather, family and friends.
Plan for the day. It's easy to get depressed with no purpose for a day that feels like every other day. Plan to accomplish something meaningful each day, whether for work or for home and family, and especially something that enriches you, such as talking with a friend, reading a book, listening to music, planting flowers.
Maintain relationships. While physical connection might not be possible, we can still reach out and touch family and friends virtually by phone and video, and enrich relationships by sharing fears and coping strategies. We can even arrange outings (e.g., bike rides, talking in the yard) or play virtual games with friends while maintaining appropriate social distance.
Exercise. Almost nothing improves the mood, clears the mind, and helps the body fight off disease better than exercise. Walking, biking, taking a virtual or outdoor exercise class, or dancing alone or partnered can be helpful daily activities.
Eat healthy food. While comfort food might be our preference, nutritious meals comprised of low fat protein, complex carbohydrates (i.e., fruits, vegetables, and whole grains), and good fats (e.g., olive oil) are essential to our physical and mental health.
Those who feel despondent, endangered in their own homes, or are turning to alcohol, drugs, or addictive behaviors to escape their anxieties often require professional help to salvage their lives. If you or someone you know is engaging in self-harming or other-harming behavior, contact an appropriate mental health or addictions facility for help.
Helene Stoller, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist and owner of Psychological & Counseling Associates of the Lowcountry, LLC in Bluffton. Helene.firstname.lastname@example.org, scpsychologist.com.