As we enter another week of the COVID-19 pandemic, this ‘new normal’ continues to materialize along with the realization that life, as we once knew it, will never be the same. Parents who have been blessed with newborns during this time will certainly have stories to share with their children in years to come.
Undoubtedly, the last few weeks have given us some major reality checks. The simple tasks of running errands, socializing, going about your business, and well, just living life, has turned into a paranoia-fueled cycle of heightened awareness and precautions to the point of feeling almost zombie-like when you do venture out.
Instead of just grabbing your bag or wallet and keys, you now need to make sure you have your pack of Lysol wipes, sanitizer, face shield and gloves. The elevator must be empty before you can enter, otherwise you need to wait for the next one. And you better have mastered pushing buttons and opening doors with your elbow by now.
Grocery shopping has turned into a ‘how fast can you grab what you need and get the heck out’ marathon. Though that quickly falls short when you are forced to stand in a mile-long lineup to get into the store as crowds are being regulated. Makes you really wonder how much we took the simple act of parking and walking into a store for granted, doesn’t it?
I have to admit that the longer this goes on, the greater toll it will take (if it hasn’t already) on people’s mental health. There’s been a lingering feeling of unease in the air at any given time. Being forced to stay within the confines of your home serves as a constant reminder of the external threat that we are trying to shield ourselves from, thereby reinforcing the lingering sense of fear, anxiety and paranoia.
Each morning begins with feeling unsettled instead of feeling rejuvenated. It begins with anxiety of what lies ahead and what the latest news alert is going to tell us, instead of being able to enjoy the fact that spring has arrived and warmer temperatures are around us.
It’s a constant, seemingly never-ending feeling of being on-edge.
BUT….and there is always a but.
We have to find a way to keep our peace. We have to. It’s the only way to get through this. We want come out of this on the other side more confident, more stronger, and more resilient, but in order to do so, we need to continue to maintain our own sanity.
So what can we do to keep our mental health in check?
Technology is great, but know when to take a break
I have a renewed appreciation for all the apps that have given us the opportunity to virtually communicate and socialize since this started – a trend that would be nice to continue even after this ends.
However, I feel that because we only have that mode of communication to rely on, it can get a bit overwhelming at times. So take some breaks in between your phone usage to give yourself some time to recuperate, collect your own thoughts, and just reflect on everything.
This will hopefully also help in moderating how much of the news you get inundated with which we know is plenty right now and not exactly a good stimulant for our minds.
We do need to stay informed, of course, but we should also limit how much information we are subjecting ourselves too. If you go looking for it, there is enough doom and gloom in the media right now to cripple you, but if you choose not to, then you’re doing yourself and your mental well-being a huge favour. Choose wisely.
Find solace in the prolonged days and sunshine
The arrival of spring this year has felt subpar for obvious reasons. With the widespread mandate to stay indoors and social distance, one might wish that winter lingered around a bit longer. Who would have ever wished such a thing under normal circumstances, right?! But of course, there is nothing normal about what we are going through right now.
However, the one somewhat positive thing that we can appreciate right now are the longer days and prolonged daylight. Imagine how much harder this could be if it became pitch black at 4:30 pm. A lot of us feel naturally uplifted by sunshine and we really need it right now.
The milder weather also means getting some fresh air to clear your mind. If you can do so safely, of course, a walk or a light jog could do wonders to help alleviate some of your stress and anxieties.
Don’t let certain habits go to shit
I know this is a lot easier said than done when you’re feeling down in the dumps, but that’s why having a calm mindset is key. With the absence of being able to go to a gym and be on a fairly regular schedule, I’m sure the eating habits of many have been all over the place. As we continue to try and adapt to these times, it is important that we try and maintain a sense of normalcy with our eating schedule. Try your best not to overindulge. I know those dill pickle chips are irresistible, but don’t get fooled by the pretty packaging.
The same goes for any other unhealthy habits like smoking or drinking. If you think about the elevated levels of stress that society is feeling these days, those that already engage in these habits, might be doing it more frequently as a coping mechanism. That’s why it’s so important to try and find some balance among all the chaos so that you aren’t resorting to engaging in these habits more than you normally would.
Stimulate your soul with warmth and laughter
When you do have those virtual parties with your family and friends – really take that time to escape – even if just momentarily. It’s difficult not to talk about what we’re dealing with, but find solace in the warmth of their energy, if that makes sense. Many of these video conferencing apps allow you to play virtual games in real time which adds another layer of fun to the interaction. There is real comfort in being reminded that we are most certainly not alone and that we are all in this together.
Also, there is plenty of uplifting, non-pandemic related content at our disposal. On-demand streaming platforms have peaked in usage. Watch that show or movie that you’ve been meaning to for some time now but couldn’t get around to. If you haven’t already, check out The Morning Show with Jen Aniston and Reese Witherspoon on Apple TV+. It’s a gripping, thought-provoking drama series that will entertain anyone that is a fan of these two amazing actresses.
There is no textbook for how we deal with these unprecedented times, but what we can do is control our perception of the situation and the choices we make as we try our best to navigate through it as best we can.
Please continue to stay safe and healthy. We are all in this together.