5 ways to protect your mental health during COVID-19
Locking oneself for a few weeks while avoiding as much physical contact as possible (i.e. social distancing) is not very common for most of us. The current uncertainty about future decisions such as job applications and travels makes it even harder to calm down and relax. At the same time, the overload of disinformation on social media creates additional fear and anxiety. So what can we do in these turbulent times to stay calm and grounded?
I have good news. We can learn and grow from the current situation. Let me share five simple activities that will bring you gratitude and peace for the upcoming period.
In times of panic and crisis, the best thing to do is breathing. As Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh explains:
When the crowded Vietnamese refugee boats met with storms or pirates, if everyone panicked all would be lost. But if even one person on the boat remained calm and centered, it was enough. It showed the way for everyone to survive.
For that just get yourself comfortable wherever you are and put your attention towards your breathing. Try to count the breath. Inhale and then exhale, and at the very end of your out-breath, mentally count, “One.”. Again, inhale, pause, exhale, and then at the end of your out-breath mentally count, “Two.” Keep counting like this at the end of every exhalation until you reach “Ten.” If you can, extend the time of inhaling and exhaling as long as possible.
You can even add some spices to it. For instance, when you inhale imagine a positive fresh feeling that goes into your body. When you exhale, think of something that is causing stress. Breath it all out, until this feeling of stress is fully out of your system.
Sounds simple, right? Well do it for a few minutes and you will notice that you feel more calm, centred, grounded, and with yourself. The perfect start to not fall into a panic state as well as getting out of it 😉
2) Create a morning routine
Routines are healthy. They create a feeling of purpose, of something meaningful to do. While sitting with yourself can be powerful, a certain structure will surely help you to get through the day with more focus and energy. Ideally, a morning routine activates different parts of you – your body, your mind, and your emotions. For your body, you know best what works. Do you like running? Go for it! Do you like exercising, but the gym is closed? No problem! You can do push-ups, burpees, squats, sit-ups, and much more at home. For your mind, try meditation. There are powerful apps such as “calm” or “headspace” to guide you with this. Or you go into nature and immerse in a space of silence. To activate your emotions, try journaling. Write down your feelings, what is coming up. Don’t suppress it, if you feel emotionally overwhelmed, that is okay, just let it be.
3) Listening to your inner voice
During a hectic and busy day, we are good at avoiding our inner voice. When we are sitting in silence this voice will be much louder. Ultimately forcing us to listen. Well, this is a great opportunity to tune in with yourself, and actively listening to what is going on. If you want to level it up, you can dive into deeper layers. Reflect on where these thoughts come from. Are these thoughts past experiences, even traumata that are not healed yet? Fears and anxieties about my future? You can view these questions as a self-discovery retreat, without paying any penny.
While some of us see writing as work, or as something that belongs to writers, writing can be much more. In essence, writing is a therapeutic activity. Working something out that was waiting inside of you, ready to reach the surface. There are many forms of writing such as creative and reflective journaling. Reflective journaling connects to a specific situation that you encountered. How did you react? What could you take out of this situation? What will you do differently next time? Creative writing has no rules. Just write up what is in your mind or soul. Let it flow, and don’t stop writing. Even if you don’t know what to write, you can write about this phenomenon, write about how you feel about this. Essentially, creative journaling allows you to practice self-expression.
5) Practice gratitude
We often run through life in autopilot. We follow routines, do our job or study, eat and sleep. Although we love novelty, our brain is wired in a way that we quickly get used to new activities. Too often, we miss the pause button and ignore things that go well in our lives. Gratitude helps us to savor and harvest the positive events that happen to us.
For now, take a few moments this week and write down three things that you are grateful for. Be specific. What do you appreciate about them, and why? Choose a moment and space that allows you to be present and let the feeling of appreciation stream through your body.
Just recently, a colleague of mine said: ”never waste a good crisis”. At my job, and looking at the people around me, I see so much collaboration, co-creation, and warmth going on. It seems that this crisis brings the best out of humanity. This makes me feel and think optimistic about the time ahead. Now is the right moment to choose and act both individually and collectively about how we are going shape our future.
More advice on how to cope with stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 outbreak period is available at the WHO webpage. They provide practical tips for young and old to reduce and manage stress. Check it out: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html
I am currently offering free 30-minutes coaching sessions (or for a little donation) to support you in finding a healthy and balanced coping mechanism these days. Let me know if you are interested by sending an e-mail to email@example.com
Take good care & stay healthy!