6 tips to protect your mental health during COVID-19 pandemic

The coronavirus-induced pandemic has had a huge effect on the citizens of the world. Be it physical, financial, economically or a mental problem, everyone has suffered one of these, if not more than one. It is necessary to acknowledge that different people deal with crises in different manners, and it should be encouraged and accepted that each person heals at their own pace.

Nonetheless, there are a few tips and tricks that you might find helpful and noteworthy to integrate into your own process. Here is a list of 6 tips to help you protect your mental health, according to UNICEF:

1. Recognize that your anxiety is completely normal

If the pandemic, loss of life, uncertainty about the future is creating a sense of anxiousness, you need to know that you are not the only one and this feeling is not normal but natural.

“Psychologists have long recognized that anxiety is a normal and healthy function that alerts us to threats and helps us take measures to protect ourselves”, says Dr. Lisa Damour, expert adolescent psychologist, best-selling author, and monthly New York Times columnist.

Dr. Damour discusses the normality of the anxiety while advising caution.

“Get information from reliable sources [such as UNICEF and World Health Organization], or to check any information coming through less reliable channels”

2. Find a distraction

It is always helpful to lead your mind away from the negative thoughts that might be troubling it. You can indulge in a hobby, follow your interests, learn a new skill, and if you are not into doing any of that, spend time with your family or loved ones to bring a sense of balance into your daily life.

“Psychologists know that when people are in chronically difficult conditions it’s helpful to divide the problem into two categories: things they can do something about, and then things they can do nothing about”, says Dr. Damour.

3. Find new ways to connect with friends

The internet age provides users innumerable ways to connect with their friends and loved ones, each more creative than the other. The pandemic has led to an increase in these mediums, people can now stream movies, play games, engage in quizzes and other intriguing activities through the internet. Applications such as Twitch, Clubhouse, house-party, Ludo King, Zoom, etc., have really gained traction over the last year and a half.

Albeit, increased exposure to screens and devices is not advisable. “[But] it’s not a good idea to have unfettered access to screens and/or social media. That’s not healthy, that’s not smart and it may amplify the anxiety”, says Dr. Damour and recommends making a schedule for social media time together with parents.

4. Focus on yourself

Before the pandemic, people had constant complaints about not finding enough time to spend with themselves or focus on their body and mind because of the daily grind that they had become a part of. There was always a book that was left unfinished, a skill left unlearnt, and an instrument left unplayed. Take this time to focus on yourself and on everything that you couldn’t do.

“I have been making a list of all the books I’ve wanted to read and all of the things I’ve wanted to do for some time now”, says Dr. Damour.

5. Connect with your feelings

Over the course of the pandemic, all of us have missed some major event in our lives, it may be an event that we couldn’t attend with friends, birthdays that were not celebrated, or some sporting event that was canceled or you could not watch it live in the stadium.

These are major losses. They are very upsetting for all, including teenagers”, Dr. Damour says. What is the best way to deal with disappointment? Allow yourself to feel it. “When it comes to having a painful feeling, the only way out is through. Go be sad, and if you allow yourself to do it, you will feel better soon.”

“Some children are going to make art, some are going to want to talk to their friends and use their shared sadness as a way to feel connected in a time when they can’t be together in person, and some children are going to want to find ways to get food to food banks”, says Dr. Damour.

Therefore, allow yourself to follow and do what you think is the right thing for you.

6. Be kind to yourself and others

In this time of duress, all of us need to stick together. Make sure that you are not too hard on yourself, and at the same time ensure your attitude towards others is positive and kind. There is no use in piling on the stress by bullying, condemning, or abusing anyone.

“Activating bystanders is the best way to address any kind of bullying”, says Dr. Damour.

If you know of anyone who is facing this terrible circumstance, try to support them in any way possible. Even listening to their grief might turn out to go a long way in maintaining their mental peace. Remember, you should never take these matters in a nonchalant manner as they have an immense impact on an individual’s psyche.