20 Ways to Protect Your Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic is all over the news and is impacting our lives in many ways. Here in California (as well as many other states and countries), people are “sheltering in place” and “safer at home.” Schools are closed, many businesses are closed, and many of the people who do still have jobs are now working from home.

It should come as no surprise that this has triggered significant anxiety and fear, especially for those with preexisting mental health challenges. Many individuals who were already struggling with anxiety, depression, or chronic stress are now experiencing an intensification of their symptoms. And some people are experiencing heightened anxiety for the first time.

Common mental health symptoms associated with the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic:

  • Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping too much or too little)
  • Changes in appetite (reduced appetite or increased “stress eating”)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased mood swings (including irritability, anger, etc.)
  • Increased misuse of mood-altering substances (alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs)

Here are 20 tips for coping with the anxiety and stress triggered by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic:

(1) Limit the amount of time you spend watching the news or reading about this topic, and only seek information about what’s happening from reliable sources.

(2) Get enough sleep

(3) Stay physically active and exercise regularly

(4) Focus on nutrition

(5) Stay well hydrated

(6) Practice deep breathing

(7) Try meditation

(8) Listen to relaxing music

(9) Read something unrelated to current events

(10) Limit your caffeine intake

(11) Create something

(12) Avoid turning to alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs as a means of emotional coping

(13) Read or watch things that make you laugh

(14) Focus on planning for the future after this crisis has passed.

(15) Speak regularly with loved ones and friends (phone calls, texts, live video, emails and social media are all great options).

(16) Seek out positive stories of others helping those in need.

(17) Find ways to help others stay safe and healthy during this time.

(18) Spend time in sunlight when and where possible.

(19) Journal about your thoughts and feelings.

(20) Share your feelings openly with the people you trust.

If you’d like accountability in implementing these strategies or are in need of additional support, please know that we’re here to help remotely (through live video or telephone). Our initial consultations are always free.

Trauma & Relationships: 5 Ways to Increase Connection this Valentine’s Day

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Priscilla Du Preez

Valentine’s Day can bring up a lot of emotions. For some, it represents a day of romance and encourages expressions of love. However, this can often put unhealthy pressures and expectations on a relationship or can lead to uncoupled individuals feel left out and minimized by society. Many people dread this day or become frustrated with its American commercialization. For individuals who’ve experienced Trauma, these challenges are further compounded by difficulties with intimacy and vulnerability.  

If you’ve experienced Trauma, you may find yourself struggling to connect with others or have difficulty feeling positive emotions such as love or happiness. You may find yourself thinking “I can’t trust people,” “others will take advantage of me,” or “they’ll just let me down anyways, so what’s the point.” You may also suffer from low self-esteem and believe that you don’t deserve love or people who care about you. This may lead to pushing people away, self-sabotage, or diving into toxic relationships with those who would mistreat you.

Rather than continuing to stay stuck in this downward spiral, here are 5 ways to help yourself become more connected:

  1. Self-Care

You may see this term showing up everywhere and initially dismiss it. What does self-care even mean?! Does staying home all weekend in the same clothes and binge-watching Netflix count? Part of connecting with others involves connecting with yourself and acknowledging that you deserve care. It doesn’t have to be a big step like treating yourself to a spa day (although those are quite nice). Self-care can be basic grooming, eating regular/balanced meals, and exercise. It can mean taking a stroll around your neighborhood or sipping your favorite tea. Any behavior, no matter how small, that shows yourself that you matter.

  1. Contributing

Giving can be an incredible way to connect and feel valued. It can also help improve the quality of your relationships and overall outlook. Contributing doesn’t necessarily mean donating money or volunteer work. Both may be great options, but it can also look like showing people kindness through sending a friend a supportive text or paying a co-worker a compliment. Sometimes people may go overboard and become so selfless, that they neglect their own needs. If you find yourself with this tendency, it’s okay to still contribute, but you may want to pay special attention to the paragraph on Self-Care.  

  1. Be Part of Your Community 

As humans, we are social beings. It is a natural and essential need to connect with others and be part of a larger community. We are not alone, and we are all part of something bigger than ourselves. This involvement can be as active or passive as you choose. Sometimes this means participating in your spirituality by attending services/events. It can be going to a Farmer’s market, taking a group workout class, or sitting at a café, simply sharing space with others in your neighborhood. 

  1. Initiate Plans

Too many people wait around for someone else to initiate plans. This can not only be anxiety-provoking but often discouraging. It leaves the door open for all those insecurities to rush in and convince us that there’s no hope and we’re destined to be alone, or it may make us doubt our current relationships. Rather than giving our power to someone else who decides if and when we will meet, reach out and take that first empowered step. 

  1. Group Hang Out

In our modern age, we are no longer restricted to traditional ways of celebrating holidays. Social gatherings like Friendsgiving have become the norm. We often associate Valentine’s Day with a time dedicated to our romantic partners but showing love to our friends and family can offer just as much meaning. The days surrounding Valentine’s Day might be the perfect opportunity to plan something special with these significant others in your life. This might look like hosting a dinner/game night or gathering the girls for a brunch or a hike. If hosting sounds like a big commitment, see if someone else is interested in organizing the activity with your help. 

This blog post was written by Dr. Talia Barach, licensed clinical psychologist. She specializes in helping others overcome the negative impacts of trauma and move forward in their lives. Visit our “Dr. Talia” page to learn more.

Practice Mindful Gratitude All Year Long

Expressing gratitude is good for your health and your relationships.

Most of us will be sitting around the table for Thanksgiving dinner (or lunch) today. Many families have a tradition of going around the table and asking each person to take a moment to share the things they are grateful for. This is a wonderful tradition; unfortunately, expressing gratitude seems to be something we’re only reminded to do once a year!

When it comes to practicing gratitude, many of us fall short. It’s easy to get caught up in daily tasks, challenges, and concerns. We focus primarily on our troubles and then wonder why we’re feeling so tired and unhappy much of the time.

Practicing mindful gratitude — and being thankful for things all year long — will improve your physical health, your mental health, and your relationships. 

Improved Physical Health

Gratitude helps improve your physical health in many ways. According to a 2013 study published by the Journal Personality and Individual Differences, grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and are more likely to take care of their physical health. Improved self-care with have a positive impact on your mood, your willpower, and your sleep.

Improved Mental Health

Regularly practicing gratitude can help you to appreciate yourself more and improve your self-esteem. By being grateful for the many blessings in your life (both big and small), you’ll be less envious of the seemingly “perfect” lives of those in your social media feed. Avoiding negative thoughts helps to booster both your self-esteem and your mood. Gratitude has been found to ease depressed as you stay mindful of reasons to appreciate the positive things I your life and, thereby, reasons to be happy.

Improved Relationships

Saying “thank you” is more than just good manners. It’s a way of expressing our gratitude. This attitude of gratitude can help you to improve existing relationships as well lead to new friendships. As you practice gratitude on a regular basis, you’ll recognize and create stronger binds with the positive people in your life.

Finding reasons to be and to stay grateful can sometimes be challenging. Life can often test us in ways we feel we’re not prepared to handle. However, with these significant benefits to practicing regular mindfulness, it’s well worth the effort to make practicing mindful gratitude a priority in your life.

If you’re looking for guidance and direction on how to practice mindful gratitude, I’m happy to help. Initial consultations are always free. Visit us at CaliforniaWomensTherapy.com to learn more.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I’m grateful that you’ve taken the time to read this post. 

Just like you, this blog is a work in progress.

Just like you, this blog is a work in progress.

Life is all about growth. No matter what you have or have not yet achieved in your life, you are most definitely still a work in progress. The same is true of this blog. Even if this blogs contains several nice little posts, all wrapped up in pretty little bows, there will still be room for improvement. Changes will be made and new posts will most certainly be added.

What kinds of blog posts can you expect to see if you return here? We’re planning posts centered on personal growth, managing mental health symptoms, and women’s empowerment. It it helps you grow, helps you heal, or inspires you to move forward in your life, we want to write about it.

If you have suggestions for future blog posts, let us know. We’re happy to provide additional useful content. What would you like to read about that would inspire you to continue your journey of healing and/or self-growth?