Just like your physical health, it is important for you to prioritize your mental health amid COVID-19. This article will describe methods to monitor your mental health, self-care while at home, and resources for help if needed.
The most important point to remember is to be kind to yourself. Living through a global pandemic is an unprecedented event, so allow yourself to navigate this experience to the best of your ability and remember: help is available if you need it.
Monitoring Your Mental Health
The COVID-19 pandemic is stressful for most people. Those who have not faced challenges with their mental health previously may find it difficult to cope with the current state of affairs. Thus, it is important to check in with yourself regularly to make sure you are taking care of your mental health. For those with pre-existing mental health conditions, be sure to routinely assess whether you have new or worsening symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states stress during a global pandemic can have a number of effects on your mental health, such as:
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Worsening of chronic health problems and mental health conditions
- Increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances.
If you find yourself experiencing any combination of these symptoms, it is important to explore healthy coping strategies that can help you stay mentally and physically healthy. Now let’s look at different forms of self-care you can use to benefit your mental health. These techniques are helpful to all, whether or not you feel you are struggling.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the pandemic, there are a number of coping strategies you can employ at home to help reduce stress and anxiety. These techniques fall under the realm of “self-care.” While self-care is popularly associated with face masks and a Parks and Recreation “treat yo self” mentality, it is so much more. The National Alliance on Mental Health compares self-care to putting your oxygen mask on before trying to help others with theirs. Taking care of yourself helps you not only be a healthier version of yourself but allows you to then support the people you love. Try any combination of these strategies to help ease your mental burden.
Engaging with the Outside World
For some, feeling knowledgeable about what is going on in the world, or what is new with their friends and family, makes them feel more secure. University Health Services states that many can find reassurance in learning more about COVID-19 or maintaining strong social connections.
If you are feeling distanced from your friends and family, try reaching out via text, call, or video call. For those interested in remaining up to date on COVID-19 information, try reading a few articles, or watching the news from well-established sources for a fixed period of time.
While it is good to be informed, reading the news can easily lead to overloading yourself with information, which can then negatively impact your mental health. Be sure to limit your daily exposure to news and social media so that you do not become overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious.
Maintaining Your Physical Health
Remaining physically healthy is incredibly important for your mental health. This can take on many different forms. The CDC recommends a number of techniques to consciously incorporate into your life that can help with both your physical and mental health.
Take time out of your day to focus on breathing techniques, stretching, or meditation. There are many downloadable apps and free videos online that can provide guided meditation, yoga, or breathing techniques for those experiencing anxiety. Along with these strategies, it is important to exercise regularly. Whether it is a walk around your neighborhood or a long bike ride, physical exercise can make you feel and function better.
Eating well-balanced meals is another excellent tool in keeping your mind and body healthy. The CDC recommends healthy meals and limiting your alcohol intake at this time. Lastly, be sure to get plenty of sleep. About seven or more hours are recommended for adults between the age of 18-60.
Make Time to Unwind
At a time where many people lack the structure of their normal schedule, it is important to consciously set aside time to relax. This will look different for each individual. Think of an activity you enjoy, that you find relaxing, and make it part of your daily routine. Whether it be reading a book, doing a craft, or taking a bath, set aside a part of your day to do something purely for enjoyment and relaxation. Take this time to unplug from engaging with the news and social media, and allow your mind to rest.
Resources for Help
While the self-care techniques listed above are excellent ways to help care for your mental health, sometimes external support is needed, and that is ok! If you are having trouble with your mental health and need help there are a number of resources available.
For all Longhorns, UT’s Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC) has both their regular services and COVID-19-related resources set up for those who need it. Currently, CMHC has COVID-19-specific workshops and discussion groups that you can register for to help cope with any struggles you may be experiencing. UT has also released a free downloadable app, Thrive at UT, which was designed to help with students’ wellbeing. If you feel that you could benefit from individual counseling, CMHC is currently providing counseling and psychiatric services via telehealth appointments. They also have a 24/7 crisis line for UT Students at 512-471-CALL (2255). Visit the CMHC website to learn more. A more comprehensive list of resources can be found at the end of this blog.
Remember: If you are having thoughts of harming yourself call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Additional Mental Health Resources
- Disaster Distress Helpline 1-800-985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish), or text TalkWithUs for English or Hablanos for Spanish to 66746
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish, or chat online
- National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
- National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
- Veterans Crisis Hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or chat online
- Substance Abuse and Mental Service Administration Helpline 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
- SAMHSA Suicide Prevention