Hannah Hopper, LPC

It’s in the news, it’s on social media, it’s all the people in our lives have been talking about lately – Coronavirus seems to have taken over our world and our mental space too. And with so much news bombarding us on a minute-by-minute basis, it’s easy to neglect our mental health. Anxiety can overwhelm before we even realize we’re starting to feel anxious.

1. Stick to Your Routine

In times of stress and chaos in our lives, often one of the first things to go is our regular schedule. Obviously there are some routines you may not be able to maintain, like going to the gym or work. But sometimes when we feel stress and anxiety mounting, we forget to do even more basic things like eating regular meals, exercising several times a week, and going to bed at a typical time. But sticking to your routine and usual schedule (as much as possible) could be really beneficial in helping to replicate some of the normal patterns and routines in your life before social distancing began.

2. Limit the Media Intake

Let’s face it, the media is having a hayday, and our sense of peace and safety are some of the casualties along the way. If you’re having trouble working from home and are getting distracted by the barrage of news updates, try putting your phone away for a few hours to give yourself a mental break. If it’s hard for you not to get hourly updates, try letting yourself put the news away just for 2 or 3 hours, and then take a 10 minute break to check and see if you’ve missed anything important.

3. Find Ways to Calm Your Body

Take a moment to focus in on your body, and notice any areas that carry stress or tightness. Once you’ve identified these areas that are especially tense, look online for tools that have guided meditation or body scans. These exercises will help you to focus on breathing and letting go off extra tension you’ve been carrying.

4. Start a Gratitude Journal

I know it sounds ridiculous to look for ways to be thankful when it feels like the whole world is falling apart. But noticing the little things you have to be thankful for and taking time to write them down can make big strides in changing your thought patterns, and just might give you a mood boost too. Maybe it’s the warm coffee you have to drink in the morning, the way the sun is starting to peek through the clouds, or getting to relax in your comfortable clothes while working from home. The small moments matter, and the more you can focus on them, the more you’ll appreciate the things we have instead of focusing on what’s missing.

5. Let Negative Thoughts Go

Just because you have a thought doesn’t mean that it’s actually true. We have thousands of thoughts each day, some of them worth holding on to, and some of them that can pass on by. Find an image that works for you as you picture thoughts that come for a moment, but then pass you by. It could be helpful to try and imagine your thoughts like leaves on a tree during a Fall day. Some of the leaves (the brown, dead ones) will fall off the tree and blow away. Some of the ones that are still alive will stay on the tree when the wind blows them). Let the thoughts that are fear-based, irrational, or overly anxious blow off the tree, and try visualizing them blowing away just like you would see dead leaves blowing away.

If you’d like to develop more ways for coping with the stress of social distancing or if you’d like to have someone help support you during this challenging time, it may be a good idea to seek counseling. You can contact Symmetry Counseling to get matched with a therapist today.