Staying Mentally Healthy In Times Of Crisis
These certainly are unprecedented times we live in. With the world on high alert and everything we take for granted in our daily lives, put on hold, now more than ever we need to take care of ourselves and each other. A lot has been written already about how to keep ourselves physically well. I’m going to focus on how we can stay mentally well at the same time.
Anyone who has ever worked with me knows, I start by emphasizing the four pillars of self care. I’ll go over them here:
Focus on health right now. The temptation for days and days of take out and mindless snacking is there for all of us. Resist the urge! You’ll feel better if you’re taking good care of yourself and not letting all of your good habits slip. Fuel yourself well.
This may be a tougher one, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. Get out for a walk, ride your bike, let the dog run around at the leash-free park. YouTube has an endless supply of workout videos; check some out. Bookmark your favourites and do them again in a few days. Maybe now is the time to try something different. I bought the book Yogalosophy a few years ago, and I’ve really been enjoying going through it again. With ideas for basic yoga poses, simple cardio, and healthy physical and mental living, it’s a great resource when usual activities are limited.
The importance of quality sleep cannot be over-emphasized. Without a train to catch in the morning, it’s easy to sleep the day away. Don’t. You’ll feel much better if you maintain a mostly consistent sleep-wake schedule. Our bodies cope with physical and mental stress much, much better when we’re getting enough rest. Turn off the devices at least one hour before bed, preferably two. Relish this time of slower pace to unwind and really rest.
Obviously, this one is going to require the most adjustment. Be grateful that technology exists that can easily keep us connected to the outside world in times like this. Keep standing coffee dates with friends, just do it over FaceTime. Get back in touch with family and friends that you haven’t had time to see recently. Just be careful about social media. There is a lot of misinformation going around. And these kinds of panic situations can bring out the worst in people as they shame and judge others. Connect one-to-one with loved ones; limit time spent with anonymous strangers. Particularly if they are negative, shaming and/or judgemental. None of us needs that right now.
Beyond these elements of self-care, a few additional tips for the next few weeks:
Keep routines the same as much as possible.
Create a routine for your family, that includes time to work (whether that’s work for you or schoolwork for them), time to be active, and time to spend time together. Kids in particular will do much better with routines in place. Even the older ones (when I told my kids the other day that we would create a schedule for the next few weeks, my 16 year old responded, “Yes, PLEASE!!” Lol. Not every kid likes a routine the way that she does, but still.) It will be less stressful for all of you if you and your kids know what to expect from your days. It’s surprisingly stressful to have no predictability or plan for what comes next.
Be available to your kids.
You might think there is no way NOT to be available over the coming weeks, but I’m talking about emotionally. Their social media is flooded with misinformation and doomsday-ers too, and they’re less prepared to handle this kind of stress. You can look at my article on How To Talk To Kids About A World Crisis for tips, or my friend Alyson Schafer’s article on Talking To Your Kids About Traumatic Events on SavvyMom.ca.
Remember that kids don’t always have the emotional intelligence to say “I’m scared” or “I’m disappointed at missing my friends/birthday parties/hockey/grandparents.” They’re more likely to be clingy, needy, unusually anxious, or want to spend more time with you. This can certainly be challenging if all of a sudden you’re working from home. But take good care of yourself so that you can take good care of them.
Meditation and Breathing.
Finally, I usually talk about mindfulness meditation at some point. You may have already downloaded the Calm app. But even if you haven’t, you’re in luck. Calm has created a free resource page with some great meditations to help soothe the soul. Work 10 minutes of meditation into your day; it will make a world of difference. (If I’ve ever told you about the podcast on increasing happiness and positivity, you’re in luck! That podcast is on this page: Discovering Happiness Masterclass. It discusses why it’s important to be grateful for different things each day, as well as the effects of taking two minutes to focus on your breath in the middle of your workday.)
Let’s look out for one another. It’s in our nature to be social; let’s bring that wonderful element of the human spirit forward right now. Look for opportunities to help our brothers and sisters, and know that we’ll be there to help you, too.
How to recognize the symptoms of Kids and Stress.
Keeping Cool: Avoiding Anger In Parenting. Your buttons may be pushed a bit more in the next few weeks. Survival tips, just in case.
This is definitely going to be a story for the grandkids. Perhaps not the highlight of our kids’ childhoods, but that doesn’t mean we can find ways to be Making Memories as we navigate the next few weeks.
Why Won’t They Just Listen?! With all that togetherness, if you find yourselves getting on each others’ nerves, maybe a few new communication strategies will help.