Dr. Andrew Magers
March 26, 2020
Three Practical Mental Health Tips to Weather the Coronavirus
All of our lives are being affected by the coronavirus, some more dramatically than others. Even here at The Well Clinic, we’ve transitioned to an online platform for those who want to stay at home but continue meeting. In the midst of the heightened tension, toilet paper wars, and what appears to be a season of inevitable cabin fever, here are three simple suggestions to help maximize your mental well-being.
1) Withdraw (from updates)
The brain is hardwired to avoid danger, and with instantaneous access to a literal world of problems, we’re bound to feel overwhelmed and powerless. Part of navigating life is learning to appreciate what we can control and what we can’t; it’s that old serenity prayer your mother used to have hanging on the wall at home. No, I’m not advocating that you put your head in the sand and pretend like there isn’t a problem. What I’m saying is, although you CAN wash your hands regularly and avoid contact with others as much as possible and is recommended, you CAN’T do much for those sick in Italy or even New Orleans. If you need to check-in, get an update from the CDC. Then put down your phone or turn off the TV, and ask yourself, “what can I actually be doing right here, right now?”
2) Walk (outside)
There is tons of research demonstrating the relational benefits of improved health and exposing yourself to scenes of nature. As examples, people exposed to natural environments showed improved mood and heightened energy. Patients with plants in their post-surgery hospital recovery rooms had lower systolic blood pressure, and lower rates of pain, anxiety, and fatigue. And one study suggests that plants in an office can reduce sick day leave by 20%! All that being said, since it looks like we’re going to be staying indoors for a while, consider going for a walk outside, near some trees and plants (but six feet away from others).
3) Write (in a journal or captain’s log)
Writing isn’t a natural pastime or hobby for many people. It’s a skill that has to be developed. But journaling is one of the best ways we can ground or anchor ourselves when we are stressed or overwhelmed. With the inevitable anxious thoughts running through our heads of, “How will I pay the bills?” or “Will we have enough to eat?”, the natural response is to ruminate and obsess. We have to be intentional about getting out of our heads and back into the real world. A mentor of mine used to say, “We do not know what we believe unless we say it out loud” - this applies equally to writing down your thoughts. Seeing the thought on paper “I’m not sure we’re going to make it,” helps us to look at it more objectively and hopefully gain some perspective. By doing so, you’ll probably be able to realize more quickly that you’ve been through other difficulties that you had never faced before, and you made it through those things as well!
If you need someone to talk to during this uncertain season, we at The Well Clinic are here to help. Check out our website at www.mywellclinic.com.