Looking after your mental health during COVID-19

By Dr. Anthony Feinstein, April 7 webinar presenter

• Stressors can trigger anxiety. Multiple stressors at the same time can ratchet up anxiety.
• Loss of a sense of control is a major contributing factor to anxiety.
• Taking back control, where possible, can significantly help your mental wellbeing.
• By dwelling on anxiety-provoking factors you cannot control, you potentially exhaust yourself by using up emotional energy that could be applied in a more positive way.
• This becomes even more important when the stress is prolonged, as with COVID-19. Stamina and endurance are important factors here.
• Make a list of factors that you can and cannot control. Structure, routine and planning enhances control, so take a few minutes and write down your list and plans. Share this approach with family, colleagues, friends.

You cannot control certain things; be accepting of this reality and let things go that you cannot control.
• Virus – news about the virus, statistics about the virus
• Other peoples’ behavior
• Economic news
• Stock market
• Unemployment rate
• Rumors
• Avoid catastrophic thinking in which you stack one negative thought on top of another. Catch yourself doing this and interrupt it with a positive distractor.

But there is much that you can control by taking care of yourself.
• Sleep
• Unplug from the negative side of social media. Limit email, twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram when possible. Avoid the 24-hour news cycle. Don’t listen repeatedly to the news. Most important before going to bed*
• Nutrition: don’t overdo caffeine, alcohol, sugar
• Take short breaks during your workday*
• Structure time with family, dinner together, see the positives here
• Maintain social contacts by staying in touch by phone
• Quiet periods of reflection, meditation, mindfulness; stay in the moment, keep your focus on the moment; step back to gain a better perspective
• Make a list of enjoyable activities. Music, movies, reading, etc.
• Exercise, treadmill at home, stretching, tai chi, yoga
• Plan your shopping to make sure you have the essentials but avoid frantic and excessive shopping
• Remember there may be stressors other than covid-19
• Ask for help/therapy if necessary

*Work with your news organization to address these points