You might be feeling stress, anxiety or depression right now. And that’s OK.
“Those are all normal reactions to an abnormal situation; I just really want to validate that for people,” said Tonya Ladipo, CEO of the Ladipo Group, a Philadelphia-based therapy practice.
Or you might feel lonely or isolated. And that’s OK, too.
“Social distancing is a new concept to us, but what I’m also saying to people is social distancing is not social isolation,” said Dr. Argie Allen Wilson, founder and CEO of FAITH Inc. and co-founder of Connections Matter, LLC. “There will be some people that will have to be isolated because they may have this virus, but for those of us who are still well, we can still be socially connected, just in a different way that allows us not to feel so isolated.”
Ladipo and Wilson said it’s important to recognize how you’re feeling, make your mental health a priority, and develop habits and plans for coping.
“As we are all realizing, this is not going to blow over quickly,” Ladipo said.
“It’s going to impact us in ways that we haven’t yet realized, so if we can get into good habits now, that will help us. We’re worried about physical health and we need to be. We also need to worry about mental health.”
One of the first steps everyone should take to ensure good mental health is to develop a daily schedule, Ladipo said.
“Whether you are working from home or whether you are not working because you don’t have a job as a result of this, I think still having a schedule is really important,” Ladipo said.
“It will be a schedule that is different that it was before. It doesn’t have to be the same schedule, but the basics of getting up and getting dressed each morning we should do. I know that sounds simplistic, but that goes a long way for maintaining our mental health.”
Once folks have a schedule in place, Wilson said, they should create “relational care plans,” such as developing a virtual date night and talking with family or friends over Facetime, Google Hangouts or Zoom.
Virtual date nights are especially important for people who live alone and senior citizens who cannot physically interact with family and friends because they are more vulnerable to contracting serious complications from the novel coronavirus.
“We have to utilize our resources to allow us to connect with people, and when we can connect with people that oftentimes reduces our anxiety and it absolutely makes us feel not so alone,” Wilson said.
Wilson said it’s also important to develop a self-care plan.
“We do need to focus on ourselves and what is it we need to do to make ourselves more stable mentally and emotionally,” she said.
Ladipo said people can manage their anxiety by limiting how much news media and social media they consume.
“If you feel the need to stay connected to the news, cap it to an hour a day,” she said.
“I would say the same for social media, because social media is flooded with how this is impacting all of us. It’s a great way to stay connected, but it can be overwhelming and make us feel more anxious.”
Wilson suggested using this time to set goals or pick up new hobbies.
“Utilize this time in way that helps you to grow, as opposed to keeping you paralyzed,” she said.
Wilson said it’s also important to develop safety plans for caring for yourself and your loved ones.
Many hospitals have instituted stricter rules for visitors and families cannot visit nursing homes because the elderly and those with underlying health issues are at risk. Meanwhile, traditional funerals are hampered by new regulations around the number of people who can gather due to the possibility of the virus spreading.
“There is a whole other layer of execution and processing that comes with your loved one being in the hospital and you can’t be there to advocate for them,” Wilson said.
“If they should die, would you be able to even have a funeral for them? … If a crisis such as someone getting sick should hit close to home, having a plan of action of what you can do, or readjusting your expectations for what you can’t do, can be helpful to us to readjust.”