In this time of unprecedented uncertainty and insecurity, our moods will range from simmering unease to straight up panic. Even if we haven’t personally experienced the coronavirus yet, or know someone who has, we recognize the world around us is shifting. We’re heading into a future full of unknowns.
Although we’re all being told to keep our distance from others, for those of us living abroad, the crisis is especially isolating. Additionally, we face more potential obstacles, which may heighten our feelings of fear, anxiety, or distress of any kind. For many reasons, we may find ourselves struggling more than someone in their home country might.
So what can we do to help us get through this pandemic of illness, isolation, and anxiety? There are the obvious physical mandates, such as maintaining a healthy lifestyle, protecting our personal space, and staying home as much as possible. However, the coronavirus crisis emphasizes the need for good mental hygiene as well, as it ticks all the trigger boxes for anxiety: it’s ambiguous, novel, and unpredictable.
Here are five ways to practice good mental hygiene:
- Monitor your thoughts and emotions. Your goal is to discern their root cause and purpose. If they’re being generated from a place of fear or anxiety, listen to them, accept their positive intention, and then reign them in. Catastrophizing is the easy way out when it comes to anxiety; you don’t have to fight it. But it creates a negative cycle that leads nowhere. Instead, concentrate on what you know, refocus your attention, and regain control of what you’re thinking and feeling. You can also consider “postponing” your anxiety to an allotted time in the day, to help you let go of your worries until your “worry time”.
- Focus on what you can control. Between the coronavirus itself, endless information, new restrictions, job uncertainty… We’re currently being inundated with countless matters we can’t do much about. Try to find ways to limit your exposure to unhelpful or negative information and remember the small things you can do that are within your control. You could focus on supervising your attitude, do a small thing to brighten someone else’s day, or ask for help if you need it.
- Do some inner work. Although our world is being turned upside down, a crisis can put things into perspective. Take advantage of the moment to experiment with implementing new mental hygiene patterns. Perhaps you could try a daily thought download, learn about your Enneagram Type, or practice living mindfully or intentionally. Find those parts of yourself that have been on default mode and wake them up. Rediscover what’s truly important to you, or what you’ve been ignoring or allowing, and then make some changes. Reconsider your priorities, so they serve who you aim to be.
- Try something new. In our new normal, we’re being cut off from our past routines, hobbies, and social gatherings. Why not choose to finally ignore the excuse machine in your head and try that new exercise, instrument, or recipe (you might have to get creative)? Or reconnect with someone with whom you haven’t spoken in some time? Whatever you’ve been thinking about and have been putting off, do it now and watch your mood lift in real time.
- Connect with your body and others. Our bodies become tense with excessive amounts of stress and anxiety, so it’s important to release built-up tension. Try to engage in activities that give you pleasure, like singing in the shower or taking a walk, alongside ones that fulfill your sense of achievement, such as completing a work task or cleaning your flat. Remember to also push yourself to stay virtually connected to friends and family! The daily combination of these activities will keep you inspired and balanced.
If you’d like guidance on implementing any of these ideas in your life, or simply want to discuss your options during this crisis, feel free to contact me for a free initial session. Stay safe and take care!