We know that major changes in our lives often create stress. Under typical circumstances, losing a spouse, moving to a new place, or getting laid off all create massive stress. Now in the time of COVID-19, we are all going through massive changes at the same time: shifting recommendations, a constant flurry of bad news, shortages of things we need, being laid off, or having to suddenly work or study from home… Coping with these stresses is not easy.
Just as you protect your physical health by washing and sanitizing your hands, wearing a mask, and social distancing, there are some important things to do for your mental health, too. Most of the recommendations actually support both physical and mental wellbeing.
Keep a regular sleep schedule. Not having to be up at a particular time, due to changing work or school demands, could cause you to sleep in. But your body sleeps better when it knows when it is going to happen. So try to go to bed at the same time each night, sleep at least 8 hours, and wake up at the same time each day. You’ll improve your mood and, many studies suggest, your immune response, as well.
Eat healthfully. For many, stressful times call for comfort food. But many studies suggest that getting plenty of fruits and vegetables actually improves our happiness. Cooking something new, healthy, and delicious, of course, is also a great source of positive excitement.
Make a plan for the day. No matter how small, having a goal is a good thing. And some goals are more helpful than others. Those that include physical exercise, fresh air, and reaching out to someone you love via the phone or online chat are especially good for maintaining good mental wellbeing.
Get help if you need it. Anxiety, confusion, powerlessness are common feelings during a pandemic.If you or someone you love needs emotional support, UCS is available at 802.442.5491. Other supports include; text VT to 741741 to talk to someone at the Crisis Text Line. Trained helpers are available 24/7 at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For more information visit healthvermont.gov/suicide.
Lori Vadakin, MA, LADC is Director CRT, Outpatient and Substance Use Services at UCS