April 7, 2020
By Dr. Stacey Chipman, Chief Clinical Director, North Country Community Mental Health
People everywhere are feeling stressed and worried. The world feels upside-down and topsyturvy with everyone making changes in their daily lives, washing their hands more often, practicing social distancing, increasingly quarantining themselves and working remotely. Adding extra self-care and stress management actions into our daily routines right now can really help us to manage anxiety. If you are trying to stay home during the COVID-19 crisis, there are some simple things you can do which may help you to stay healthy, both mentally and physically.
1. Keep It Simple
Having a simple plan for your daily activities is something under your control. If you are working from home, make a space for yourself to work, with a good chair, so you can be comfortable. You may find it helpful to keep to your usual routine as much as possible. Just because you can stay in your pajamas all day, doesn’t mean it is the best for your mindset. Set the stage for the day by doing what you usually do: get up, take a shower, and get dressed. Make some goals for the day and recognize that your productivity may not be as high as during normal times. Look for the positive benefits to be had from staying home – you can make home-cooked lunches, do laundry while you’re working, have more time for family, and maybe get some spring cleaning out of the way.
2. Eat Healthy
Working from home can certainly disrupt your eating schedule. With the kitchen within arm’s reach all day, you may find yourself eating out of stress, boredom, or procrastination, but it may also offer the opportunity to increase the quality of the food you eat. There is more time for meal planning now. You can make a batch of soup and have lunches for the week. You can fill your fridge with fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and healthy snacks you make ahead. Maybe it’s time to try a new special recipe.
3. Hydrate Often
Drinking water is one of the best things you can do for your health in general and during this time, it’s even more important. Drinking water or another healthy beverage, such as tea, helps you feel full and supports your immune system to stay healthy and strong. Refilling your beverage is a great excuse to get up and stretch your legs too.
4. Take a Walk
Your ability to manage stress is directly tied to how well your body is functioning. Thankfully, the outdoors is still open and here in Northern Michigan we are blessed with some of the most beautiful vistas on the planet to enjoy. While we are social distancing, it is still important to get out of the house. Take a walk. Bask in any sunshine you can find. Inside, you can do stretches and exercises to keep your heart healthy and your body limber.
5. Rest and Stay Calm
Try to maintain your usual sleep schedule or take this opportunity to improve upon it. Get seven to eight hours of sleep. It will not only keep your immune system strong, it will improve your attitude and productivity during the day. Getting enough good sleep may mean limiting your screen time and limiting the amount of news you expose yourself to near bedtime. IN addition to getting good sleep, the most important thing you can do for your mental and physical health during this time is to stay calm. We always have our own breath to come back to if we are feeling fear or anxiety. Consciously controlling our breathing, with a deep breath in and a deep breath out, really works. Other ways to cope during COVID-19: meditate; stay connected with others, maybe in new or different ways such as phone, text or video; pay mindful attention to all the small details around you.
If you are experiencing increased stress during this time and would like to talk by phone with a mental health counselor on our Warm Help Line, please call our Access Center at 877-470-7130. The Warm Line is operational M-F 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please call our Crisis Help Line at 877-470-4668. The Crisis Help Line is operational 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.